FOOTBALL

Penn State prediction: Rolling with what they've got (finally) vs. Maryland

Frank Bodani
York Daily Record

Penn State football should take another identity-building step Saturday in Beaver Stadium.

It may be the perfect time to find themselves matched against the flash and wow athletes from the University of Maryland who don't seem in the frame of mind or spirit to dig in and sway the game at scrimmage.

Those Terrapins withered in the bad weather and against typical brute force expected last week in Wisconsin. Finally, the Nittany Lions empower some of those same attributes, even if their blockers are not altogether healthy and their runners are just rookies.

Penn State has some serious physicality developing at scrimmage for the first time in forever. And now that those blockers and tailbacks and tight ends have truly felt what that's like ...

Expect that force to flourish more on Saturday. Cue running back Kaytron Allen, tight end Brenton Strange (team's most improved player) and whoever is healthy enough to block in front of them (like you, rookie Drew Shelton).

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford (14) hands off the ball to running back Kaytron Allen (13) in the backfield during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Bloomington, Ind. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

Penn State ran through the Indiana Hoosiers and controlled scrimmage while missing three offensive line starters last weekend. It seems plausible that at least one of Olu Fashanu, Caedan Wallace or Landon Tengwall will return this week. It feels like the Lions are only just beginning to find their groove in the run game − which will continue to make it easier for whoever is throwing the football (first half, Sean Clifford; second half, Drew Allar).

The thing is, while sprinkled with enough race car athletes, Maryland just doesn't seem willing to grind effectively in the trenches. It was run over last week by the Badgers, earlier by Michigan, and even by one-win Northwestern.

Even on offense, the Terps are struggling to protect dynamic QB Taulia Tagovailoa, who just returned from injury and may not be able to withstand another full afternoon beating.

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So will it even matter that Maryland still owns the kind of athletes to inflict significant downfield damage ... like they did over and again in Beaver Stadium two years ago? Probably not so much now, not against a defense that has been revving with increasing speed and diligence (outside of those final nine minutes vs. Ohio State).

And these Terps are certainly not those Buckeyes.

Can Maryland possibly protect firecracker QB Taulia Tagovailoa Saturday better than last week at Wisconsin? If not, the Terps have little hope in Beaver Stadium.

Expect the Lions to control this game the way they wish and − the way kind of only dreamed about for much of the past several years.

By dominating up front with the guys doing the dirty work, enforcing their will, opening up success for everyone else around them.

That should be their recipe to follow the rest of November.

Bodani's pick: Penn State 40, Maryland 17

Frank Bodani covers Penn State football for the York Daily Record and USA Today Network. Contact him at fbodani@ydr.com and follow him on Twitter @YDRPennState.