No. 7 Penn State enters the 2023 college football season as one of the few programs with legitimate aspirations to secure a spot in the College Football Playoff. That journey begins Saturday night in Happy Valley when the Nittany Lions take on neighboring West Virginia. Penn State coach James Franklin has turned his program into a threat in the Big Ten East, consistently providing competition to division titans Ohio State and Michigan.
On the other side of the equation, West Virginia coach Neal Brown is competing in one of the hottest spots in the country this season. He is between 22 and 25 years old and has led the program for four seasons, with administrators giving him the dreaded vote of confidence after last season. These are not good news. The good news, however, is that the Mountaineers are incredibly experienced up front, which will help an offense that was inconsistent last season.
Penn State leads the all-time series at 48-9-2, but the two programs have not met since 1992.
What will happen in Happy Valley on Saturday evening? Let’s break down the game and hit picks straight up and against the spread.
Penn State vs. West Virginia: What you need to know
It’s Allar time: Drew Allar has received a lot of hype since he stepped on campus, and the 6-foot-1, 220-pound sophomore will be the starting quarterback after Sean Clifford leaves for the NFL. Allar, a five-star prospect and the third-best overall prospect in the Class of 2022, threw for 344 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games last season and added 52 rushing yards with a score on the ground. Franklin has always had solid quarterback play, but this is the first time in his tenure that he has a potential superstar taking over the snaps. Allar will have an experienced offensive line to protect him, but he will need to develop a suitable receiver to take some pressure off the Nittany Lions’ outstanding rushing attack.
Dynamic Duo: Speaking of rushing attacks, Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen form one of (if not “the”) best backcourts in the country. It will be fascinating to see how this rushing attack develops after the two became the focal point of the offense as freshmen last season. The good news for West Virginia is that its defensive front seven has plenty of experience and finished last season with the Big 12’s fourth-best rushing defense in yards per attempt (4.14).
Who takes the snaps for the Mountaineers? Brown was noncommittal about his starting quarterback when he met with the media earlier this week. Junior Garrett Greene and Nicco Marchiol are vying for the top spot on the depth chart. Brown said earlier this month that he had made a decision about who would take the snaps, but that he wasn’t sure whether he would officially release them to the media. This has left a lot of mysteries surrounding the race. Greene threw for 593 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions in nine games last season, including starts in the final two meetings. Marchiol played in two games last year, including the season finale against Oklahoma State, when he completed two of his nine passes for 29 yards.
How to watch Penn State vs. West Virginia
Date: Saturday September 2nd | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Beaver Stadium – University Park, Pennsylvania
TV: NBC | Live broadcast: Peacock, Fubo (Try for free)
Penn State vs. West Virginia Prediction, Tips
SportsLine consensus odds
The Nittany Lions are under pressure and there is no chance the Mountaineers can slow down this attack. Allar will light up the porous West Virginia secondary and turn it sideways by the end of the third quarter. The catch on the line makes this game even more attractive, as a 21-point win allows Penn State tickets to be redeemed. Prediction: Penn State (-21.5)
What college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 1? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread – all using a proven computer model that has returned nearly $2,500 in profit over the last seven-plus seasons – and find out.