What's Penn State's reward for emerging unbeaten from its early season gauntlet? Another unbeaten team.
Villanova improved to 3-0 with a 34-27 victory over Richmond last Saturday and will be the third ranked opponent Penn State has faced this season. Of course, the Wildcats are ranked in the Football Championship Subdivision (No. 12 last week), while Penn State jumped four spots to No. 6 in the AP Top 25.
Penn State and Villanova will meet for the first time since 1951, when they played at a high school field in Allentown, Pa. Villanova won that game 20-14 and actually holds a three-game win streak in the series, with victories in 1936, '49 and '51.
Here's the first look at Penn State-Villanova.
No. 6 Penn State (3-0) vs. Villanova (3-0)
- When: Noon Saturday
- Where: Beaver Stadium
- TV: Big Ten Network
- Streaming: fubuTv
- Series History: Penn State leads 5-3-1
- Last Meeting: Villanova 20-14 in 1951
- Last Week: Penn State defeated Auburn 28-20; Villanova defeated Richmond 34-27
- Streaks: Penn State has won seven straight games dating to 2020
About the Lions: Coach James Franklin said late Saturday that he has a "tough-minded team," which has beaten ranked opponents twice in its first three games for the first time in school history. Penn State's offensive line rose up against Auburn, the defense continued to make timely stops and the whole roster brushed off several officiating issues. "I think we've got a tough-minded football team," Franklin said. "... Obviously being tested early in the season like this, I think, is going to be good and helpful. And we're just going to have to build on it from there, but I'm pleased with where our football team is right now." The Lions aren't lighting the Big Ten stat sheets afire; they rank 10th in scoring offense and sixth in scoring defense. But, in an important departure from 2020, they're tied for second in the conference in turnover margin at plus-5. Penn State has just one turnover in three games (a harmless Sean Clifford interception vs. Auburn). It had seven through the first three games of 2020.
About the Wildcats: Jay Wright has Villanova playing great. Kidding, kidding. But head coach Mark Ferrante's Wildcats are clicking and ranked 11th in the NCAA Top 25. Trailing Richmond 27-13, Villanova scored three touchdowns in the last 5 minutes to pull out a 34-27 victory. Quarterback Daniel Smith threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in that stretch, capping the comeback with a 47-yard touchdown pass to Rayjoun Pringle with 38 seconds remaining. Villanova also played in front of a home sellout crowd (of 12,001). Smith, a graduate student who transferred from Campbell in 2019, has thrown eight touchdown passes in three games. Dez Boykin, who played at Saquon Barkley's alma mater Whitehall High School, has caught two of those. Running back Justin Covington is averaging 102 yards per game.