Penn State vs. Kent State Preview
ComRadio's own, Madeleine Balestrier, Dan Correa, Brian McLaughlin and Adam Gilbert break down everything you need to know about Penn State's opener against Kent State.
The Penn State Nittany Lions will host the Kent State Golden Flashes on Saturday to kick-off the 2016 football season. Both teams look to see significant changes during this non-conference showdown in order to improve upon last season.
The Golden Flashes struggled greatly in 2015 with a 3-9 record, fell to a five game losing streak to end their dismal season and tied for last in the MAC East Division. To add insult to injury, the Golden Flashes have lost 15 of their last 18 road games, while also always finding themselves on the losing side of the ball against the Nittany Lions.
While Penn State holds the historical upper hand against Kent State with a 4-0 record and an offensive smack down of 58-0 in their last two showings, Penn State has a lot to prove after they fell to Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl. Head coach James Franklin and the Blue and White also need to make a statement after their seemingly long offseason after losing Carl Nassib and Christian Hackenberg, adjusting to a new roster, and making coaching and positional changes.
Analysists, opposing teams and fans on both sides of the ball will be intrigued to see the Nittany Lions offense debut with quarterback Trace McSorley at the head and new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead behind the scenes to match-up against the Golden Flashes’ strong suite, their 27th ranked defense that led the MAC with 32 sacks last season.
Kent State’s eight returning defensive starters have the edge over Penn State’s turnover of leadership from Hackenberg to McSorley. Two Kent State players to specifically watch out for are Terence Waugh and Nate Holley. Waugh, ranked nationally as the seventh best defensive end in the nation, is on the Ted Hendricks Award preseason watch list because of his average 0.9 sacks a game and commendable ranking as a DE. Holley, the fourth ranked safety in the nation, is on Bednarik’s watch list as a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year with 11.8 tackles per game.
Although the Golden Flashes have the experience and national standings, McSorley’s TaxSlayer Bowl preview seemed promising with his style of play and ability to help the Nittany Lions rally back into contention. He also has the option to throw to a 1,000-yard receiver or hand off to a 1,000-yard rusher; Chris Godwin and Saquon Barkley are both possible candidates for the National Player of the Year according to the Maxwell Award preseason watch list. Junior wide receiver, Godwin, will be expected to lead the Nittany Lions wide receiver corps after he made 69 catches for 1,101 yards in 2015, while sophomore running back, Barkley, has to fill his shoes from last season after setting a Nittany Lion freshman rushing record with 1,076 yards even after missing three games.
Penn State’s defense also found itself heading for change this offseason with Brent Pry’s promotion to defensive coordinator and Carl Nassib, Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson’s departure. While Jason Cabinda and Nyeem Wartman-White maintain the consistency of last year’s linebackers, Garret Sickels is the only remaining starting defensive lineman. Although Penn State is bound to experience some adjusting and challenges on the defensive side of the ball, Kent State’s last season average of 13.1 points per game should allow the Blue and White some leniency to adapt.
The Nittany Lions also have a few freshman for the Blue and White faithful to keep an eye on for this season and possible future breakout roles. Miles Sanders, Michal Menet and Shane Simmons are the reasons why ESPN ranked Penn State as the twentieth ranked recruiting class of 2016. Although they are not starting, expect to see them making splashes on the roster, especially Sanders, the five star recruit who will spend the season learning from Saquon Barkley.
The Penn State Nittany Lions are scheduled to kickoff the season against the Kent State Golden Flashes at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
Madeleine Balestrier is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.