Head-to-head: Navy vs. Penn State

Navy travels to Penn State for the first time since 1974 when they beat the Nittany Lions, 7-6. The Mids enter the game after getting trounced by Notre Dame 50-10 in Dublin, Ireland. Last week the Nittany Lions missed four field goals including a last second attempt in a 17-16 loss at Virginia. Penn State enters the game 0-2. Navy's all-time record against Penn State is 17-18-2.

Navy travels to Penn State for the first time since 1974 when they beat the Nittany Lions, 7-6. The Mids enter the game after getting trounced by Notre Dame 50-10 in Dublin, Ireland. Last week the Nittany Lions missed four field goals including a last second attempt in a 17-16 loss at Virginia. Penn State enters the game 0-2. Navy's all-time record against Penn State is 17-18-2.

Navy's rushing offense
vs.
Penn State's rushing defense
Edge: Penn State

Navy's running game never got untracked against Notre Dame. The Mids rushed for just 149 yards and averaged 3.7 yards per carry on the ground. For the second year in a row the Irish focused on shutting down the dive and they dominated the Mids rebuilt offensive line up front. New starting B-back Noah Copeland ran for just 29 yards on six carries. Quarterback Trey Miller found no running room as he carried the ball 20 times for 16 net yards. His longest run was just eight yards. Trey's ankle was twisted when he was sacked against the Irish but he is expected to start. Slotbacks Gee Gee Greene (501yards, 7.8 avg., 3 TDs in 2011) and John Howell (340 yards, 9.7 avg., 3 TDs in 2011) ran for a combined 37 yards on just four carries. Hopefully Miller can get them more involved in the running game this week. The Navy rebuilt offensive line struggled in the opener.

The Nittany Lions defensive front seven is loaded with star linebacker Gerald Hodges leading the charge. Hodges is one of the best linebackers in the nation and is on the Nagurrski Award watch list. Last year Hodges had 106 tackles, one interception and 4.5 sacks. He also had two forced fumbles and four pass breakups. Fellow outside linebacker Michael Mauti has returned from a torn ACL to lead the Nittany Lions with 21 tackles in the first two games. Penn State enters the game ranked 35th in the nation in rush defense. Upfront senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill is on the Outland Trophy watch list and was a preseason All-Big Ten candidate. Hill made 59 tackles, including eight tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, earning honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors. Penn State, despite the loss to Virginia, shutdown the Cavaliers running game limiting them to 32 rushing yards rushing on 25 attempts (1.3 average) while forcing four turnovers. Virginia's longest carry was just seven yards.

Navy's passing offense
vs.
Penn State's passing defense
Edge: Even

Trey Miller completed was 14-of-19 for 192 yards with a touchdown and an interception against Notre Dame. Miller's arm strength and accuracy was impressive as he often didn't have a lot of time to throw. Miller hit new wide receiver Shawn Lynch (4 passes for 87 yards, 1TD) for a 41-yard gain and later for a 25-yard touchdown pass. New starting wide receivers in Casey Bolena rebounded after dropping his first opportunity to catch three passes for 61 yards. The Mids rebuilt offensive line will have its hands full handing Penn State's pass rush.

Penn State freshman defensive end Deion Barnes had three sacks in the first two games. Against Virginia he posted two sacks and caused a fumble. The Nittany Lions secondary is inexperienced with four new starters. Sophomore Adrian Amos is very solid at cornerback. Amos already has made 16 tackles in the first two games. The Nittany Lions have two new safeties in Stephen Obeng-Agyapong (9 tackles) and Malcolm Willis (11 tackles).

Penn State's rushing offense
vs.
Navy's rushing defense
Edge: Penn State

Running back Bill Belton did not play against Virginia because of a sprained ankle. Belton ran for 54 yards in the opener against Ohio. Penn State coach Bill O'Brien expects Belton will be ready for Navy. Belton played wide receiver last season before moving to running back. Belton is small, fast and dangerous in the open field. Derek Day left the Virginia game with an injury to his left shoulder in the third quarter and did not return. He is currently listed as questionable. Day has averaged 3.1 yards per carry so far this year. Tight end Paul Jones has practiced at quarterback in Penn State's version of the Wildcat. The Nittany Lions offensive line averages 306 pounds but they return only one starter, right tackle Mike Farrell, from last year's team. Behind the new starters Penn State has averaged just 3.3 yards per rush attempt so far this year.

