#40 Dan Connor, MLB:
The lone senior on the Penn State defense won this year's Bednarik Award, given to the top defensive player in the nation each year, and he's one of the reasons for the Nittany Lions' No. 6 rush defense ranking. Connor led the Big Ten and was No. 7 in the nation in tackles in 2007, and also holds the career record for tackles at Penn State (410), which is an impressive accomplishment considering the linebacker pedigree of PSU.
He is an aggressive defender who can drop into pass coverage and also wreck havoc in the backfield, posting 14 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks this year (No. 10 in the Big Ten in both categories).
KEYS: Penetration – The Aggies' senior-laden offensive line and fullback Chris Alexander have to account for Connor up the middle in order to open up the inside running game with Jorvorskie Lane. If the defensive line wins the battle at the line of scrimmage and allows Connor to penetrate the backfield, it will make it harder for the Aggies to get the running game going.
#20 Rodney Kinlaw, RB:
The 5-foot-9, 199-pound senior tailback is the leading rusher for Penn State, averaging 98.8 yards per game (No. 6 Big Ten, No. 33 NCAA). He entered the season projected as a backup "change-of-pace" kind of tailback, but has emerged as the starter, becoming the 11th 1000-yard rusher in school history in the process.
He's a speedy tailback who has learned to take it up the middle and not try to bounce it outside on every play, trying to outrun defenders like he did in high school.
KEYS: The Aggies need to keep Kinlaw in check and force PSU quarterback Anthony Morelli to beat them with his arm. He has been inconsistent this year (9 INTs) and needs a solid running game to be successful through the air.
#48 Maurice Evans, DE:
Evans was a Hendricks Award Finalist and earned First Team All-Big Ten honors after disrupting offenses throughout the season. Evans finished No. 5 in the nation in sacks (12.5) and No. 6 in the nation in TFL (21.5). He's also capable of making the big play, forcing three fumbles this year (No. 5 in the Big Ten).
KEYS: Identification – The Aggies have to know where Evans is at all times. He is an extremely effective run stopper, and clearly gets to the quarterback in passing situations. If the Aggies cannot keep him out of the backfield, it will be a long day for the Aggies, who have not done well when McGee is under pressure.
#2 Derrick Williams, WR:
The 6-foot-0 wide receiver is a dependable receiver, hauling in 50 receptions for 490 yards (9.8 per catch) and three touchdowns this year, but he makes his money on punt returns. Williams is No. 3 in the Big Ten and No. 23 in the nation in punt returns, averaging 11.2 per return.
He returned a punt for a career-long 78-yard touchdown against Notre Dame, which was voted as the Pontiac Game Changing Performance of the week.
KEYS: Neutralize – Justin Brantly is one of the best punters in the nation in hangtime and distance. He'll need to get his kicks up and allow the coverage team to get downfield and avoid line drives that allow Williams to make big plays. Field position could be key in this week's game and this match up could be a difference maker.
#24 Jordan Norwood, WR:
He's not very big, but what he lacks in stature, he makes up for with his hands and route-running ability. He's emerged as an extremely dependable receiver for the Nittany Lions, hauling in 40 receptions for 484 yards (12.1 per catch) and is one of the fan-favorites
KEYS: Technique - Marquis Carpenter and Co. will have to be sound on their technique against this wide out who runs excellent routes. He's also got extremely good hands, so if he's open and Morelli sees him, he's likely to make the play.
#45 Sean Lee, OLB:
Lee is another defensive playmaker who earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week twice this year, and ABC/Chevrolet Player of the Game honors against Wisconsin. He's No. 1 in the Big Ten in fumble recoveries (3), No. 3 in the Big Ten in tackles (124) and is tied for No. 5 in the Big Ten in forced fumbles (3), so he's definitely capable of making big plays on defense.
Lee has also posted 3.5 sacks and 9.5 TFL while teaming up with all-world linebacker Dan Connor. The two are regarded as one of, if not the best linebacker duo that Penn State has had in recent memory.
KEYS: Penetration – It's a lot more of the same as Dan Connor. Between the two, the Aggies' offensive line and fullback Alexander will have their hands full to win the battle up front. A passing game will help though, by forcing Connor and Lee to think about the pass and not sit up in the box looking for the run.
Penn State "Six Pack"
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