Penn State is 3-1 on the season, but is riding a three game win streak and seems to have righted the ship after an opening day defeat to Temple. The Black Knights finally saw consistent life from the rushing attack last weekend and will look to push this phase of the game in particular moving forward.
With that being said here are the three keys to Army’s clash with the Nittany Lions:
1) Rush the ball
The Penn State defensive line is the strength of the Nittany Lions defensive unit, while the Black Knights are rushing for almost 300 yards per game at this point of the season. The two Penn State defensive tackles, Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel, are both capable of making plays to slow down the fullback attack, meaning there may be an addition workload for the slot backs in this contest. Army simply has to have the run working to win given that the passing attack (ranked 125th in the nation) scares absolutely no one.
2) Shut down the run
Penn State has some serious issues at running back heading into this contest. The Nittany Lions are likely to be without both Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch and if either of the two top backs is able to suit up he will not be at full strength. Barkley would be the biggest miss as he ranks second in the FBS in average yards per carry, rushing the ball at an outlandish 8.88 yards per tote. If the two don’t play it will be down to Mark Allen and Nick Scott to move the chains on the ground. Both are capable of big plays, but as slasher style running backs they are also much more susceptible to being caught for a loss or no gain than the two primary ball carriers.
3) Bend but don’t break on defense
Penn State is led by junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg who on his day can be as good as anyone in the Big Ten. As a freshman Hackenberg was lights out and there are signs slowly beginning to show that he is getting back to something like that kind of level in his third year on the job. Army is allowing a 65-percent completions to opposing quarterbacks and giving up more than 260 yards per game through the air. With the running backs in doubt Hackenberg will be taking a larger role and throwing the ball more. Army can let the underneath stuff happen, but has to be wary of big plays and try to keep Penn State to having to kick field goals or turning the ball over in the red zone.