Navy ranks dead last in the country in stopping the run. The Mids allowed the Fighting Irish 293 rushing yards in the opener. They allowed 6.4 yards per carry and gave up five rushing touchdowns. New nose tackle and the entire defensive line were crushed at the point of attack. To make matters worse the Navy linebackers had trouble getting off blocks and failed to maintain their gap responsibilities. It opened up huge cutback lanes for the Irish running backs. Raider outside linebacker Keegan Wetzel was the best linebacker against Notre Dame. Wetzel made five tackles, including two tackles for losses, and recorded one sack.

Penn State's passing offense
vs.
Navy's passing defense
Edge: Penn State

Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin suffered an injury to his right elbow in the first half of the Virginia game. He missed some time but returned to finish out the game. McGloin will be evaluated later this week but should start. McGloin, a senior, has completed 45 of 83 passes (55.4%) for 457 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. In his career McGloin has thrown 26 touchdown passes against 15 interceptions. McGloin is a pure pocket passer. At wide receiver sophomore Allen Robinson leads all Big Ten players with 19 catches this season. Against Virginia, Robinson made ten catches and recorded his first career touchdown reception. Tight end Kyle Carter has made ten catches for 107 yards and has scored a touchdown.

Navy's secondary allowed Notre Dame to complete 16 of 23 passes for 197 yards with one touchdown. Cornerback Parrish Gaines made 12 tackles and intercepted a pass in the opener. Gaines played with better technique and more confidence than he did last year. Rover Tra 'ves Bush made eight tackles including one for a loss. Free safety Chris Ferguson was also busy making seven tackles. Cornerback Jonathan Wev left the game after a helmet first collision. He is expected to miss this game. If he can't play plebe Quincy Adams will probably start in his place. I saw Adams at NAPS last year. Quincy is fast, physical and looks like an FBS cornerback. Overall Adams is still rather raw. He needs to improve his technique since his backpedal isn't very fluid. Except for a Keegan Wetzel sack the Mids failed to put any consistent pressure on Notre Dame in the opener.

Special Teams
Edge: Navy

Penn State's special teams have been a disaster so far after last year's All-Big 10 kicker Anthony Fera transferred to Texas. Fera handled both the kicking and the punting and hasn't been adequately replaced in either area. His kicking replacement Sam Ficken made just one of five field goal attempts against Virginia. He missed a potential game-winning field goal as time expired. New punter Alex Butterworth averaged 38.0 per punt. Penn State's punt and kickoff return teams have struggled.

New Navy kicker Nick Sloane hit his first field goal attempt from 26 yards. It was greeted with relief after the kicking struggles last year when the Mids missed nine kicks. Marcus Thomas averaged 23.4 yards on five kickoff returns in the opener. Marcus needs to be reminded a touchback this year brings the ball out to the 25 yard line. Ryan Williams showed his speed on his only kickoff returns when he returned it 30 yards. Pablo Beltran had an excellent game against the Irish punting four times for a 46.2 yard average. Beltran nailed one punt 63 yards. New punter Shawn Lynch showed terrific hands in making a diving fair catch on the run of a short punt two weeks ago.

Coaching
Edge: Navy

Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo is looking to rebound from his first losing season as head coach. Niumatalolo's career record at Navy is 32-22. This is a very young Navy team tied for third nationally with 13 true freshmen listed on the depth chart. Defensive coordinator Buddy Green was pleased with the effort two weeks ago but not in the performance. Green has to get Navy's defense to play more consistently and with discipline.

Penn State's Bill O'Brien was named the 15th head coach of the Penn State football program on in January 2012. O'Brien was the offensive coordinator/quarterback coach with the New England Patriots during the 2011 season, helping the Patriots to their second Super Bowl. Bill O'Brien was named the 15th head coach of the Penn State football program in January O'Brien was the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach with the New England Patriots during the 2011 season, helping the Patriots to their second Super Bowl during his five years on the coaching staff.

Intangibles
Edge Penn State

Penn State enters the game following a frustrating loss to Virginia where they outplayed the Cavaliers only to lose. At 0-2 the Nittany Lions enter this game desperate for a win. Navy had two weeks to prepare for this game.

PREDICTION:
Penn State, 24-20. The trip to Happy Valley lost its entire luster in the wake of the ugly Sandusky scandal, the firing and death of Joe Paterno and the NCAA sanctions. Penn State wasn't a good offensive team last year and they lost their best running back and receiver who transferred after the NCAA sanctions were handed down. The Nittany Lions defensive front seven is loaded with star linebacker Gerald Hodges leading the charge. This is potentially a winnable game for Navy which often plays its best in marquee games like last year's contest against South Carolina. I think Penn State will hold off the Mids at home but Navy should hang tough and could pull off an upset.

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