In the last two games, Central Michigan Football (1-2) has had to balance expectations of being the favorites with an approach of not condoning its opponent.
However, in Saturday’s game, Penn State opened (3-0) as a 28-point best.
Faced with one of the top 15 opponents in one of the toughest environments in college football, coach Jim McElwain knows all too well what a trip to Beaver Stadium means.
“We’ve been cutting the road for us,” McElwain said. “However, I know it’s a great opportunity when you get the chance to play in an environment like this. I can honestly say, speaking with offensive line coach William Flachos, when we went out there and played (with) Alabama, it was this louder crowd that we associated with and louder an audience I’ve ever heard of.”
Amid the festivities will be honored former CMU and Nittany Lion defensive back coach Michael Zordich, along with the rest of the 1982 Penn State National Championship squad.
“I’m really excited that Michael (Zurditch) can be there,” McElwain said. “There’s nothing like winning a national championship. Honoring these guys and his wife too. Back in the day, she was a cheerleader out there at Penn State. For them, I think that’s special.”
The fearsome crowd at Penn State is well documented, but the team’s repeat this year could be just as frightening. The Lions entered the 2022 season without a standings after a 7-6 campaign in 2021.
Penn State kicked off its season by hitting nails against Purdue, outperforming Boilermakers 35-31, thanks to an impressive final drive from quarterback Shaun Clifford.
But over the next two games, Penn State dominated their competition, starting with a two-week win over their fellow Mid-American Conference program in Ohio by a 36-point margin.
The following week, Penn State beat Auburn 41-12 thanks to a runaway second inning, scoring three touchdowns on the ground.
Head coach James Franklin’s offensive unit has averaged over 40 points per game while averaging 485 attacking yards this season. Clifford was reliable and largely avoided the big mistakes, but the production in his backyard is what makes the criminal laugh.
Penn State averaged 192.3 rushing yards per game with an average of 5.5 yards per attempt. In addition, he has scored his attack on the ground nine times this season
Big question: Could CMU’s defense build on its performance from a week ago?
It would be unlikely to suggest that CMU’s defense could replicate its performance a week ago when it halted Bucknell’s attack. However, if it can continue its upward trajectory, it may have a chance of slowing Pennsylvania’s air assault.
While the unit was only credited with three sacks from last week, it appears that the Chippewas lived in Bucknell’s backyard. New Redshirt defense end Michael Heldman had his best game of the season and looks to continue improvements to his game this week, albeit in the face of stiffer competition.
Corner player Donte Kent is expected to return to the squad after a one-match absence. The same can be said about the safety of sophomore Trey Jones, who has been a vocal leader on this team going back to Spring Practices.
The Key to Victory: Limiting Kevin Singleton’s Influence
The Chippewas should have Penn State’s rushing attack, that is, the true freshman running back Kevin Singleton has firmly established himself as the top rider, and perhaps the best offensive weapon overall for the Lions.
Singleton only managed 31 rushing yards in the first week, but has only made 310 yards in 20 attempts since then. In addition, he leads the team with 10 lunges in each of the last three games.
“Yes, this guy is special,” said McElwain. “It’s another thing. I mean seeing a guy running away from (the defenders like he did) last week, I know what kind of speed and power he has. It’s impressive.”
Central Michigan (1-2) – Bucknell (3-0)
All-Time Series: 1-0 Penn State
Time: 12:00 p.m. Eastern time
Date: Saturday 24 September 2022
Venue: Beaver Stadium
Venue: University Park, Pennsylvania
Odds: Pennsylvania -28
More / Less: 63
Television: Big Ten . Network
Radio: 98.5 WUPS (Adam Jaksa, Brock Guiterrez)
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