Penn State Football is back! The Nittany Lions head to the Ross-Ade Stadium in Indiana to take on the Purdue Boilermakers for their season opener. Penn State opens Big Ten action on the road for the seventh straight season and the 12th in the last 13 years. It may help in regards to preparation, but it isn’t a fact HC James Franklin is happy about.
Penn State has dominated the historical matchup against the Purdue Boilermakers. The Nittany Lions are 15-3-1 all-time against Purdue and look to add to this commanding record. In fact, the last matchup was a blowout that saw the Nittany Lions capture a 35-7 victory in 2019. Purdue is a much-improved team this time around, but history is on Penn State’s side.
Battle of the QBs:
Penn State QB Sean Clifford and Purdue QB Aiden O’Connell both are sixth-year starters and will lead their teams in this season opener. There’s some uncertainty about Sean Clifford as his play has been inconsistent during his tenure at Penn State. It doesn’t help that the freshman QB behind him, Drew Allar, has already become a fan favorite. Clifford may have more experience than O’Connell, but O’Connell’s performance last year far exceeded Clifford’s.
Aiden O’Connell was the head of a high-powered Purdue passing attack last year. He threw for 500 yards twice last season and ranked 11th in passing yards with 3,712.
Even Penn State HC James Franklin had great things to say about O’Connell:
“Guys that jump out to us. One is Aidan O’Connell, sixth-year quarterback there. He broke the Purdue completion percentage record at 72%. I don’t care if you’re throwing on air, that’s impressive.”
Purdue’s Offense vs. PSU’s Defense
The passing attack for Purdue might not look the same without their two leading receivers from last year. David Bell, the #1 WR, was drafted in the 3rd round by the Cleveland Browns. Milton Wright, their second-leading receiver, was unfortunately ruled academically ineligible for 2022. Tyrone Tracy and Charlie Jones, two receiver transfers from Iowa, will attempt to fill that void.
The Nittany Lions have guys in the secondary capable of combating Purdue’s passing attack. The sixth-year senior Ji’Ayir Brown tallied six interceptions last season, the most by a Penn State player since Anthony Scirrotto in 2006. Not to mention the young guys behind him, Joey Porter Jr and Kalen King, who have great potential to create disruption for Big Ten defenses. Penn State’s defense allowed 17.3 points per game last season, tied for sixth-best in the FBS. However, that was with defensive coordinator Brent Pry who left to take the Virginia Tech head coaching job. Manny Diaz, who has familiarity with James Franklin, will now oversee Penn State’s defense as the coordinator.
Keys to success for PSU
Purdue doesn’t have much of a running game, so it will be essential for Penn State to make them one-dimensional. Disrupting QB Aiden O’Connell in the pass rush will also be critical, as he can hurt you downfield.
As for the offense, Penn State needs to convert third downs and keep Purdue off the field. Purdue loves a fast-tempo game, and you can not let them be comfortable with their pace. Parker Washington will be one of the most important players in this game. Sean Clifford needs a reliable target during the game’s late stages, and that role is being passed down to Washington.
I have the Nittany Lions taking the game with the slight edge of talent they have. I expect QB Sean Clifford to have not only a great game, but a great season because of the sentimental value this season has for him.
Score: Penn State 27, Purdue 17