Picking PSU-Pitt: Should the Lions be on upset alert?

Penn State’s defense played 45 good minutes and 15 lousy ones against Appalachian State. Can the Nittany Lions be more consistent against in-state rival Pittsburgh Saturday night at Heinz Field?

James Franklin’s team is a nine-point favorite against the Panthers yet needed overtime to put away App State last Saturday at home. Forty-five points were barely enough.

What happened to Penn State’s defense late? The Mountaineers scored 28 points in less than 12 minutes to take a 38-31 lead. Appalachian State produced TD drives of 75, 80, 53 and 42 yards.

Penn State must contend with Pittsburgh dual-threat quarterback Kenny Pickett on Saturday. The sophomore is making just his third start but he has big-game experience, beating Miami last season in his first start.

The Lions need more from their top defenders at every level. They must hope the expected return of defensive tackle Kevin Givens will be a major plus at the point of attack.

And even with some improved play by the defense, it still feels like PSU veteran quarterback Trace McSorley is going to have to put together a late scoring drive if the Lions are going to win.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Penn State defensive linemen. They have to pressure Pitt QB Kenny Pickett and keep him in the pocket.

DON’T BE SURPRISED IF: The Lions’ special teams score a touchdown. All that speed pays off in Week 2. And this group has to make amends after allowing a 100-yard kickoff return score to Appalachian State.

PREDICTION: The Lions’ defense will have to make a play or two in the fourth quarter. PENN STATE 30, PITTSBURGH 24.