At 3:30 p.m. E.T. today, the Appalachian State Mountaineers, of the Sun Belt Conference East, travel to University Park, PA to play the Penn State Nittany Lions of the Big 10 East. In this year’s preview, we rated Appalachian State as the best team in the SBC East. At the same time, we ranked the Nittany Lions third in the Big Ten East. What we have in today’s home opener for Penn State is a team from the second-strongest college football conference in the nation hosting a team in what is thought to be the weakest conference. Penn State comes into this game having won 24 of their last 27 home openers and having hammered SBC’s Georgia State last season 56-0. Our 2018 college football Appalachian State plays Penn State pick has the Lions at -23.5 and the over/under at 54.0.
Appalachian State Offense vs Penn State D
If the Mountaineers generate any offense in this game, it’s likely to be through their ground attack. They have a solid O-line and RB Jalin Moore, who ran for over 1,000 yards last season and scored a dozen TDs, can burn up the turf. Marcus Williams is also a tenacious backup. Sophomore Zac Thomas, who tossed 10 passes in 2017, will start. He will have two Kansas State transfers to throw to, Dominique Heath and Corey Sutton. They could give the Lions some trouble.
The Penn State D lost seven of its top 10 tacklers from last season. Last season, they allowed opponents just 16.5 PPG. We do expect some drop off this season. They may be tested by the Mountaineers. A few guys need to step up today, including junior DE Shareef Miller (37 TKLs, 5 SCKs, 6 TFL, 9 QBHs). He’s the anchor in front. Junior DT Kevin Givens (23 TKLs, 3.5 SCKs, 0.5) and sophomore DE Shaka Toney (20 TKLs, 4 SCKs, 2.5 TFL) showed a lot of potential last season. Senior CB Amani Oruwariye, who grabbed four picks and defended eight passes, will command the secondary. Senior WLB Koa Farmer returns as the top tackler with 48.
Penn State Offense vs Mountaineers Defense
QB Trace McSorely, who can seemingly toss TD passes at will while also posing a solid ground threat, will be in charge of the offense. The O-line is better than most and is a real strength for the Nittany Lions. Although RB Saquon Barkley has moved onto the NFL, there’s talent at running back. Junior Miles Sanders was solid last season. The wideouts are down two of their best, but, again, we expect senior DeAndre Thompkins and junior Juwan Johnson to rise to the occasion.
Can Appalachian State contain the Nittany Lions? They do have two of the best corners and pick artists in the league in Clifton Duck and Tae Hayes. Together they posted 10 picks and 18 PBU in 2017. But trying to stop the taller and faster Penn State receivers will be a challenge for them. They will need to have something extra in their tanks to be effective.
The D-line lost two of its top starters and the linebacking unit sees just one starter come back from last season. Those losses could pose problems today. Somehow, the Mountaineers must take command against a very tough offense that should be running on all cylinders.
2018 College Football Appalachian State Plays Penn State Pick
In creating our 2018 college football Appalachian State plays Penn State pick, we reviewed the Mountaineer’s performance against #15 Georgia. The final in that was 31-10 in favor of the Bulldogs. We do expect more scoring from the Lions today. And we do think that Appalachian State will put points on the board. A 50-14 final would not be out of order. We’re going with the over at 55.0 and taking Penn State at -23.5