September 6, 2012 at 2:12 PM
Penn State/ Virginia Offense Matchups
At first glance, the QB battle between Matt McGloin and Virginia’s Michael Rocco might seem like a complete toss-up. Both have had to battle for the starting position for their respective teams in recent seasons and recently surpassed the 3,000 yard passing plateau. After tossing for 260 yards on 48 attempts against Ohio, McGloin has already demonstrated he’s ready to shoulder more of the load this season. However, this is the type of load Rocco has been handling since the beginning of last season, during which he passed for a crisp 2,671 yards — over 1,000 more than McGloin. Despite Bill O’Brien’s new offensive scheme favoring the passing game, look for Rocco to slightly outplay McGloin in this one.
This position battle, however, is not such a toss up. Even if Bill Belton does suit up on Saturday, it’d be tough to make the claim that Penn State’s backfield is as talented as Virginia’s. Derek Day, the likely Nittany Lion starter, and Belton have run for a combined 181 yards in their careers. Virginia’s two-headed running attack, featuring senior Perry Jones, and sophomore Kevin Parks, has run for a combined 2,380 yards. Not only does the Cavalier backfield have more experience, it also got off to a hot start last Saturday against Richmond, when Virginia ran for 184 yards on 42 carries with 3 touchdowns. I wouldn’t expect these types of numbers on Penn State but Virginia certainly has the edge here.
Both Penn State and Virginia have an up-and-coming sophomore wide out — Allen Robinson for the Lions and Darius Jennings for the Cavaliers. The difference here is Mike London’s squad has a prominent veteran presence in its receiving corps as well — redshirt junior Tim Brown caught 33 balls for 565 yards last season — whereas O’Brien’s No. 2 and 3 receivers are just as new to the scene as Robinson. Look for Shawney Kersey to play a bigger role this week for the Lions, but in the end, I’d be surprised if Virginia’s receivers didn’t leave their mark on the Penn State secondary come Saturday.
This is one position where Penn State could take advantage on Saturday. Though they weren’t Ron Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez against Ohio, O’Brien’s tight ends were definitely a bright spot in the game. Kyle Carter was second on the team with 74 yards and Matt Lehman caught one of McGloin’s touchdown passes in his first career catch. Throw Garry Gilliam — who was expected to be the Lions’ go-to tight end but didn’t receive a catch against Ohio — in the mix on Saturday and I don’t foresee Virginia’s starting tight end Colter Phillips keeping up.
Advantage: Penn State
Led by senior left tackle Oday Aboushi, the Cavaliers return three starters on the offensive line from a year ago. These players certainly have the experience to succeed this year, as all five starters are entering at least their third year in the program. However, Penn State has similar experience, with redshirt sophomore Donovan Smith as the youngest starter and senior center Matt Stankiewitch as their anchor. Neither line allowed a sack in their season opener. I wouldn’t look for a sack-fest on Saturday, but I expect the Penn State rush to get to Rocco before Virginia’s defenders get to McGloin.
Advantage: Penn State