Game Preview: Penn State vs. Pittsburgh

Audio/Story posted September 11, 2019 in CommRadio, Sports by Tom Johnston

Christopher Hess, John Murphy, Gabe Angieri and Zach Donaldson break down the 100th meeting between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Pittsburgh Panthers:

No. 13 Penn State is entering its third and final week of non-conference action for the 2019 season. Two games in, the Nittany Lions are already being tested, as they had to overcome a halftime deficit to defeat the visiting Buffalo Bills. Now, the Nittany Lions get set to welcome in-state rival Pittsburgh for the 100th edition of the Keystone Classic.

This Saturday’s game is vital, considering that there are no more games scheduled between Penn State and Pitt for the foreseeable future after Saturday’s match concludes. The Pitt Panthers (1-1, 0-1 ACC) opened Week 1 in conference play against the Virginia Cavaliers and were held scoreless for the entire second half. Last weekend against Ohio in non-conference action, the Panthers defeated the Bobcats 20-10. Junior quarterback Kenny Pickett completed 26 of 37 for 321 yards and one touchdown against Ohio. But in last year’s game against Penn State, Pickett went just 9 of 18 for 55 yards and no touchdowns, alongside one interception. 

So far in 2019, the Penn State (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) offense has been explosive. Alongside sophomore receiver KJ Hamler, sophomore Jahan Dotson has shown that he has the potential to be a lethal No. 2 receiver on the field. After some initial struggles, sophomore quarterback Sean Clifford has shown that he’s comfortable in his role. In last year’s visit to Heinz Field, Clifford threw a 34-yard pass for his lone touchdown of the game.

Penn State will enter this game with the 26th best offense in the country. On the 128 offensive plays run so far, the Nittany Lions have amassed 1,030 total yards and have averaged 8.05 yards per play. The offense also has 15 touchdowns and averages 515 yards per game. Likewise, the Nittany Lions defense is ranked 35th nationally coming into this game. On 144 plays thus far, the Nittany Lions have allowed 574 total yards for an average of 3.99 yards per play. It’s been dominant on all fronts for the Nittany Lions.

The Pitt Panthers have struggled a bit on offense, entering Saturday ranked 89th in the nation. In two games, the Panthers offense has produced 145 plays for 744 total yards. The Panthers also average 5.13 yards per play, accumulating around 372 yards per game. When it comes to defense, Pitt has been much better, ranking 25th in the nation. Through two games thus far, the Panthers defense has allowed only 123 plays. In those 123 plays, the opposing team has accumulated 522 yards total and 4.24 yards per play, allowing an average of 261 yards per game. The defense has also allowed only four opposing touchdowns.

With a roaring offense, a solid defense, and a raucous home Stripe Out crowd, Penn State looks to be the heavy favorite in this one. It’s going to take quite an effort from the Panthers if they want any chance of pulling off the upset.

Penn State has won both matchups since Pitt’s upset victory at Heinz Field in 2016, and the Nittany Lions lead the all-time series 52-43-4. Kickoff for Saturday’s game is slated for noon.

Prediction: Penn State 45, Pittsburgh 16


Tom Johnston is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email