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Game Preview: Penn State hosts Central Michigan Saturday in final non-conference tuneup

The Chippewas will visit Beaver Stadium for the first time since 2005. The game will kick off at noon on the Big Ten Network.
Credit: AP
FILE - Penn State head coach James Franklin leads his team onto the field for their NCAA college football game against Purdue, in State College, Pa., Oct. 5, 2019. Penn State thinks it can unseat Ohio State and Michigan as the top team in the Big Ten East. Purdue believes it can win the wide open Big Ten West. Thursday night's season opener could play a big part in what happens next. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger, File)

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Fresh off its dominating 41-12 victory over Auburn in the heart of SEC country last week, Penn State returns to the friendly confines of Beaver Stadium Saturday for a final non-conference tune-up with Central Michigan.

The Nittany Lions, who have climbed to No. 14 in the AP Top 25 and No. 15 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, will take on the Chippewas at noon. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

Here's everything you need to know about the game, courtesy of Penn State Athletics and other sources.

Central Michigan (1-2) at Penn State (3-0)

THE SERIES: This is the second-ever meeting between Penn State and Central Michigan, and the first time the teams have played since 2005. In that game, the Nittany Lions rode a four-touchdown performance from Michael Robinson to a 40-3 victory in Beaver Stadium. Central Michigan managed just 14 rushing yards in the game.

ABOUT PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions looked very impressive in their 29-point victory at Auburn, giving them a sweep of the two-year, home-and-home series with the Tigers. Sean Clifford had an efficient day, completing 14 of 19 passes for 178 yards and scoring one of Penn State's five rushing touchdowns on the day.

Freshman RB Nicholas Singleton continued his hot start for the Lions, racking up 124 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns. Fellow freshman Kaytron Allen also found the end zone twice for Penn State, which racked up 477 total yards (including 245 on the ground) against Auburn's previously stingy defense.

Defensively, the Nittany Lions were dinged for 415 total yards, but forced four turnovers, racked up 11 tackles for loss, and sacked the Tigers' quarterbacks six times.

Singleton has a team-high 343 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries in his first three college games. He'll try for his third straight 100-yard rushing performance against Central Michigan. 

Clifford has completed 53 of 83 pass attempts for 673 yards and five touchdowns. He has three rushing touchdowns as well. His backup, Drew Allar, has performed well when called upon, with 143 yards and two touchdowns on 10-of-14 passing.

There are 17 Penn State players with at least one catch this season, as Clifford and company have spread the ball around. But the Lions' most-frequent targets are Mitchell Tinsley (13-158, two TDs), Parker Washington (10-148), Brenton Strange (9-169, TD), and KeAndre Lambert-Smith (8-100, TD). 

Defensively, Ji'Ayir Brown has a team-high 15 tackles to go with one interception and one pass breakup. Joey Porter Jr. leads the team with six pass breakups, but has yet to record a pick. 

ABOUT CENTRAL MICHIGAN: The Chippewas play in the Mid-American Conference. They started the season 0-2, but picked up their first win with a 41-0 rout of Bucknell last week. 

In their fourth season under head coach, the Chippewas have a 21-15 record. They went 9-4 last year. 

McElwain was head coach at Florida from 2015-17, collecting a 22-12 record, two SEC East titles and two SEC Championship Game appearances. Prior to that, he served as head coach at Colorado State, guiding the Rams to a 10-3 record in 2014. 

Central Michigan gained 529 total yards, including 287 on the ground, against Bucknell last week. On defense, CMU recorded 13 tackles for loss. 

RB Lew Nichols rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries, while QB Daniel Richardson threw for 198 yards and two scores against the Bison.

Richardson leads the MAC with 879 passing yards and 293.0 passing yards per game. Nichols is averaging 88.0 rushing yards per game and sits seventh in the FBS with five touchdowns.

HONORING THE 1982 TITLE TEAM: Penn State will salute its 1982 National Championship team Saturday. That year, the Nittany Lions defeated Herschel Walker's Georgia Bulldogs 27-23 in the Sugar Bowl to claim the national title. QB Todd Blackledge threw for 228 yards and hit future Philadelphia Eagle Gregg Garrity with a game-deciding 48-yard score. Curt Warner rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns, out-gaining Walker -- the Heisman Trophy winner that year. 

Central Michigan defensive backs coach Michael Zordich was a member of that 1982 championship team and will be back in Beaver Stadium.

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