Will the Clock Strike Noon on Penn State?
The No. 4 Nittany Lions take on the Wildcats when they travel to Northwestern on Saturday. The game is a 12:00 pm EDT kick off on ABC. Penn State will have to build off of last week’s momentum to avoid an upset against a strong Northwestern team that gave ranked Wisconsin a scare a week ago.
Four Things to Look For: Penn State vs. Northwestern
1. Mike Gesicki’s injury
Starting tight end Mike Gesicki left last Saturday’s game against Indiana in the first half with an apparent rib injury. Head coach James Franklin has not said what the injury is, but stated in his weekly press conference that Gesicki is expected to play when the Nittany Lions take on the Wildcats on Saturday. While Franklin believes Gesicki will be ready to play, if he is not 100% look for Jonathan Holland and Tom Pancoast to share snaps. Holland and Pancoast only have four receptions between them on the season. Due to this, Nittany Lion fans are hoping that Gesicki will not miss any more game time. The tight end has five touchdowns on twenty receptions this season.
Additionally, Gesicki is instrumental in the run game. His blocking abilities have drastically improved right along with his consistency in the passing game. If he is not ready to play, the wide receivers will have to step up in his absence.
2. Northwestern Safety Godwin Igwebuike
Northwestern’s senior safety Godwin Igwebuike is one of the best safeties in the Big Ten. Additionally, Igwebuike is projected to be the highest Northwestern player taken in the NFL draft since 2005. Through the first four game of the season, Igwebuike has 29 tackles. He also recorded his first interception last week against a ranked Wisconsin team. Furthermore, Igwebuike was named second team All-Big Ten a year ago. Penn State’s all-time receptions leader, DaeSean Hamilton, will have to account for arguably the best safety he has seen this season, especially if Gesicki is not ready to play.
3. Tyler Davis kicking struggles
Last season Tyler Davis made 22 out of 24 filed goal attempts, kicking at 91.7%. This season Davis has gotten off to a rocky start. He is 5 for 11, making only 45.5% of his attempts. Especially out of character for Davis was missing a 21-yard attempt against Indiana at home last weekend. Furthermore, Davis has two blocked field goal attempts already this year.
The Nittany Lions are coming into the heart of the Big Ten schedule with a tough Northwestern team this week, Ohio State in two weeks and then Michigan at home. With this in mind, Franklin has made no effort to move on and give back up kicker Alex Barbir a chance to show what he can do. Therefore, Davis needs to adjust and get back into 2016 form before hitting a stretch of ranked opponents if the No. 4 Nittany Lions want to remain in playoff contention.
4. Sibling rivalry
Two mothers will be wearing custom jerseys at Ryan Field when the Nittany Lions take on the Wildcats on Saturday. The first being the mother of Penn State stand-out punter, Blake Gillikin, and Northwestern long snapper Tyler Gillikin, the second being the mother of Penn State placeholder, Billy Fessler and his brother Charlie Fessler, who plays wide receiver for Northwestern. Both women will be donning jerseys that are half Penn State blue and white and half Northwestern purple. This is a first for the Gillikin twins who have never played opposite one another before. Growing up Tyler was always the one snapping the ball to Blake, this Saturday he will be snapping to a different punter against the one that he grew up in the same house with. Penn State will look to be on the right side on the sibling rivalry when the Nittany Lions take on the Wildcats on Saturday.
Penn State travels to Ryan Field for their second away game of the season. Nittany Lion fans are hoping for a smoother road against Northwestern than the game that came down to the wire at Iowa. The Nittany Lion offense could be without top-target Mike Gesicki on Saturday. Against one of the top safeties in the Big Ten, Godwin Igwebuike, the Penn State receivers will have to step up in a big way. Finally, Tyler Davis will get back on track this week before entering the heart of the Big Ten schedule. If the Nittany Lion defense continues their dominant play and Trace McSorley can maneuver around Igwebuike, look for the Nittany Lions to enter the bye week 6-0.