UNIVERSITY PARK, Penn. – Pittsburgh and No. 11 Penn State will meet for the 100th time in the storied rivalry Saturday in State College, Pa. but when and where the 101st matchup takes place remains to be seen. "I'm either going to be in a coffin or retired probably [the next time Penn State and Pitt play]," Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi told reporters at his Monday press conference of a series that has no future scheduled dates.
TV: Noon ET, ABC. LINE: Penn State -17.5
The rivalry resumed in 2016, when Pitt eked out a 42-39 win, but the Nittany Lions won the next two encounters by a combined 84-20 margin and they roll into the latest matchup on the strength of two blowout victories to start the year. Sophomore Sean Clifford had four touchdown passes and 279 yards through the air - as well as a team-high 51 on the ground - in last weekend's 45-13 win over Buffalo. The Panthers opened with a loss to Virginia before bouncing back with a 20-10 victory over Ohio. Junior Kenny Pickett threw for a career-high 321 yards and a TD against the Bobcats as Pitt snapped a four-game slide dating to last season.
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (1-1)
Pickett found senior wide receiver Maurice Ffrench 10 times for 138 yards and a TD last week. Ffrench has 102 more yards through the air than any of his teammates, although junior running back A.J. Davis - who has a team-leading 114 yards on the ground - has made the most of his chances in the passing game with 72 yards on just three grabs. Sophomore defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman recorded three sacks in the win over Ohio.
ABOUT PENN STATE (2-0)
The Nittany Lions trailed 10-7 early in the second half last weekend before senior cornerback John Reid took an interception back for a TD, igniting a 38-point second half. Clifford took it from there, connecting twice for scores with tight end Pat Freiermuth and once with Jahan Dotson in the second half and setting up a rushing score with a 58-yard run. "Cliff is the ultimate competitor," Reid told reporters. "I know that, coming out in the second half, he was going to turn it around. He has really good composure. He's not getting riled up. He knows he can make all of the throws, he knows he can make the plays."
1. Nittany Lions DE Yetur Gross-Matos entered the week tied for third among FBS players with 3.5 sacks.
2. Pickett was held to 55 yards on 18 pass attempts with one interception in last year's 51-6 loss to Penn State.
3. The Nittany Lions have won the last five matchups at home.
PREDICTION: Penn State 33, Pittsburgh 17