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Penn State Hosts San Diego State at College Station

The Big 10 Penn State Nittany Lions host the San Diego State Aztecs on Saturday at State College. Christian Hackenberg has completed fewer passes and for less yards to start the season for Penn State than during any other three-game period since he arrived in 2013 in State College.

However, he is doing more than ever before. The Nittany Lions quarterback is changing plays at the line of scrimmage using motion and redirecting his running backs to help his protection against his first three opponents.

More of the same can be expected on Saturday when Penn State hosts San Diego State as the Aztecs have a very unpredictable defense they will throw at Hackenberg and his offense.

San Diego State uses a 3-3-5 set up on defense, which brings a number of blitzes that are different from previous opponents and could prove to be difficult for pass protection for Penn State.

Hackenberg however is prepared. He has watched hours of film looking for the Aztecs nuances and tendencies on defense and their frenetic movements prior to the snap of the ball.

Hackenberg has had to adjust from his pocket passing approach under Bill O’Brien his former coach to John Donovan’s quick throw, screen heavy approach.

His percentage for completions after three games was 62% in 2014 compared to 72% in 2013, but this year it is down to 49%.

Of course, two games played in heavy rain have not helped, but throwing quickly without having a longer drop back to establish his rhythm has resulted in him throwing a number of inaccurate passes and he wants to end that.

Hackenberg knows that the quicker he can throw passes on Saturday the better off he is against a defense he can exploit with those quick passes.

The Aztecs will come with the linebacker and safety blitzing on a regular basis. Hackenberg needs to spot his open receivers as quickly as possible in short routes that will keep the defense on its heels.

Saquon Barkley the Penn State running back will help by rushing well in this game. He is averaging 9 yards per carry. San Diego State has Donnel Pumphrey as running back who ran for 1,873 yards last season but is averaging just 3.7 yards this season.

Maxwell Smith the Aztecs quarterback has struggled this season completing just 47% of his passing. He has missed wide open targets and will face a tough defense in Penn State, which intercepted two passes last week against Rutgers and has sacked the quarterback 13 times in three weeks.

San Diego State has lost its past two trips to the East Coast. Last season the Aztecs lost 31-27 to North Carolina and in 2013, they lost 42-7 to Ohio State.

Prediction: Penn State 28-17

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