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Capsule Preview: UB at Penn State

UB at Penn State

Noon at Beaver Stadium

Radio: 1520 AM. TV: ESPN2.

Last time out: Any chance UB might catch Penn State off guard ended when the Nittany Lions laid a giant egg in their opener at Temple. UB opened with a win over its lower-class SUNY cousin, Albany.

Trending: Penn State was picked for third in the seven-team East Division of the Big 10 Conference but the natives in Happy Valley are aghast at the loss to Temple. The heat is on second-year coach James Franklin. If UB’s offense can start fast or the Bulls can get an early big play, the boo-birds will be out at Beaver Stadium, and the pressure will increase on the Nittany Lions.

Stat check: Penn State is 22-2 vs. Mid-American Conference teams over the past 20 years and has won 12 of its last 13 home openers. . . . This will be UB’s first game on natural grass since the finale of the 2012 season against Bowling Green, which was played in Columbus, Ohio.

Star gazing: If Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg (No. 14) can’t look outstanding against what is at best a middling MAC defense, then it’s hard to imagine how he could be a top-10 NFL draft pick. . . . Penn State might have the best DT pair in the nation in 284-pound Anthony Zettel (98) and 323-pound Austin Johnson (99). Zettel is a preseason All-America. UB must be worried about those two collapsing the pocket on Joe Licata. . . . WR Daesean Hamilton (5) and SS Jordan Lucas (9) both are preseason All-Big 10 picks. . . . RB Akeel Lynch (22) was New York State player of the year for St. Francis in 2011.

At stake: UB is a 20-point underdog. Even if UB gets blown out, it will be hard to draw many conclusions about the Bulls. We’ll have a better feel for UB after next week’s game at Florida-Atlantic.

Prediction: Penn State has much more team speed, and its defense is one of the best in the Big 10. If UB was bringing its Khalil Mack-led defense of two years ago, we’d predict an upset. But it’s hard to see how this young Bulls defense, with inexperience across the board, is going to avoid breakdowns against a Big 10 foe. Penn State 42, UB 24.

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