As the non-conference schedule winds down, UMass faces what might be its toughest opponent yet in the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Actually, hold that thought. I haven't mentioned this yet because, well, ew Boston College, but the BC defeat of USC kind of makes our opening loss look a lot less worse. Our schedule now looks like a blow-out loss to a team that upset the No. 9 school in the country, close loss, close loss. That's not too bad at all, and much better than many would have predicted before the season.
Now we face Penn State, who many had penciled in as a blow out to begin the season. Now we look at this game as, well, probably still a blow-out, but much less of one than when the season began. This also happens to be the last school I did a way-to-early preseason preview of (I'm going to have to do actual work from now on).
UMass Offense vs. Penn State Defense:
Blake Frohnapfel has shown flashes of greatness, a steady stream of mediocrity (and I mean that as a compliment), and the occasional bad play. Frohnapfel will have to lean towards the greatness this week, though, because Penn State does not give up yards through the air. At 207.3 yards per game, Penn State is 35th in stopping the pass. They're also 26th in the nation in sack and 27th in the nation in sack percentage (sacks per drop back). Frohnapfel has had issues when under pressure, so this could be a perilous matchup. UMass is also without Jamal Wilson this game (and for the foreseeable future), which means the run game will lean on Lorenzo Woodley and JT Blyden. They'll have their hands full as well, with Penn State letting up a mere 2.4 yards per carry.
UMass Defense vs. Penn State Offense:
While the offense will have its hands full with one of the better defenses in the country, the defense will have a chance to bail the offense out for once. Penn State manages only 2.5 yards per carry rushing, which should let the Minutemen pin their ears back. They'll need to, with Christian Hackenberg at the helm of the Lions. Hackenberg has yet to throw for less than 300 yards per game, and the Penn State offense is 11th in the nation in passing yards at 360.7 per game. The Minutemen secondary is going to need to step up if they want to keep this game competitive.
Penn State is supposed to be fired up and playing with purpose now that the NCAA removed the bowl ban on the school.PSU 30, UMass 10.