Here's a look ahead to the University at Buffalo's opponent on Saturday - Penn State.
We exchanged notes with editor Nate Bauer of Blue White Illustrated, the Penn State website for Rivals.com. Here were his responses to our four questions:
1. Give us your characterization of James Franklin's offense. What are their bread-and-butter runs and pass sets?
You had to start there, didn’t you? To be perfectly honest, I don’t have a characterization of James Franklin’s offense because I don’t think this is really anything resembling an ideal mix of talent and experience among its personnel. What’s troubling to many Penn State fans is that the coaching staff doesn’t appear to have the answers to effectively adapt to the tools they do have. With a stud quarterback in Christian Hackenberg, some physically talented wideouts, backs and tight ends, that a faulty offensive line can upend the entire operation has reached peak level of frustration after last weekend’s 27-10 loss for the Nittany Lions. In other words, through one game, there is nothing bread-and-butter about Penn State’s offense. More like hummus and ice cream cake.
2. How is Akeel Lynch viewed and how did he look vs. Temple?
He actually had some nice runs, highlighted by a 42-yard touchdown gallop in the first quarter to give Penn State an early 10-0 edge. But when they tried to get him going in the second half, a couple of empty first- and second-down carries led to a third-and-long. He wouldn’t touch the ball again until the last moments of the third quarter, picking up no yards on a first-and-15 carry. By that point, Penn State was playing from behind, and the deficit would quickly grow to 24-10 at the start of the fourth quarter. Where I’m going is this: Lynch’s ineffectiveness on first down to even get a handful of yards in the second half worked him out of the game plan. The right move? Time and score certainly had something to do with it, but there’s no easy answer when the offense is collapsing and the primary back isn’t able to set up manageable second- and third-down situations.
3. Assess the PSU pass rush. And how much do they blitz?
Temple was actually able to handle the pass rush fairly well, but the Owls also were totally prepared for what was coming. For the game, the Nittany Lions had a pair of sacks - one that forced a fumble - but the majority of Temple’s 21 pass attempts were bang-bang out of the quarterback’s hand. That’s not to say that the Nittany Lions’ front seven was unable to get upfield quickly, though. Racking up 15.0 tackles for a loss, Penn State sits at No. 2 in FBS in the category after the first weekend of games. If Joe Licata and the Buffalo offensive line are slow-developing or porous on passing plays, I would expect Penn State’s pass rush to be quite effective.
4. What is the relative state of panic/outrage in Happy Valley after the opener?
Saturday night was Code Red for the most passionate of Penn State football fans, for a combination of reasons. By reputation alone, many fans did not give Temple the credit it has deserved for its strides as a program, many overestimated the improvements made since Penn State’s dismal offensive production in 2014, and others have simply grown impatient with the realities of the long-term effects of hard-hitting sanctions against the program. At Penn State, fans might not expect to beat Ohio State year-in and year-out, but they do expect to beat Temple - no matter what. Certainly, there will be heightened interest in not only the outcome of Saturday’s game against Buffalo, but also in the way the Nittany Lions play. If it’s anything resembling Week One, the disappointment is going to grow exponentially, to put it lightly.
The work of Bauer and his team can be found here: https://bwi.rivals.com/