Penn State leads the all-time series at 15-3-1, and has won its last nine matchups against the Boilermakers.
Since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten in 1993, Purdue has beaten the Nittany Lions twice in 2003 and 2004.
Betting Line (as of publication)
PSU -3.5 (o/u 53.5) (courtesy of betonline.ag)
It was a tale of two seasons for the Nittany Lions a season ago. Penn State opened the season 5-0 and was ranked No. 4 in the country before the season began a downwards spiral against No. 3 Iowa in Kinnick Stadium. During the game, Penn State lost defensive tackle P.J. Mustipher for the season early in the contest and as the offense was beginning to role lost Sean Clifford for the game.
After Iowa, Penn State went an uncharacteristic 2-6 in its final eight games, the offense couldn't find any consistency at all levels. The offensive line wasn't at all up front, Clifford was battling injuries and he wasn't effective, and the Nittany Lions ground attack finished the season ranked 107th in the country.
Penn State head coach James Franklin is hoping for a big Year 2 from Offensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich as well as improved play from the offensive line coached by Phil Trautwein. However, Franklin lost one of his most loyal lieutenants in defensive coordinator Brent Pry who took the Head Coach position at Virginia Tech.
Replacing Pry is former Miami Hurricanes Head Coach Manny Diaz, who is co-defensive coordinator with Anthony Poindexter.
For Purdue, the biggest question for Head Coach Jeff Brohm is how the Boilermakers replace George Karlaftis, who was a first round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. Brohm will be looking at sophomore Kydran Jenkins to replace Karlaftis.
On offense, Aidan O'Connell returns for his final season to "Quarterback U," trying to build off of momentum of a 9-4 record a season ago. O'Connell completed 71.6% of his passes a season ago, throwing for 3,712 yards, 28 touchdowns and had a QBR of 85.7, good for fifth in the nation last year.
What to Watch For
Penn State has a lot of questions on both sides of the ball.
The Nittany Lions on offense the big eye will be on the offensive line and had they both protect Sean Clifford and open holes for their running game, which will be spearheaded by junior Keyvone Lee and true freshman Nicholas Singleton, who was ranked by many recruiting experts as the top running back prospect in the country.
If Clifford has time to pass, he has one of the deeper groups in the league led by Parker Washington and Western Kentucky transfer Mitchell Tinsley. Tinsley was phenomenal for the Hilltoppers in 2021, catching 87 balls for 1,402 yards and 14 scores. And if you are wondering whether Tinsley's talent translates to Power 5 competition or not, have no fear - against Michigan State he had 7 receptions for 127 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball for the Nittany Lions, the linebacking group might be one of the weakest for Penn State in several seasons and something Nittany Lions won't be accustomed to.
The Lions will miss Arnold Ebiketie, who transferred from Temple last season and became an First Team All-Big Ten selection and was drafted in the second round by the Atlanta Falcons. They'll look to a pair of returning defensive lineman from injuries to anchor the defensive line, Mustipher at the nose tackle position and Adisa Isaac at the edge position looking to be this year's Ebiketie. And don't forget about Chop Robinson, the Maryland transfer who really moved the needle during fall camp.
The Boilermakers would like to exploit the Nittany Lions unproven offensive line and the key matchup will be Kydran Jenkins at the LEO against Penn State left tackle Olu Fashanu. Purdue had 26 sacks last season and Karlaftis, who has departed, had 4.5 sacks last season. The question will be can they get to Clifford.
However, if there's a team that is worse at running the ball than the Penn State, it's Purdue, who finished averaging 84 yards per game, good for 127th in the country in 2021. Good for them then that they have an elite passing attack, revolving around Aidan O'Connell
When the Boilermakers are on offense a key will be when senior running back King Doerue has the ball and what he does when he has the ball. He won't be mistaken for Deuce Vaughn or Bijan Robinson by any stretch, but if he can at all effective in key moments, that might be the difference in this ball game.
How Penn State Wins
Penn State simply has to win the battle at the line of scrimmage on both sides. On offense, the line has to impose its will against a defensive line that on paper it is more talented against. If the offensive line executes, the offense can operate as Washington, Tinsley, and KeAndre Lambert will find a way to get open and the running game might contribute more than it did a season ago.
On the defensive side of the ball, the strength of the Penn State defense will get its first test as the secondary will get tested over and over again by the Purdue passing game. This is a game that Joey Porter Jr, who most NFL Draft prognosticators have going Day 1 in the 2023 NFL Draft, Ji'Ayir Brown, Keaton Ellis, and Kalen King can display how good they really are.
How Purdue Wins
On offense, Brohm will ride the horse that brought him here in Aidan O'Connell and will pass, pass, and pass again. O'Connell averaged in Big Ten play a season ago 40 pass attempts per game, I don't expect this to change.
What Purdue has to improve on is when it gets into the red zone, get touchdowns instead of field goals, the Boilermakers a season ago scored touchdowns at a 47.4% clip in the red zone, ranked 122nd in the Nation.
What Will Happen
This is a game both sides really need. Penn State is looking to show the team that won 2 of its final 8 isn't who they really are. Purdue is looking to show they are ready to take that next step as a Big Ten program after winning 9 games a season ago. Both sides have their fatal flaws and both sides have a lot to prove.
I feel Penn State has the talent advantage at key areas, and has made some key improvements. Purdue won't make this easy, as Franklin should improve to 7-2 in Big Ten conference openers at Penn State.