One of the most exciting early-season matchups in college football this season goes down on Saturday as No. 22 Penn State will serve as the first Big Ten team to ever play at Auburn. Both squads enter the game with records of 2-0, but an argument could be made that this will be Auburn's first real test of the season. While Penn State opened its year with a road game against conference foe Purdue, Auburn has played games against Mercer and San Jose State. To be blunt, however, it has not been the most impressive 2-0 start you'll ever see. Saturday's game against Penn State will be an excellent time for the Tigers to prove to the country -- and themselves -- that they can compete in the SEC this season.
As for the Nittany Lions, considering how mediocre the overall results have been the last two years, a 2-0 start is the ideal scenario. Still, as last season proved, it doesn't mean anything yet. The Nittany Lions were 2-0 last year with a road win over Wisconsin under their belt before taking on Auburn in Week 3. The Nittany Lions won that game to improve to 3-0 and would reach 5-0 before losing six of their last eight games.
Let's break down what to expect from this game, along with picks straight up and against the spread.
Penn State vs. Auburn: Need to know
Penn State won last year's meeting: Saturday's contest will be only the forth all-time between Penn State and Auburn, but it's the second year in a row they've played. The Nittany Lions won last year's game 28-20, but a lot of that game's key players won't be there this weekend. Penn State QB Sean Clifford returns after throwing for 280 yards and two touchdowns in last year's game, but his favorite target, Jahan Dotson (10 catches, 78 yards, TD), is gone. So is Jaquan Brisker, whose late-game pass deflection helped seal the win. For Auburn, last year's starting QB Bo Nix is now at Oregon, and the team's leading receiver that night, Kobe Hudson, transferred to UCF. However, running back Tank Bigsby is back, and the Tigers will likely lean on him in the run game because ...
Auburn QBs have a 4-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio: T.J. Finley won the offseason QB competition over Zach Calzada, but he hasn't done much to hold onto the job through the first two games. He threw only 14 passes in the season-opener against Mercer, but two of them were intercepted. At least he had a touchdown in the game, which cannot be said about his performance in Auburn's 24-16 win over San Jose State last week. Finley completed 13 of his 20 passes for 167 yards, but threw a third interception. Meanwhile, backup Robby Ashford, an Alabama native who transferred home to Auburn from Oregon, has seen time in both games and threw his own interception against San Jose State. In other words, the passing game is not off to a flying start on The Plains.
Penn State could feature two quarterbacks: There is no question over who is Penn State's starter. Clifford took over the starting job in 2019 and is now in his fourth season. However, that doesn't mean Clifford is the only Penn State QB we're likely to see. Touted freshman Drew Allar replaced Clifford for a series in the team's season-opening win over Purdue and saw the field again last week against Ohio, completing 6 of 8 passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns in a 46-10 win. Don't be surprised if Penn State sends Allar out for a series to give the Auburn defense a different look at some point Saturday.
How to watch Penn State vs. Auburn live
Penn State vs. Auburn prediction, picks
While Penn State has the bigger win of the two teams, the Nittany Lions didn't look great on the road against Purdue. As a result, I'm not ready to trust the Nittany Lions as road favorites against Auburn, even if Auburn hasn't inspired much confidence. The best units on the field in this matchup will be the defenses, so it's hard to imagine either team ever manages to pull too far away from the other. That makes Auburn and the points an attractive option. Prediction: Auburn (+3)
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