6. Penn State at Northwestern
When: Saturday, September 30 at Noon
Where: Kyle Field, Evanston, IL
Watch: Big Ten Network
Radio: See Penn State Radio Network
Follow Along: Nittany Nation Twitter Feed
Betting Line: Penn State -26.5
A defensive arms race has broken out in the Big Ten. Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State have flex two of the top-10 defenses in football. All three are ranked in the top-5 in points allowed, and top-10 in yards. That came to a head for Penn State last week in its historic White Out win. Penn State held the Hawkeyes to 76 yards and forced four turnovers. The 31-0 win was the first Iowa had been shutout in 30 years, and Penn State’s first shutout of an AP top-25 team in 25-years.
Northwestern quarterback Ben Bryant could provide Penn State’s secondary its toughest early season test. Bryant, who’s in this sixth season, is among college football’s most experienced players. A three-year starter, he’s led his teams to 17 wins in the last three years. Last week he engineered the Wildcats’ 27-point comeback win over Minnesota. Bryant threw for 396 yards and four touchdowns. His lead receiver, Bryce Kirtz, leads the Big Ten in receptions and yards-per-game.
A quiet Kyle Field became an unusual talking point this week. After playing in front of 110,000 people last week, a fraction is expected Saturday in Evanston. Northwestern was last in the Big Ten in 2022, averaging just under 29,000 per-game. Whereas coaches often pump in music to prepare for loud environments, James Franklin said he did the opposite in preparation.
“It’s going to be very different than what we played in last week,” he said Wednesday after practice. “So just being transparent and honest, you know, are we internally motivated or are we externally motivated? But for me to act like it’s not a factor, it is. And you got it. You got to get prepared for it. We haven’t had any music.”