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Big Ten preview: Penn State Nittany Lions

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PSU then redshirt freshman quarterback Trace McSorley makes a pass around Georgia defensive back Rico McGraw (36) in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2. at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. Courtesy of TNS

PSU then redshirt freshman quarterback Trace McSorley makes a pass around Georgia defensive back Rico McGraw (36) in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2. at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. Courtesy of TNS

Location: State College, Pennsylvania

2015 Record: 7-6 (4-4 Big Ten)

Head Coach: James Franklin

2016 Record so far: 1-1

Record vs. OSU since 2006: 2-7 (2010 vacated, OSU won 38-14)

What’s happened so far in 2016

In Week 1, the Nittany Lions came away with a solid 33-13 win against the Kent State Golden Flashes. Penn State impressed in its first game, with a young defensive line and a new offensive scheme under new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead.  In Week 2, the Nittany Lions came up just short against their in-state adversary, the Pittsburgh Panthers, losing 42-39. Pitt controlled most of the game, but Penn State’s offense showed it has the ability to put up points in bunches, overcoming a 28-7 deficit to lead to a frantic finish. It would prove to be the Nittany Lions’ defense that underperformed, giving up 343 yards rushing out of a total 434. Penn State looks to regroup as it plays Temple at home in Week 3.

Key offensive player

At the helm of Penn State’s new offense is redshirt sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley, a three-star, dual-threat prospect from Ashburn, Virginia. In his first-ever start, he posted a respectable completion percentage of 52 percent, 209 yards passing, two touchdowns, no interceptions and 47 yards rushing. Against Pitt, he tossed for 332 yards, a touchdown and his first interception on the season. McSorley’s game wasn’t anything to brag about, especially his -17 yards rushing and a costly interception toward the end of the game, but that’s not to fault the rest of his solid performance. He might not be their best player, but the Nittany Lions’ offense productivity rests on his shoulders.

Key defensive player

Losing Carl Nassib, Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel to the NFL hosts uncertainty on the Penn State defensive line. While the D-line might take some time to develop, Penn State’s senior linebackers Nyeem Hartman-White and Brandon Bell should anchor the defense. Their experience and skill should help settle an untested defense. Bell is a player, in particular, to keep an eye on. He has had success in the past and, thus far this season, has posted 17 tackles and an interception.

Weakness

The defensive line is a young and unproven group. Although the unit has big shoes to fill, the talent exists. It has put decent pressure on opposing quarterbacks in the first two weeks, but has given up more 700 yards of total offense, about 500 of which has come on the ground.

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