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Penn State, Franklin offer a little payback

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- In a way, this game is a thank you, from Penn State to Georgia State's 8-year-old football program.

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The Panthers (0-1) first became intertwined with the Nittany Lions when they brought Penn State coach James Franklin and members of his staff in for a satellite camp shortly after Franklin arrived in 2014.

It gave Franklin a chance to check out some of the local talent, and riled up a few SEC coaches in the process.

The schools will meet again when the Panthers make a trip to Happy Valley to play in one of college football's most iconic stadiums, under the lights, a setting usually reserved for tilts between the Nittany Lions and other college football bluebloods.

Lately, those lights have shined on the explosive Nittany Lions, who look primed to chase another Big Ten championship.

The Panthers, who finished ninth in the Sun Belt Conference last season, are just the final stepping stone to that path that starts next week at Iowa.

For Georgia State, this is a big step.

This will mark the ninth time the Panthers will have played a Power Five team. Although they're 0-8 in previous games, the Panthers scared then No. 9-Wisconsin last season, taking a 17-13 in the fourth quarter before the Badgers scored 10 unanswered points.

This Penn State team believes it can put opponents away long before that, however.

"As long as we're winning the game, the game's on us," linebacker Jason Cabinda said. "That's kind of the mindset that we took."

When asked about scheduling non-Power Five teams on Tuesday, Franklin said opponents have to offer a unique mix.

--RB Saquon Barkley has carried the ball 28 times for 260 yards with three touchdowns through two games. He's also the team's No. 2 receiver by volume with seven catches for 99 yards and a score.

--TE Mike Gesicki is enjoying the best run of his career and might be the hottest tight end in the nation. The senior has 16 catches for 230 yards and seven touchdowns in his last five games.

--LB Jason Cabinda had eight tackles, four of the solos, against Pitt.

--S Marcus Allen was all over the field against the Panthers. Allen was Penn State's leading tackler with 12, including nine solo.

--CB Amani Oruwariye left last week's game with an undisclosed injury. He is questionable this week.

--WR DaeSean Hamilton needs 12 catches to surpass Deon Butler's 179 career receptions and become Penn State's all-time leader in that category.

--T Andrew Nelson returned from a knee injury that cost him the last nine games.

"I have strong feelings about scheduling," Franklin said. It's something that me and (athletic director) Sandy (Barbour) spend a lot of time talking about and discussing.

"We're kind of looking at how the playoff system kind of played out last year. You kind of got a bunch of different scenarios to factor in."

One, they need to have enough in the tank to test Penn State's players. Two, they need to be an opponent the Nittany Lions can theoretically finish off quickly in order to get key players rest before the grind of Big Ten play begins.

Penn State will look to do just that and continue to play its three- and four-deep players with a big cushion on Saturday.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC.
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