For many reasons, Saturday’s game against Auburn will be unique to Penn State. Most notably, it’ll be the first time Penn State has played in Jordan-Hare Stadium, and it’s the first time they will be on CBS since 2000.
But from a matchup standpoint, it’ll be unique in that it’s the first game Penn State has played against a run-heavy operation in 2022.
“They’re a really great running team,” Penn State linebacker Curtis Jacobs told reporters via zoom Tuesday. “You have to bring your hard hats on Saturday.
Leading the charge for Auburn is Tank Bigsby. Bigsby rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season with 10 touchdowns. 102 of those yards and two of those touchdowns came in Auburn’s week three loss to Penn State at Beaver Stadium.
But Auburn’s backfield isn’t limited to just Bigsby.
“I think they have three really good backs,” Jacobs said.
The other two backs Jacobs was referring to are Jarquez Hunter and Damari Alston. Hunter is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and Alston has gained 47 yards on six attempts, with 35 coming on just one long run.
In Penn State’s first two games, its week one opponent, Purdue, threw the ball 59 times and ran on just 22 plays. It’s week two opponent, Ohio, wasn’t a stiff test for Penn State in general. For Jacobs, games like Auburn are part of why linebackers come to the school known informally as “LBU.”
“I feel like this is the game you want to be a part of as a linebacker,” said Jacobs. “Being able to come downhill, strike, get those tackles. You didn’t come to Penn State to be a linebacker to watch somebody play 7-on-7 against you.”
The above quote intrigued coach James Franklin because it reminded him of when he recruited Jacobs. He came to Penn State as a four-star Class of 2020 recruit from the McDonough School in Owings Mills, Maryland.
Despite being the No. 3 outside linebacker in his class according to 247Sports’ composite rankings, Franklin said he and Jacobs’ father would argue about whether Jacob’s’ should play receiver at the college level.
“It’s interesting that Curtis said that,” Franklin said in his press conference. “Because when we recruited him, his dad, we had a bunch of heated arguments that he was a wide receiver. So it’s interesting to know that (Curtis) has kind of moved to this point, and I love that Curtis is approaching it that way.”
Jacobs knows playing Auburn will be a fight and feels Penn State is up for it.
“It’s going to be a different type of attitude, a different type of energy,” he said. “I feel like me and my guys in the front seven and really our defense as a whole is ready for that challenge.”