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No. 4 Penn State looks to avoid letdown against Northwestern

No. 4 Penn State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) at Northwestern (2-2, 0-1), Saturday, 12 p.m. ET (ABC)

Line: Penn State by 15.

Series record: Penn State leads 13-5.


Penn State looks to remain unbeaten with its bye coming next week and a brutal one-two punch after that. The Nittany Lions host Michigan on Oct. 21 and visit Ohio State a week later. Northwestern is once again trying to steady itself in the early going after dropping three of its first four a year ago.


Penn State's defense vs. Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson. Yes, Northwestern will have its hands full trying to contain Penn State's offense. But this could be a rough afternoon for the Wildcats if Thorson and RB Justin Jackson can't get going against the Nittany Lions' stingy defense.


Penn State: RB Saquon Barkley. Tops in the nation at 243.6 all-purpose yards per game, Barkley padded his Heisman Trophy resume in last week's 45-14 rout of Indiana. He returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and added 56 yards rushing and 51 receiving. He will be running behind a banged up line.

Northwestern: RB Justin Jackson. With 4,402 yards rushing, the senior needs 83 to tie Damien Anderson's school record. Jackson ran for 25 yards on nine carries against Wisconsin after missing practice all week because of a leg injury. He also ran for 18 yards in a loss at Duke on Sept. 9. Jackson is the second-active leading FBS rusher behind Oregon's Royce Freeman (4,738).


Penn State coach James Franklin is 0-3 against Northwestern — losing in 2013 with Vanderbilt and in 2014 and 2015 with the Nittany Lions. ... Penn State ranks second to Ohio State in the Big Ten in scoring offense, total offense and passing. The Nittany Lions are allowing a league-low 9.4 points per game and are tied for the Big Ten lead with seven interceptions. ... QB Trace McSorley leads the Big Ten in passing at 270.4 yards per game. ... Penn State and Northwestern will have two pairs of brothers on opposite sides — Nittany Lions QB Billy Fessler and Wildcats WR Charlie Fessler; and Penn State P Blake Gillikin and Northwestern LS Tyler Gillikin. The Gillikins are twins.


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