No. 22 Auburn heads north for matchup with No. 10 Penn State

Auburn and Penn State are both feeling good after their first two games of the season.

A big challenge awaits, however, as the 22nd-ranked Tigers visit the 10th-ranked Nittany Lions on Saturday in an intriguing nonconference matchup at University Park, Pa.

Auburn (2-0) has outscored its first two opponents 122-10. The Tigers’ 61 points per game leads the nation and their 5.0 points allowed per game is tied for best in the nation, so things could not be going much better so far.

That said, the fact that Auburn’s first two contests have come against Akron and Alabama State has made it difficult for Penn State (2-0) to accurately scout the Tigers’ strengths and weaknesses at this point in the season.

“I think the biggest challenge for us is the way these first two games have played out, and the type of people they have played,” said Nittany Lions coach James Franklin.

Meanwhile, Franklin’s squad posted a quality 16-10 road win against then-No. 12 Wisconsin in its season opener before rolling to a 44-13 triumph over Ball State in Week 2.

Sean Clifford has thrown for 477 yards with a pair of touchdown passes to Jahan Dotson, who leads the team with 167 receiving yards. Dotson and Parker Washington each have 10 catches, while Noah Cain has contributed 117 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

“Offensively they can be explosive and those are things we have to focus on this week, and (we need to focus on the) things that we’ve seen in the last couple games that they’ve been able to do,” said Auburn first-year coach Bryan Harsin.

The offensive stars for Auburn through two games have included running backs Jarquez Hunter (17 carries, 257 yards, 15.1 yards per carry) and Tank Bigsby (24, 241, 10.0). Each member of the duo has rushed for 100-plus yards in each game.

Bo Nix has been impressive as well, guiding Auburn’s offense with a completion percentage of 74.4 percent, 383 passing yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Eleven different Tigers have a reception of at least 10 yards through the first two games.

With plenty of offensive firepower in this matchup, perhaps defense will be the deciding factor.

Auburn leads the nation in rushing defense, having given up a total of 43 rushing yards in two games. Zakoby McClain leads the team with 17 tackles while T.D. Moultry has four tackles for loss.

Penn State, meanwhile, already has four interceptions, equaling its total from all of last season.

The Nittany Lions of course are known for developing linebackers, and this year’s crop seems to be a good one. Brandon Smith and Ellis Brooks have a combined 27 tackles, and Jesse Luketa (nine tackles) snared a one-handed interception and returned it for a score against Ball State.

This is the third all-time matchup between the teams, but the first in a regular-season contest. Penn State defeated Auburn in the 1996 Outback Bowl, and the Tigers returned the favor in the 2003 Capital One Bowl.

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