We did a pretty long Q&A this morning, so we will just hit the highlights with our preview of Penn State.
Virginia is 2-5 versus Penn State in a series that dates back to 1893. Yes, the matchups are few and far between, but the modern games have been interesting. Penn State got a hold of Virginia in 1988 42-14, but the Nittany Lions were the first step for the Hoos success in 1989, with the Cavs pulling off a 14-6 win in State College. Virginia bested Penn State in ’01 after the game was delayed until December due to 9/11. The next year, a young Groh team went to Penn State and was trounced 35-14 in a game that has since be vacated.
2011 Penn State Nittany Lions
The Nittany Lions were one of the hottest teams last season, finishing 9-4. Their only loses last year were to Alabama, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Houston in the TicketCity Bowl. What did they all have in common? They were all ranked. What else did they have in common? They were the only ranked teams PSU faced. While they didn’t light up the scoreboard, their defense kept them in every game.
Without going into the recent history, we move forward. And PSU is moving forward with Bill O’Brien. He comes over from the New England Patriots after serving with them since 2007 as WR and QB coach, and then OC in 2011. Before that he bounced around the ACC from 1998 to 2006, mainly with Georgia Tech on the offensive side of the ball.
Knowing O’Brien from his ACC and NFL days, he will run a pro set much like Virginia, but with an emphasis multiple set tight end formation. Matt McGloin is in his 3rd year on/off at the helm for PSU. He was 27/48 for 260 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT against Ohio. Now their go to back is Bill Belton and operates much like Perry Jones (53 yards rushing, 16 yards receiving), but O’Brien stated in his presser that Belton has a slight ankle injury and may or may not play on Saturday. Look for Penn State to turn to senior Derek Day if he can go. At wideout, look for Allen Robinson and Shawney Kersey to get the most looks, but it will be the tight ends Kyle Carter, Garry Gilliam, and Matt Lehman who will be featured the most this game. It is a very senior right side of the line, but LG and LT are manned by newcomers.
Straight up 4-3 defense from Penn State. Even though they return only 4 starters, they are not replacing the spots with underclassmen like UVa. Look for the outside linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges to be in on a ton of plays, with DE Deion Barnes creating pressure on the quarterback. Conerback Stephon Morris has been a stalwart in the secondary, but like Belton, is nursing an ankle injury and is a question mark for Saturday
Too early to say yeah or nay on the teams with the new personnel, but Belton is a key returner and if he is unable to go, it could leave returns on more newcomers.
How Virginia Will Win
As we talked about this morning, Hoos will have to run the ball, set up the pass, and don’t give up the long ball.
How Virginia Will Lose
All of the opposite from above and throw in losing the battle on the offensive line, especially on the interior
It all comes down to what sort of mindset PSU has coming into this game after a tough loss to MAC team Ohio and having to go on the road for the first time this season. With only 9 returning starters and a slew of ‘run ons’, it might level the playing field talent wise with Virginia’s young players. Now Vegas thinks the Hoos will win by 10, but with some questions on defense, I think the Cavs will win, but not by that much. Virginia 24, Penn State 17.