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Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades Following A 56-0 Win Over Georgia State

by on September 17, 2017 11:30 AM

56-0 is somewhat self explanatory, but nevertheless it wouldn't be sports writing without splitting hairs and picking apart the little things as Penn State heads into Big Ten play.

And to be fair, the Nittany Lions were far from perfect in spite of a fairly perfect looking outcome on Saturday. Saquon Barkley was his usual self and others followed suit, but there are a few glaring issues Penn State will have to work on moving forward if the Nittany Lions want to successfully defend their Big Ten title.

Offense: A-

Again, 56 points and everyone with a pulse scoring a touchdown. This is what this offense can do when it clicks on all levels. 309 yards of passing for McSorley, 226 total all-purpose yards for Saquon Barkley. DaeSean Hamilton getting into the end zone and Miles Sanders and Saeed Blacknall both getting in on the action after a slow start to the year.

But there's this glaring stat. Barkley gaining 17 yards on nine carries and 47 total on 10. Aside from his 33 yard run, Penn State could do little on the ground. Even Sanders' touchdown was as much him running away from everyone as it was anything else. Teams have been happy to load the box to try and slow Barkley down, and they should, but Penn State has to find a way to block its way to rushing yards. So far that hasn't really happened.

Of course with so many options on offense it isn't a crippling issue, but it ought to be be better than it was against a team like Georgia State.

Penn State's 4-of-9 mark on third down also continued a positive trend for the Nittany Lions in that department. 

Defense: A-

Turnovers on turnovers are the stat for Penn State in this area. 

Five turnovers to the tune of three interceptions and two fumbles helped Penn State control the game on defense. Turnovers always tend to come with a bit of an asterisk against teams like Georgia State, but the Nittany Lions are getting their interceptions, something they wanted to do coming into the season. So regardless the opponent, it's an improvement showing its face on the field.

For the most part this group did what it has done all year. Gives up yards here or there, quarterbacks getting rid of the ball quickly, but very few if any big plays down the field. It seems unlikely that this bunch pitches another shutout, but anything is possible. If there is one thing that will need to improve in the future it looks like run defense has struggled slightly right up the middle. Georgia State's best two plays very well may have been 17 and 18 yard runs that opened to door to a handful of of 10-20 yard passes.

Again, 56-0 is hard to take issue with, but this group wasn't perfect. Manny Bowen led the way with six tackles.

All told this defense seems to be the token Penn State defense. It has its issues, but it makes stops, forces turnovers and doesn't break. How true that is will be much easier to gauge over the next few games.

Special Teams: B

Blake Gillikin was as reliable as ever but Tyler Davis' second miss of the year is a bit of a head scratcher for a guy who had been exceptionally reliable in the past. To his credit his kickoffs were much stronger after a few shaky kicks earlier in the year. DeAndre Thompkins is a threat to return every punt and Saquon Barkley had his best kickoff return of the season to open the game.

This unit is still a strength of the team, but until Davis gets his groove back there is still at least one important issue to sort out here. Big Ten games are won and lost on field goals all the time, why this grade takes a big hit despite an otherwise solid performance.

Overall: A

After three games this team is what everyone thought it was going to be. It can score points, the defense is occasionally porous but makes stops and special teams are better than it has been in ages. Penn State is the most well-rounded team in the Big Ten right now. If that's good enough to win the conference again remains to be seen. If the Nittany Lions can fix a few issues, it might be.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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