No. 5 Penn State hosts Georgia State Saturday night: Here’s everything you need to know
UNIVERSITY PARK — With the Big Ten conference opener at Iowa looming in two weeks, some Penn State fans might be excused for overlooking Saturday’s non-conference finale against Georgia State — especially when the Nittany Lions are listed as 39.5-point favorites in at least one betting line for the game.
Don’t count Penn State coach James Franklin among them.
The Panthers are coming off a bye week after falling in their season opener. They’ll visit Happy Valley for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff in Penn State’s first primetime game of the season.
Here’s everything you need to know about Saturday’s game:
Georgia State (0-1) at No. 5 Penn State (2-0)
KICKOFF: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network
BETTING LINE: Penn State is a 39.5-point favorite
STADIUM LOTS OPEN: 8 a.m.
GATES OPEN: 5:30 p.m. Early arriving fans will have the chance to receive up to 20 percent off at the concession stands during the first 45 minutes after the gates open, $5 off official Penn State White Out t-shirts, and other incentives.
TEAM ARRIVAL: Approximately 5 p.m. During the team arrival, the Nittany Lions’ eight team captains will be handing out footballs signed by the captains and head coach James Franklin to eight fans lined up on Curtin Road.
ABOUT PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions won their second straight game with a 33-14 triumph over arch-rival Pittsburgh in the Keystone Classic last Saturday at Beaver Stadium. Saquon Barkley racked up 133 offensive yards and scored on a career-long 46-yard TD reception, grabbing one of the three TD tosses recorded by quarterback Trace McSorley (the other two went to tight end Mike Gesicki).
It’s doubtful that Saturday’s attendance will match that of the Pittsburgh game, which drew 109,898 fans to Beaver Stadium, the 15th-largest crowd ever to watch a Penn State football game and the seventh-largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history. It was the largest attendance since the Nittany Lions drew 110,033 fans to watch them play Ohio State in 2009.
Penn State has won nine straight games at home, which is tied for the longest active streak among Football Bowl Subdivision programs. The Lions have won 15 of their last 16 home games overall.
Barkley’s 88 rushing yards against Pitt give him 2,832 for his career, which moves him into ninth place at Penn State. He passed Matt Suhey (2,818) and Ki-Jana Carter (2,829) in the Pitt game, and trails Lydell Mitchell (2,934 yards) for eighth place.
When you add his services as the Nittany Lions’ primary kickoff returner, Barkley has averaged 214.5 all-purpose yards per game in Penn State’s first two games. That ranks second in the nation.
In addition to his streak of 17-straight games with a touchdown pass, McSorley has two or more touchdown passes in five-straight games, dating back to the regular season finale against Michigan State last year. He has two or more TD passes in eight of the last nine games. His five touchdown passes on the season rank second in the Big Ten and tied for 16th in FBS.
McSorley’s 36 career touchdown passes rank ninth on Penn State’s all-time career leaders, one behind Chuck Fusina for the No. 8 spot.
Gesicki’s two touchdown catches against Pitt gave him 10 for his career — one short of Penn State’s career record for tight ends, held by Jesse James. Gesicki has caught a touchdown pass in five consecutive games, dating to last year’s regular season finale against Michigan State.
Meanwhile, wideout DaeSean Hamilton caught three passes against Pitt, giving him 167 for his career. That ties him for third place with Bobby Engram among Penn State’s career leaders. Allen Robinson (177) is in second place. Hamilton’s 2,098 career receiving yards rank sixth all-time at Penn State, trailing Derek Moye (2,395) for fifth place.
Penn State has scored 30 or more points in nine straight games, marking the longest stretch for the Lions since a string of 15-straight games with 30+ points from 1993-94. It is also the ninth consecutive game Penn State has scored 33 or more points, which is a program record.
The Nittany Lion defense is averaging 11.5 tackles for loss per game, which ranks first in the nation. They’ve allowed just 7.0 points per game in their first two outings, which also ranks first, and their average of 250.5 yards allowed per game ranks 17th.
With three interceptions in two games, Penn State leads the Big Ten and ranks 10th in FBS. Penn State picked off two passes against Pitt. Cornerback Grant Haley intercepted a first-quarter pass at the 50 and returned it 42 yards to the Pitt 8, setting up a one play touchdown drive, while safety Troy Apke intercepted a pass in the second quarter. It was Haley’s fourth career interception and Apke’s second.
The Penn State defense is continuing to find the quarterback, averaging 4.0 sacks through the first two games to rank 10th in FBS and third in the Big Ten. The five sacks recorded by the Nittany Lions against Pitt are the most since Penn State had six last season vs. Ohio State.
Saturday’s game is the first primetime game of the season for Penn State, which will play at Iowa in primetime next Saturday. Penn State was 4-0 in primetime games last year.
ABOUT GEORGIA STATE: The Panthers’ program started in 2010, but they’ve already played some big-name opponents tough. Georgia State 2016 Big Ten runner-up Wisconsin everything it could handle last season, falling 23-17. This year, the Panthers dropped a 17-10 decision to Tennessee State in their season opener on August 31, and were inactive last week.
The Panthers are coached by Shawn Elliott, a former co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at South Carolina. Elliott is in his first season with the Panthers. He served as South Carolina’s interim head coach in 2015 when former coach Steve Spurrier retired during the season. Before joining the staff at South Carolina in 2010, Elliott spent 13 seasons as an assistant coach at Appalachian State, and was on the sidelines during the Mountaineers’ historic upset of Michigan in 2007.
A member of the Sun Belt Conference, Georgia State has played a Power 5 conference team in seven of its last eight seasons. Penn State is the second Big Ten opponent Georgia State has played; the Panthers fell 17-10 to Wisconsin last year.
Quarterback Connor Manning completed 14 of 17 passes for 159 yards in the Panthers’ season-opening loss to Tennessee State, but left the game with an injury in the third quarter. Running back Taz Bateman had six catches for 74 yards and a touchdown and added 31 rushing yards on 11 carries.