By the numbers: Penn State

Three things about Penn State: It's got a solid running back in Miles Sanders, a great pass rush, and the ability to put up points in a hurry.


Nick Rohlman

Iowa quarterbacks coach Ken O'Keefe exchanges words with Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley after McSorley punted the ball in celebration after Iowa's game against Penn State at Kinnick Stadium on Sept. 23, 2017. Penn State defeated Iowa 21-19 on a last second touchdown pass.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

Iowa heads to Nittany Lion territory for the first time since 2016. Penn State plays host to what should be the Big Ten’s best game of the weekend, and the numbers back that up.

884: Miles Sanders’ yards from scrimmage

Saquon Barkley left Penn State a major hole to fill at running back and a major “whole” for the offense. Miles Sanders has filled in nicely — not well enough for Nittany Lion fans to forget Barkley’s name but well enough for the offense to click.

Sanders has 772 yards on the ground and 8 touchdowns. He’s averaging 6.5 yards per carry on 119 attempts.

Quarterback Trace McSorley has also used him in the passing game — he’s recorded 15 receptions for 112 yards. His reception total ranks third on the team.

Sanders has three 100-yard games this season: 118 against Pittsburgh, 200 against Illinois, and 162 against Michigan State. Against Ohio State, however, he was held to just 43.

2018 is a major leap for Sanders. The season before, he had just 31 carries for 191 yards and 2 touchdowns in backup-running-back duty. In his freshman season (2016), he had similar numbers, carrying the ball 25 times for 184 yards and a touchdown.

This season is Sanders’ first as the Nittany Lions’ top tailback, and he has delivered.

3.6: sacks per game

Penn State is second in the Big Ten in sacks, but because it’s played one game fewer than conference-leader Ohio State, it holds the most per game.

Shareef Miller leads the pack with 4. Yetur Gross-Matos and Jayson Oweh follow closely behind, tied for second with 2. All-in-all, 14 Nittany Lions have at least half a sack.

Miller also leads Penn State with 8.5 tackles for a loss (more than half of his tackles are in this department).

In 2017, Miller recorded 5.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss in Penn State’s 13 games. He’s on pace to finish this regular season with 8 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss.

42.6: Points per game

Penn State points up points — that’s a given.

The Nittany Lions rank second in the Big Ten with 42.6 points per game, trailing only Ohio State (43).

In Penn State’s first four games of the season (all wins), the Nittany Lions averaged 55.5 points per game. On two occasions they hung 63 on an opponent (Kent State and Illinois).

McSorley is the driving factor in the Nittany Lion offense. Sanders keeps things going on the ground, but McSorley — a dual-threat signal caller — is a defensive coordinator’s worst nightmare.

McSorley has 19 touchdowns this season, 11 through the air and 8 on the ground. He’s also got more than 2,000 total yards (1,462 passing, 554 rushing).

However, during Penn State’s last three games, in which the Nittany Lions has drifted to 1-2, McSorley hasn’t played his best ball. The quarterback has thrown 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, and Penn State has averaged 25.3 points per game (roughly 17 points fewer compared to its season average).

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