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Learning more about Penn State

A brief look at the Nittany Lions from their point of view

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

This post seems a bit superfluous. Penn State is the fourth-ranked team in the inaugural College Football Playoff rankings, and therefore, hardly the great unknown that many of Minnesota’s opponents have been this season.

That said, there’s still plenty to know and discuss about the Nittany Lions, so here goes.

— Penn State’s hot start and lofty ranking owes a lot to its stingy defense, and to its architect, defensive coordinator Brent Pry. Currenty, Penn State is among the best in FBS in rush defense, pass defense, and scoring defense.

— The defense did hit a bit of a snag this past week, when defensive tackle Antonio Shelton was suspended for a game after spitting at a Michigan State player. His spot will be taken by either PJ Mustipher or Rob Windsor who have both had multiple in-game reps before.

The offense has been much less consistent, however. Against Michigan, after starting hot and scoring 21 points in 23 minutes, Penn State stalled out and couldn’t keep the momentum going. This also happened against Purdue where the Nittany Lions ran off a huge lead in the first quarter but barely moved the sticks in the next two quarters.

— In the most recent game, against a floundering Michigan State squad, Penn State found some magic on offense. Quarterback Sean Clifford threw four touchdown passes, including two to tight end Pat Freiermuth in the first half.

— James Franklin has his team undefeated and in playoff contention, so it’s hardly surprising his name has come up as college football’s coaching vacancies begin to pile up. Maybe Penn State will make like Minnesota and give their head man a big extension right in the middle of the season?

Penn State is well aware that a matchup of undefeated Big Ten teams this late in the season is a big deal. So what do they think of Minnesota? At this point, not much.

The staff at Black Shoe Diaries thinks the game won’t even be close, because “Minnesota is the most fraudulent 8-0 football team I have ever seen” and also Penn State will be “content to trade scores with Minnesota on a day where the game is not in doubt after the first 10 minutes.”

Penn State beat writers are a bit more circumspect, expecting the weather and Minnesota to create problems for the Nittany Lions. They still pick Penn State to win though.

— This game will be a homecoming of sorts for Penn State OL coach Matt Limegrover. He thinks Fleck and Franklin are alike in their focus and passion. But he thinks maybe Minnesota isn’t ready for the “rare air” and the hype this game brings to Minneapolis.

— Penn State fans are well aware of what happened to undefeated Penn State against Minnesota back in 1999. LaVar Arrington was right there when Dan Nystrom’s kick sailed over his outstretched arms, and he’s never forgotten the moment.

— Finally, James Franklin offers an odd prediction for the game winner: