Saturday's matchup, prediction: Penn State at Northwestern

TV/radio: 11 a.m. Saturday, ABC- 7, WGN-AM 720.

Line: Penn State by 13.

Records: Penn State 5-0, 2-0 Big Ten; Northwestern 2-2, 0-1.

Last meeting: Jack Mitchell nailed a 35-yard field goal with nine seconds to play to lift the Wildcats to a 23-21 victory on Nov. 7, 2015, at Ryan Field. Zack Oliver replaced an injured Clayton Thorson and produced two touchdowns, and Justin Jackson ran for 186 yards. Christian Hackenberg hit on just 21 of 40 passes.

Keys to the game

Can Northwestern protect Clayton Thorson? After taking eight tumbles at Wisconsin, Thorson has been sacked 15 times, most in the Big Ten. On the flip side, Penn State is third in the conference with 13 sacks. Redshirt sophomore Shareef Miller, a 6-foot-5, 257-pound defensive end, is exceptional. NU's best way to keep Thorson upright might be to hand off the ball repeatedly, especially up the middle. As pass blockers, the Wildcats are particularly susceptible at right tackle.

Can Saquon Barkley be contained? Indiana limited him to 56 rushing yards on 20 carries, but Barkley still had a record-setting day with 50-plus rushing yards, 50-plus receiving yards, a touchdown on a kickoff return and a touchdown pass. Barkley leads the nation in all-purpose yards (1,218) and has caught 27 passes in five games. Northwestern's plan is to give him no shots on kickoffs and track his every move out of the backfield, hoping to limit his catches.

Road sweet road? Since 2015, Penn State's defense has been way more effective at Beaver Stadium, which can get louder than an air strip. In road games, the Nittany Lions have allowed 5.5 yards per play, compared with 4.2 in Happy Valley. Some of that can be attributed to easy home nonconference games, but NU can take solace in knowing Penn State was 7-0 last year at home, 4-3 everywhere else.

Teddy Greenstein's pick: Sloppy, windy conditions could help the Cats … but not enough. Penn State 27, Northwestern 16.

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