October 6, 2012 at 11:23 AM
With Northwestern running an offense featuring two different quarterbacks, there won’t be a head-to-head matchup at this position. The Wildcats will most likely continue to use both Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian under center, with Colter oftentimes splitting out wide as a receiver. The tricky quarterbacking tandem, which has combined to throw for over for more than 1,000 yards this season, will certainly test the attentiveness of Penn State’s defense. However, McGloin has continued his dominant season, which has totaled him 1,229 yards in the air so far. Look for the fifth-year senior to sift through the Wildcats’ defense as he has throughout his career.
Advantage: Penn State
Much of the Northwestern rushing attack also comes from Colter, who averages 6.3 yards per rush, but the Cats also feature the elusive Mark Venric. The junior has averaged 107 yards on the ground and is fresh off a 139-yard performance against Indiana last weekend. On the other hand, Penn State’s running game has developed into a strength in previous weeks, with Zach Zwinak leading the attack against Illinois last weekend. I expect Bill Belton to make more of an impact in today’s game, but, in the end, the Northwestern running backs pose more of a threat.
Wide receivers/ tight ends
Northwestern has several proven receivers, but, until last weekend, lacked an X-factor. Coach Pat Fitzgerald chose to split the team’s previous starting quarterback Colter out to the receiver position, and it paid off. The junior had 131 yards receiving — in addition to his 161 yards passing and rushing — to make a serious impact in the air. Conversely, Penn State’s leading receiver Allen Robinson had a down game against Illinois, but other receivers like tight end Matt Lehman stepped up in his place. Look for Robinson to rejoin the aerial party in this one, setting the tone for the Nittany Lion receiving attack.
Advantage: Penn State
In a word, the Northwestern offensive line is big. Each starter stands taller than 6-foot-3 and the Lions’ defensive line will be facing the likes of 6-foot-8, 315-pound right guard Neal Deiters. The Wildcats’ O-line has proven it can keep up with the team’s fast-paced offense and open holes for the rushing attack. Penn State’s offensive line had one of its most efficient games of the season against Illinois, providing the push necessary for both Zwinak and Belton to split through the defense. I see the Lions’ O-line giving the team a similar push in this one, but the Wildcats’ line slightly outplaying Penn State’s in the end.