One of the most highly anticipated nonconference games of not just the day, but the entire 2021 college football season will go down Saturday under the lights in State College, Pennsylvania, when No. 22 Auburn travels to face No. 10 Penn State in the annual "whiteout" game in Happy Valley. The Tigers have topped the 60-point mark in each of their first two contests and a big reason why is that quarterback Bo Nix has shown more consistency this year than he has during his previous two seasons on The Plains.
The Nittany Lions have a win over a ranked Wisconsin team and a blowout over Ball State on their resume. Like Nix, quarterback Sean Clifford's has shown an ability to avoid the very mistakes that have plagued him in the past. Thought Penn State has been tested more through two weeks, this Week 3 matchup could set the tone for both programs as they gear up for conference play. It could even hint at which team could make a surprise run through their schedule.
What will happen on Saturday night in Happy Valley? Let's break down the game and make picks straight up and against the spread. Follow LIVE coverage of Penn State vs. Auburn here on CBSSports.com.
Auburn vs. Penn State: Need to know
Will Nix make mistakes? Nix didn't break the 60% completion mark in either of his first two seasons, but he is connecting at a 74.4% clip so far in 2021. Granted, the beginning of last week's win over Alabama State wasn't exactly crisp, but he's thrown five touchdowns so far, putting him nearly halfway to his total passing touchdown mark from last year (12) and he's yet to thrown a pick. Penn State's defense forced four interceptions during the first two games, including two in the fourth quarter against Wisconsin that preserved a thrilling win over the Badgers.
Get the ground game going: Penn State rebounded from a dismal Week 1 rushing performance with 240 yards and two touchdown last week, including 69 from No. 1 back Noah Cain and 66 from Clifford. The Tigers have been a force defensively against the rush, giving up just 23 yards per game. That's good for second fewest in the nation. Again, you have to factor in the weaker competition that Auburn has faced, but the fact that the Tigers have given up just two rushing plays of 10 or more yards is very impressive.
Home field advantage: Penn State didn't host a "whiteout" game last year due to the absence of fans stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Expect a rowdy and raucous atmosphere on Saturday night for a fanbase that has been itching to unleash its fury for a full two years. However, Penn State is just 8-8 in white out games since the tradition's inception. Auburn is no stranger to hostile environments in the SEC, but this will be the first road game for the Tigers this year.
How to watch Auburn vs. Penn State live
Date: Saturday, September 18 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Beaver Stadium -- University Park, Pennsylvania
TV: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Auburn vs. Penn State prediction, picks
I tabbed Penn State to win this game earlier this summer, but changed my tune due to Nix's ability to take care of the football. In fact, everybody seems to be in tune with what Tigers coordinator Mike Bobo is asking. That sideline was total chaos under former coach Gus Malzahn. That's not the case now. Running backs Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter will feast against a defense that hasn't seen a duo quite like this and lead their team to a win and cover. Prediction: Auburn (+6)
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 3, and which Top 25 favorite goes down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned over $3,500 in profit over the past five-plus seasons -- and find out.