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Few thought Auburn’s first real test of the season would be San Jose State, but the Spartans nearly added to what was already an upset-laden weekend of college football. Auburn trailed in the first half, only mustering seven points in the first half, but taking control in the fourth quarter to end much of the suspense.
What do Auburn’s struggles last Saturday have to do with #22 Penn State coming to the Plains? Maybe not much. It’s certain the Tigers staff have had this date circled for some time now. The crowd is certain to be raucous for the CBS-featured game pitting the Nittany Lions against an Auburn team looking to enter the Top 25 and earn national respect.
For its part, Vegas lists Penn State as a 3-point favorite, expecting a relatively low-scoring game with an over-under of just 48. Put another way, Vegas expects the Nittany Lions to escape from Jordan-Hare with a 26-23 victory, or close to it. In our own preseason analysis [LINK THAT HERE], we called for the same margin and a total score of 51 very close to what Vegas is offering. But we called for Auburn to emerge with the W, not Penn State.
There is good reason to believe that Auburn can beat the odds, but the Tigers will have their work cut out for them.
Unlike in years past, Penn State is playing traditional Big-10 football. Much of that has to do with having Sean Clifford, now in his sixth year of college football, at the helm. Clifford is an efficient, although not typically prolific, passer, with a 148 pass rating through his first two games of the 2022 season. Penn State passed for 308 yards against Purdue on the road and another 338 against Ohio University at home, meaning they can throw the ball with some degree of confidence.
To beat Auburn on the road, they’ll need Clifford to carry the load offensively. The Nittany Lions rushed for less than a hundred yards against Purdue and 234 against Ohio University, although 70 of those yards came on a single Nick Singleton run early in the game. In other words, Penn State isn’t going to beat Auburn running the ball.
So far, Penn State’s defense has been relatively stingy, but they haven’t faced a rushing attack as competent as Auburn’s. Tank Bigsby is capable of any defense fits and Jarquez Hunter is proving more and more dangerous as he gets more carries. With a solid offensive line, Auburn likely won’t struggle to run the ball as Purdue and Ohio University did, meaning they’ll have an opportunity to slow the game somewhat and wear down a Penn State defense with less depth than it would like.
This will be a close one with twists and turns. Buckle up. In the end, the Tigers prevail. We’re sticking with our original call: Auburn 27 - Penn State 24.