Northwestern-Penn State Preview Capsule

Associated Press Modified: October 4, 2012 at 12:47 pm •  Published: October 4, 2012

No. 24 Northwestern (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) at Penn State (3-2, 1-0), Noon (ESPN)

Line: Penn State by 2 ½.

Series Record: Penn State leads 12-3.

WHAT'S AT STAKE:

Back in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2008, Northwestern is trying for its first 6-0 start since 1962. Beat a streaking Penn State team on the road and the Wildcats might need to be taken more seriously as a Legends Division title contender. Penn State is trying for its fourth straight win under new coach Bill O'Brien. A homecoming weekend victory against Northwestern's tricky offense would give O'Brien's Lions a confidence boost heading into their bye week.

KEY MATCHUP:

Northwestern front seven vs. Penn State running game. The Wildcats can move the ball. That's a given. Defense is another story. Northwestern is last in the Big Ten against the pass but first against the run, albeit against some questionable competition. With their running game finding its stride behind bruising 6-foot-1 sophomore Zach Zwinak, the Nittany Lions might try to play keep-away from the Wildcats' exhausting offense with their own long, sustained drives.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Northwestern: QB Kain Colter. The "slash" is back for the Northwestern offense. After playing strictly quarterback over the season's first four games, Colter returned to the quarterback-receiver role he played in 2011 in last week's 44-29 win over Indiana. The result? Nearly 300 all-purpose yards and four rushing touchdowns. Penn State defensive coordinator Ted Roof and his players will have to keep close watch on where Colter is lined up at all times.

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