Penn State on Saturday plays a ranked opponent for the third time this season. Of course, Villanova is ranked in the FCS (No. 11), but that didn't stop Penn State coach James Franklin from signaling a threat.
Franklin this week listed eight instances of FBS teams losing to FCS teams, including two 2021 surprises (Jacksonville State over Florida State and Northern Arizona over Arizona) and a few reaches. Franklin noted that Tarleton State beat New Mexico State, but didn't mention that it happened during the post-COVID spring season.
So, what to expect Saturday? If Sean Clifford, Jahan Dotson, Jaquan Brisker and other key starters are still playing midway through the third quarter, something's wrong with Penn State.
Also, the teams hopefully will behave better than they did the last time.
No. 6 Penn State (3-0) vs. Villanova (3-0)
- When: Noon Saturday
- Where: Beaver Stadium
- TV: Big Ten Network
- Streaming: fubuTV
- Betting Line: No line (Sportsbooks usually don't set lines for FBS-FCS games)
A Penn State-Villanova History Lesson
Penn State might lead the series 5-3-1, but Villanova is riding a three-game win streak. The Wildcats won in 1936 (13-0), 1949 (27-6) and 1951 (20-14).
The teams played their 1951 game at Allentown (Pa.) High School Stadium at the request of local alumni. According to the Allentown Morning Call, Villanova originally would have hosted Penn State at Philadelphia's Shibe Park but sought an alternative because it expected the venue to be tied up with a Phillies World Series appearance.
Instead, a crowd of 16,000 in Allentown evidently saw a testy affair. Penn State committed six turnovers, Villanova racked up 11 penalties for 129 yards and the game took a few heated turns.
Villanova defensive end John Patrick, who recovered two fumbles, was a "constant burr to State's winged-T plans until he was carted from the field on a stretcher late in the third period," according to the Philadephia Inquirer. Fellow end Frank Banas "also failed to last the game," the Inquirer reported, after being ejected for a personal foul. Banas "had several teeth knocked out" in the second quarter.
According to the Penn State Football Encyclopedia, there was a "near riot" because of extracurriculars on both sides. In fact, The Penn State Football Letter said that "it took self control and high moral courage to keep Saturday's game from developing into a bedlam of flying fists."
But one positive emerged. According to the Penn State Football Encyclopedia, a coveted running back recruit from nearby Reading High attended the game. Lenny Moore went on to become an All-American for Penn State.
Penn State Players to Watch
John Lovett: The senior running back, who didn't dress for the first two games, looked like a lively addition vs. Auburn. Lovett, who transferred from Baylor, adds speed and experience to a backfield that has been uneven so far. He's one to watch Saturday and for the future.
Keyvone Lee: Another running back, Lee fumbled (and recovered) the ball against Auburn in the first half and didn't touch it again. Lee has a chance to win back his coaches' in-game trust.
Christian Veilleux: Will Penn State get the freshman quarterback into this game? Certainly, No. 2 quarterback Ta'Quan Roberson should play as much as possible. But it couldn't hurt to get Veilleux on the field as well.
Villanova Players to Watch
Daniel Smith: The Villanova quarterback brings some shine to Beaver Stadium, having thrown for 350 yards and two touchdowns in a comeback 34-27 win over Richmond. He has a great opportunity to test his skills Saturday.
Dez Boykin: The receiver played at Whitehall (Pa.) High School, Saquon Barkley's alma mater, and made some recruiting visits to Penn State while Barkley was there. He is Villanova's second-leading receiver (10 catches 133 yards) and caught a 61-yarder vs. Lehigh.
Nowoola Awopetu: The playmaking cornerback is the only player in Villanova history to return two interceptions for TDs in the same game.
Five Things You Should Know
1. Penn State has won 18 straight non-conference home games since 2013.
2. Seven true freshmen have played for Penn State this season: Kaleb Brown, Jamari Buddin, Dominic DeLuca, Kalen King, Kobe King, Jaylen Reed and Harrison Wallace III.
3. Villanova is 4-19 in games against FBS teams since 1988. Three of those wins were over Temple, the most recent in 2018 (19-17).
4. Villanova is playing its 19th game vs. a team ranked in the AP Top 25. The Wildcats have won once: 7-0 over No. 18 Detroit Mercy in 1937.
5. Former Nittany Lion Matt Millen returns to Beaver Stadium for the first time this season with the Big Ten Network broadcast.
Here are a few secondary predictions: Penn State will play more than 70 players, Lovett will be the leading rusher and Roberson will throw a touchdown pass.
In addition, the Lions' top defensive players will be limited to preserve them for next week's game against Indiana, whose 2020 win lingers in everyone's memory, whether they admit it or not.
Penn State 56, Villanova 10