COLLEGE PARK. Md. – Penn State moved up in the national rankings on a bye week, but has plenty of questions to answer and a significant challenge to begin Big Ten play when it visits Maryland on Friday night. The No. 11 Nittany Lions are 3-0 for the third straight year but trailed at halftime at home against Buffalo on Sept. 7 and needed a goal-line stand to survive a 17-10 victory over Pittsburgh on Sept. 14.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1. LINE: Penn State -6.5
A primetime visit to Maryland, where most classes are being cancelled Friday and fans will be arriving for a "blackout" at Capital One Field, could test James Franklin's crew. "We have to have a really good plan for the bye week, which between the sports scientists and the coaches and everybody, I think we've done a great job there," Franklin told reporters ahead of the team's week off. "But we have to take the next step and it is going to be important that we handle this week the right way because we have a really good opponent." The Terrapins broke into the Top 25 by scoring 142 points in a 2-0 start before they were stymied offensively in a 20-17 loss at Temple on Sept. 14. Penn State has taken four straight meetings, including wins in the last two years by a combined 104-6.
ABOUT PENN STATE (3-0)
After completing 66.7 percent of his passes with six touchdowns through the first two games, sophomore quarterback Sean Clifford was 14-for-30 for 222 yards and zero TDs versus Pitt. The Lions were given a boost by sophomore running back Journey Brown, who emerged from a committee attack to run 10 times for a career-high 109 yards, earning a spot atop the depth chart entering this one. Speedster KJ Hamler leads the receiving corps with 245 yards through the air while fellow sophomore Pat Freiermuth has matched him with a team-high 10 grabs from the tight end position.
ABOUT MARYLAND (2-1)
The Terrapins continue to lean on standout running back Anthony McFarland Jr. (225 yards, five touchdowns), but they hope for a better showing from junior quarterback Josh Jackson, who was 15-for-38 passing with an interception and four sacks against Temple. "Yeah, I'd definitely like to chalk that up as an outlier," Jackson, who threw for 541 yards and seven scores through the first two games, told reporters. "It was not a very good game on my side. Probably one of my worst games in college. So yeah, we'll leave that as an outlier and hopefully it stays like that." Senior linebacker Antoine Brooks entered the week ranked sixth among FBS players with 7.3 solo tackles per game and junior linebacker Keandre Jones was tied for eighth with several players - including Penn State defensive lineman Yetur Gross-Matos - with 1.17 sacks per contest.
1. Terrapins RB Javon Leake has rushed for 164 yards on 15 carries over the past two games.
2. Nittany Lions RB Ricky Slade ran for 64 yards and two touchdowns in last year's 38-3 victory over Maryland.
3. Penn State is 5-for-5 on field goals - including two more than 50 yards - while the Terrapins have missed their only try.
PREDICTION: Penn State 28, Maryland 21