WVU football 2023 opponents -- Penn State: Expectations high for preseason top-10 Nittany Lions

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia’s season opener will be no cakewalk — and neither will most of the 11 games that follow.
The Mountaineers will open their 2023 slate with a night game against Penn State — a preseason top-10 team — at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 2.
WVU last traveled to Penn State in 1991. This will be their first meeting since 1992 and the 60th overall. It’s the third-most-contested series in WVU history. The Mountaineers will follow the opener with three straight home games against Duquesne, Pitt and Texas Tech.
“We’re not easing into this thing,” WVU coach Neal Brown said after the April 22 Gold-Blue Spring Game at Milan Puskar Stadium. “Two of our first three are teams that are rivalries. ... We’ve got to be ready to go from the get-go. We’re not easing into it.”
Expectations are high entering the fall for the Nittany Lions after going 11-2 last season, capped with a 35-21 victory over Utah in the Rose Bowl. Penn State’s only two losses were to Michigan, 41-17, and Ohio State, 44-31 — both of which made the College Football Playoff.
Penn State ranked No. 8 in ESPN’s 2023 Way-Too-Early Top 25 after finishing No. 7 in both the final AP and Coaches Polls last year. The Nittany Lions were No. 7 in the Pro Football Focus ELO ratings released in June, No. 8 in the 247Sports post-spring top 25 rankings and No. 8 in the Athlon Sports preseason rankings, in addition to national rankings in various other polls.
Much of that pressure will likely fall on sophomore quarterback Drew Allar, who is expected to take the reins from longtime starter Sean Clifford.
The 6-foot-5, 243- pound QB from Medina, Ohio, saw action in 10 games in 2022 behind Clifford, completing 35 of 60 passes for 344 yards and four touchdowns. He also had 18 rushing attempts, racking up 52 yards and a score on the ground. He was considered a five-star prospect by 247Sports and On3 and a four-star by ESPN and Rivals out of Medina High.
“He’s probably more of what we used to call the prototype in the NFL. That’s changed,” Penn State coach James Franklin said in a June 8 news conference. “Now there’s guys that are 5-foot-10 running around in the NFL. Mobility has become a huge deal in the NFL, and that really wasn’t the case in the past at that position. He’s more of an old-school prototype quarterback.
“The thing that I think probably stood out to me the most is when he got in the Purdue game as a true freshman, he just was super poised. You can do all the drills you want — throwing and footwork and run-game fundamentals and all that stuff — but at the end of the day, it’s hard to teach that, the poise in the pocket, and he just seems to have that.”
Penn State’s offense averaged 35.8 points and 433.6 yards per game last season, ranking 20th and 34th nationally in those categories, respectively.
The Nittany Lions bring back leading rushers Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen, who combined for 1,928 yards and 22 touchdowns on 323 carries last year as true freshmen. Penn State has to replace its top three pass-catchers from 2022 in receivers Mitchell Tinsley and Parker Washington and tight end Brenton Strange. KeAndre Lambert-Smith is the top returning receiver with 389 yards and four touchdowns on 24 catches a season ago.
Franklin likes the depth the Nittany Lions have entering the season, though. Penn State returns 41 lettermen, including 13 starters — seven on offense and six on defense.
“I think our depth is better than it’s ever been since we’ve been here,” the 13th-year Penn State coach told reporters in June. “What I’m hoping is that we can play a lot of guys on offense, defense and special teams to be as healthy in the fourth quarter and as healthy at the end of the season as possible and then postseason, too.”
In its first year with Manny Diaz as defensive coordinator, Penn State allowed just 18.2 points per game — the 10th-best mark in the country. The Nittany Lions finished in the top 10 nationally in turnovers gained with 26 and sixth in sacks with 3.31 per game.
Penn State believes the aforementioned depth will breed competition and help build off of last season.
“There’s some guys that are going to have the opportunity to go win a role and a significant role, but they’ve got to go do it,” Franklin said. “We don’t make any promises around here. You get what you earn. If you can help us beat West Virginia, you’ll be on the field.”
Penn State is 48-9-2 all-time against WVU.

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