Football season is finally here, and Penn State has its 2023 season opener this Saturday against West Virginia under the Beaver Stadium lights with a 7:30 kickoff scheduled on NBC.
Here are five things to know about the Mountaineers.
NOWHERE NEAR HEAVEN
Some would describe the state of West Virginia as “almost heaven,” to quote the great John Denver and that song that everybody’s heard by now.
But things have been nowhere near that beautiful for WVU’s football program in recent years.
West Virginia went 5-7 last season, 6-7 the year before that and, not counting the COVID year, the team hasn’t had a winning season since 2018, the year before Neal Brown took over as head coach.
The common thought is that Brown is one bad season away from getting canned, and more than a few WVU fans wish he already had been.
A lot of Penn State fans are annoyed at this point that coach James Franklin hasn’t named a starting quarterback yet.
Everybody knows that former five-star Drew Allar is going to be the guy, but Franklin hasn’t made it official and might not do so before kickoff.
It turns out, Brown has a similar line of thinking as his opposite.
The quarterback battle at West Virginia is between Garrett Greene and Nicco Marchiol. The common thought is that Greene will start. If this is the case, Penn State will have to deal with a dual threat.
Greene started WVU’s last three games last season, finishing with 493 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. He also ended the season with 276 rushing yards and five touchdowns, averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
WELCOME BACK, CARTER
Well, not really.
Devin Carter’s never played a down for Penn State football, but he was committed to coach James Franklin’s program for all of eight days.
The former NC State receiver flipped his commitment from Penn State to West Virginia in January.
Almost seven months later, he explained that decision.
“I felt I would get more volume here and more production,” said Carter.
We’ll see what Carter does in 2023. But nobody should be surprised if there are a few boos at Beaver Stadium if and when Carter’s name is announced over the public address system.
The phrase “down goes Frazier” will always be associated with boxing, not football.
But Penn State and it’s fans are hoping that it will be applicable as often as possible in Saturday’s game.
Penn State’s best pound-for-pound player could be an offensive lineman in projected top-10 2024 draft pick Olu Fashanu.
West Virginia’s best player might well be an offensive lineman, too. Center Zach Frazier is a preseason first-team All-American. The 6-foot-3, 310-pounder isn’t the only capable talent up-front.
Wyatt Milan (6-foot-6, 312 pounds) is on some preseason All-Big 12 lists. Ja’Quay Hubbard (6-foot-5, 322 pounds) and Doug Nester (6-foot-7, 319 pounds) are also capable.
Penn State’s defensive line lost its leader over the offseason in P.J. Mustipher. That line, and its new coach, Deion Barnes, will be tested right away.
THE FIRST TIME IN A LONG TIME
This will be the first meeting between Penn State and West Virginia since 1991. Penn State leads the all-time series 48-9-2, and many of those games were not close. Penn State and its fans hope history repeats itself Saturday night.