5 things: Nebraska at Penn State

November, 23, 2013
11/23/13
7:00
AM ET
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State is trying to send its seniors out with a win, and Bo Pelini is hoping to make a stronger case to keep his job. It should be an entertaining one at Beaver Stadium.

Here are five things to keep an eye on:

1. Offensive sparkplugs Allen Robinson and Ameer Abdullah. Two of the better players in the Big Ten will be featured in Saturday's game, and they could both be in for big performances. Robinson already owns Penn State's single-season records for receiving yards (1,204) and catches (81) with two contests left, and nearly half of his yards are coming after the catch. Abdullah has rushed for at least 98 yards in every game this season and is averaging 6.5 yards a carry. Both respective offenses lean heavily on these two players, and whoever has the bigger day could wind up leading his team to victory.

2. Plenty of emotion on Senior Day. Ask any Penn State player to describe this team, and the term "resilient" is bound to pop up. These seniors have been through a lot -- unprecedented sanctions, a scandal, the death of a longtime head coach -- and this is their final chance to leave a mark inside Beaver Stadium. There's no question the Nittany Lions will be motivated Saturday. Tears will be shed, players will embrace, and this game is sure to be a memorable one no matter the final outcome. But the 17 players who'll be honored in their final home game want to go out as winners, and they'll leave it all out there this afternoon.

3. PSU offense on third downs. The Nittany Lions have had an up-and-down season with third downs -- but it's been a lot more down than up. PSU is No. 94 in the country in converting just 35.9 percent of their third downs (52-of-145), and it's going to have an even harder time against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers' defense is No. 7 in third-down conversion percentage, as their opponents have gotten first downs just 30.9 percent of the time. To contrast that number, PSU converted just 1-of-9 third downs against Minnesota -- and the Gophers are ranked No. 62 in the country in that category. This will be a key area to watch again against Nebraska.

4. Freshman quarterbacks playing beyond their years. Tommy Armstrong Jr. has played relatively well in place of Taylor Martinez, but the Huskers haven't leaned on him that much. He's 5-1 as a starter, but he's only had one game with more than 21 pass attempts. Hackenberg has thrown at least 23 passes in every game, and he's playing better right now than Armstrong. Both quarterbacks will be asked to pick up the slack, and both could be the future of the Big Ten.

5. Fumbling issues. Only seven teams in the country have lost fumbles (12) more often than Penn State and, for the Lions to experience success, they'll have to get turnover-free games from Hackenberg and their running backs. Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak have both played well at times this season, but they've also lost three fumbles apiece. The average NCAA tailback fumbles about once every 91 carries, while those two are fumbling about once every 51 carries. They'll play a big role in the game, so those mistakes have to be non-existent.

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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