The Nittany Lions have been going through a rebuilding process under former Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin and the team is finally getting close to being on the same level as the rest of the FBS in regards to players and scholarships. Here is a look at what sort of team Army will be facing on Saturday afternoon.
Season so far
The Nittany Lions had the worst possible start to a 2015 season which many see as being a crucial one for Franklin and the team. On the opening weekend they were upset by the Temple Owls 27-10, the first win for Temple in the series since October 18, 1941. This victory was 74 years in the making, but it actually seemed to kick Penn State into life. The Nittany Lions have rebounded from that defeat, showing great character to rattle off three consecutive victories and sit at 3-1 on the season. Wins over Buffalo, Rutgers and San Diego State have created a much more positive vibe around campus and the visit of Army will be the fourth home game in a row for Penn State.
Injuries and Suspensions
The hardest hit position by injury at Penn State right now is the running back. In the game last week against San Diego State both Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley left the field with knee and ankle injuries respectively. The status for both players for the Army game right now is listed as questionable and if both cannot go then it will be up to third-string running back Mark Allen to handle to bulk of the carries in a depleted rotation. Allen ran for five yards on five carries last weekend.
The defense has also been hit hard by injuries, especially in the back seven. Defensive backs Jordan Lucas and Marcus Allen are both injury doubts for the Army game, while junior linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White was lost for the season on the opening day when he suffered a knee injury against Temple. Wartman-White was the Nittany Lions second-leading tackler a year ago with 75 and was expected to replace the production of leading tackler, and All-American, Mike Hull.
The Nittany Lions like to use a balanced attack which fully utilizes the skills of quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The biggest challenge Army will likely face this weekend, however, is the noise and intensity of the home crowd inside Beaver Stadium. This is the second largest stadium in the country (behind Michigan Stadium) and its107.282 crazies for Penn State home games. Army will have to be intensely disciplined in the option game in order to combat this noise and the offensive line especially will be forced to work harder than normal to explode off of the snap in what can be a deafening environment.