Game Preview: Penn State vs. Appalachian State
Josh Starr, Joe Skinner and Aidan Bitterman preview Penn State's opening weekend matchup against Appalachian State:
The 2018 college football season begins this week for No. 10 Penn State. The Nittany Lions will make their return to Beaver Stadium as they take on Appalachian State Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Penn State is coming off a strong season in 2017, where they went 11-2 with a Fiesta Bowl win over Washington. The Nittany Lions have to replace several key pieces from last year’s team including Saquon Barkley, Marcus Allen, Mike Gesicki, and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, who took the head coaching job at Mississippi State.
Coach James Franklin’s recruiting and program development will be put to the test this season as the Nittany Lions still have high expectations despite the big losses from last season. Franklin, however; still has plenty of talent in Happy Valley.
The offensive is led by senior quarterback Trace McSorley, who is now entering his third season as the Nittany Lions starter. McSorley accounted for over 4,000 yards and 39 touchdowns last season and those numbers have made him an early trendy pick for the Heisman Trophy.
With the big loss from last season being Barkley, who went No. 2 in the NFL Draft, a lot of the focus will be on the development of junior Miles Sanders. Sanders, a five-star recruit in 2016, had to sit behind Barkley for two years but now has the opportunity to be the feature back in new offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne’s offense. Sanders and five-star true freshman Ricky Slade will look to replace the production that Barkley took to the NFL.
The defensive side of the ball poses more questions for Franklin and defensive coordinator Brent Pry. Losing Allen, Jason Cabinda, and Grant Haley amongst others will be tough, but Franklin has recruited very well and there is plenty of talent there including five-star freshman Micah Parsons and the returns of senior cornerback Amani Oruwariye and junior cornerback John Reid.
Appalachian State is entering its fifth season as an FBS program and in the Sun Belt conference. The Mountaineers are 30-9 in their last three seasons, including 9-4 last season and claimed a share of the Sun Belt title in 2016 and 2017.
The Mountaineers are most remembered for their stunning upset of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2007. And with Saturday’s matchup being the 11-year anniversary of that game, Appalachian State is looking to shock another Big Ten team on the road.
Appalachian State’s upset bid will have to come from a new quarterback making his first collegiate start. Redshirt sophomore Zac Thomas is replacing Taylor Lamb at quarterback and will look to perform at a high level in front of a loud and packed Beaver Stadium.
Coach Scott Satterfield’s team returns some pieces most notably senior running back Jalin Moore. Moore is one of the most accomplished backs in college football as he has the second-most career rushing yards amongst active backs.
Penn State cannot afford to take the Mountaineers lightly as history has shown that this team plays the powerhouses very tough. Besides the upset of Michigan, even as recent as last season Appalachian State took Tennessee to overtime in Knoxville. Coaches realize the talent on this team as the Mountaineers received 16 votes in the coaches’ preseason poll.
Franklin will have his team prepared for the season opener and has to hope his team doesn’t overlook a talented Appalachian State team to a matchup with rival Pittsburgh next week.
Moore and the Mountaineers will look to keep this game close, but in the end McSorley and the more talented team will pull out a win this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Beaver Stadium.
Camden Tofil is a sophomore majoring in advertising. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.