Cover Photo by Ben Queen/USA Today
MORGANTOWN, West Virginia – The West Virginia Mountaineers travel to Happy Valley to play the #7 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions in the first regular season game for both teams. Here’s how our experts think the game will play out today:
Ben Gilbert, Writer, The Voice of Morgantown, 0-0
WVU is going to come out swinging, but in a hostile environment it will be a difficult ask of a team that has not yet had the chance to find its footing. Penn State shows some cracks as our running corps breaks a couple loose for big gains, but run out of time before they can overcome the deficit. The Nittany Lions’ defense holds in this one.
Penn State 42 WVU 31
James Gravley, Writer, The Voice of Morgantown, 0-0
I think it will be a close game due to the first game jitters. I also believe that WVU has heard how terrible that they will be this year and want to come out strong in the first game, even in a losing effort, and show that they have what it takes to compete this year. I like WVU to run the ball around 70% to keep the clock churning so it keeps Penn State’s offense on the sideline. But a mistake late while driving down the field results in PSU escaping with the win.
Penn State 28 WVU 24
Clark Johnson, Senior Writer, The Voice of Morgantown, 0-0
The wait is over – football is back! WVU faces one of their stiffest challenges in recent memory in #7 Penn State. I expect Neal Brown to have the boys ready to roll. However, I just believe the Nittany Lions will be too talented in the end.
The Mountaineers keep it interesting, but an 0-1 start for the third-straight year seems likely.
Penn State 33 WVU 21
Brad Smith, Publisher, The Voice of Morgantown, 0-0
I’m going with my heart and not my head in this one. Despite four years of complete and utter failure, I believe in my heart that Neal Brown finds a way to win this one.
West Virginia has an absolutely dominant offensive line, a stable of running back that is among the best in the nation and a quarterback that is an absolute winner. Many/most quarterbacks would be intimidated by the almost 107,000 fans, the crazy atmosphere, the intensity and pressure surrounding an opening game that means so much to the program.
But not Garrett Greene. Greene lives for moments like this. Garrett Greene will play up to the challenge. This is the biggest moment of his life and he understands the importance of winning this game. I’m very confident that Garrett Greene – with his unique skill set and combination of ability to run, pass and make something out of nothing – is the perfect person to lead the Mountaineers into a hostile environment.
Games are won upfront and the Mountaineers have one of the best offensive fronts in college football with all five starters returning and three of them are All-Conference players first team players. Behind the line, CJ Donaldson is one of the most difficult-to-tackle running backs in the country and has the ultra-talented group of Justin Johnson, Jr., Jaylen Anderson and freshman phenom Jahiem White behind him.
In addition to Greene, the elite offense line and starting running back CJ Donaldson, West Virginia finally has a pass-catching tight end in Kole Taylor, a transfer from LSU. The Mountaineers are certainly going to rely on its ground game, but they now have the option to run play action plays that will get Taylor and the talented, albeit largely unproven group of wide receivers, open downfield.
Although Neal Brown has not been successful in his first four seasons calling plays for the Mountaineers, his brand of conservative play-calling will actually be a major positive in this game. Brown will establish the running game early and his “Vanilla Raid” offense will limit turnovers and stupid mistakes.
I believe West Virginia will keep it close throughout the game and if Penn State allows West Virginia to stay in the game, the more pressure it will put on their players. This is a big game in front of a national audience and in front of a huge crowd, and if they have a turnover or two early, the pressure of the situation could cause them to crumble. Penn State has huge expectations this season and allowing a team like West Virginia, who has no expectations, to compete early, will take the fans out of the game and give the Mountaineers a real opportunity to steal this game.
WVU 35 Penn State 27