Northwestern (1-3, 1-0 Big Ten) vs. #11 Penn State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
James Franklin predicts rain for the game, and the Big Ten West co-Leading Wildcats are purple, hence the title, if you must know how this birdbrain thinks. I’ve survived our latest hurricane here in Central Florida’s turkey coop, so I can spew some nonsense here about Saturday’s premier Big Ten matchup, scheduled for 3:30 pm ET.
Given the predicted rain provided by the remnants of Hurricane Ian, by game time just a rainmaker, it is no wonder that tickets are available for $30. Expect a half-full Beaver Stadium, despite a projected reported attendance of 109,000.
I’m distracted by hurricane aftermath issues, so I won’t take too much of your time here.
You know what happened to Penn State. After a good first quarter, we experienced a laps, but then pulled ahead to win 33-14 against a plucky passel of Central Michigan Chippewas. Now, the Wildcats, after firing Scott Frost in their home opener by edging Little Red 31-28, went on a downhill slide, losing to Duke, Southern Illinois, and Miami (Ohio). With one conference win, they share the lead in the Big Ten West with Minnesota and Iowa.
The MAC RedHawks won the last game with a last-minute field goal, 17-14, after kicker Graham Nicholson had one previous attempt block and one other bonked off the upright. Northwestern gained 364 total yards, of which 257 were aerial. However, they lost the “turnover battle” coughing up two fumbles. One of those fumbles was on the failed final drive that led to Miami’s winning field goal.
Junior quarterback Ryan Hilinski, who is not the capital of Finland, was 26-44 with no TDs and no INTs. His best all-purpose weapon is fellow Junior running back Evan Hull, who leads the FBS with 170 all-purpose yards per game. Although he had an off day receiving against Miami, he is the team’s leading receiver.
As I previously stated, the forecast is for “Tropical Rain”, according to AccuWeather. Pennsylvania people don’t have any concept of tropical rain unless they’ve been to the tropics. AccuWeather must be among them, as it forecasts 0.38″ of precipitation for State College, which is piddling compared to the 20″ we received here over the past 18 hours. They’re calling for 4.5 hours of rain, with 96% cloud cover. So, it’ll be a shitty, rainy day, with a high of 60 and wind gusts to 12 mph, which could affect the “interesting” kicking game on both sides of the ball.
Da Bottom Line
The Official (and mostly worthless) Turkey Poop Projection this week follows another failure. I had predicted a rout in the CMU game with Penn State covering the spread, which wasn’t the way it played out. (I should have stuck with the maxim: You can never go broke playing the spread against Penn State. CMU plus 28 points would have been a winner, winner, chicken dinner. In the past 10 games, playing the spread against Penn State would have won six times).
But whence this purple rain game? According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, Northwestern has a 3.1% chance of winning the slopfest. PSU favored by 25.5 with an over/under of 51 implies a PSU victory by something like 38-13. To win this one, they must play for four quarters. I think they’ll be concentrating on the running game if conditions are as bad as Chief Meteorologist James Franklin predicts. To arrive at 38 points involves kicking a field goal, so I’m not going there. Containing Hull will be the key for Penn State and Northwestern isn’t as bad as its record suggests. Nevertheless, I’ll go with Penn State to win 34-13. They don’t cover the spread, and given the projected weather, I’d take the under.
(I’ll be back after the game if residual flooding hasn’t washed me away).