No. 6 Penn State takes Big Ten break to face UMass

After rolling to three straight Big Ten victories by a combined 76 points, No. 6 Penn State will take a break from conference play when it hosts Massachusetts on Saturday in State College, Pa.

Another lopsided win appears likely for the Nittany Lions (5-0) despite coach James Franklin insisting that the Minutemen (1-6) are “maybe the most explosive team we’ve played this year.”

Penn State is healthy and eager to get back on the field following a bye week. The Nittany Lions haven’t played since rolling past host Northwestern 41-13 on Sept. 30 on the heels of a 31-0 rout of then-No. 24 Iowa.

A sturdy defense and balanced offense have helped steer the Nittany Lions to their unbeaten start.

In the Northwestern game, the Nittany Lions passed for 219 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 134 yards and three scores.

Quarterback Drew Allar passed and rushed for touchdowns behind an offensive line anchored by savvy center Hunter Nourzad, who has been especially impressive to Franklin of late.

“His approach, his maturity; gosh, he’s getting an MBA right now from Penn State. … He’s just one of those guys who’s a really great example of the importance of maturity on your football team,” Franklin said.

UMass enters Saturday’s game on a six-game losing streak. The program’s lone victory this season came on the road as quarterback Taisun Phommachanh contributed 288 yards of total offense and a rushing touchdown in a season-opening, 41-30 win at New Mexico State.

The Minutemen are coming off a 41-24 home loss to Toledo in which they were outscored 24-3 after halftime. Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams had 20 carries for a career-best 157 yards and a score, while Phommachanh passed for 272 yards and two TDs.

UMass coach Don Brown stressed that his team will need to sustain a notable effort throughout the afternoon if it expects to tread water at raucous Beaver Stadium.

“The place is going to be packed,” Brown said. “Going to be over 100,000 people there. And got to be a big boy and put your big-boy pants on and go to work. It’s real simple. Focus your attention on the task at hand and just stay in the fight for 60 minutes. And that’s kind of the deal. That’s the approach you got to take. It’s not rocket science.”

Penn State cruised past visiting UMass 48-7 in the lone previous meeting between the schools, on Sept. 20, 2014.

Smith and Franklin coached together at Maryland in 2009, with Brown serving as the Terrapins’ defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach and Franklin fulfilling duties as offensive coordinator/assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.

Minutemen safety Tyler Rudolph transferred to the school after playing in 11 games for Penn State from 2019-21.

The Nittany Lions will close the regular season with six straight Big Ten games, beginning with an Oct. 21 visit to No. 3 Ohio State.