Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien knows a thing or two about good offense. That's precisely what he sees when he looks at film of Saturday's opponent.
Bill O'Brien will remind his players that Northwestern racked up 700 yards of offense last week.
Northwestern will enter Beaver Stadium at 5-0 coming off its best offensive performance of the season, a 704-yard effort in last Saturday's 44-29 win over Indiana.
Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats are averaging 466.6 yards per game and are ranked among the top four in the Big Ten in total offense, scoring offense and rushing offense.
"They do a nice job with their tempo," O'Brien said. "They play very fast. They do a great job of spreading you out and making you make plays in space. These are things that we've got to understand this week. Understand who their top players are and where they are in the formation, which quarterback is in the game. ... When you gain 700 yards on offense, you're talking about a top-notch team."
Northwestern's top threat is quarterback-wide receiver Kain Colter, who has run for 371 yards and six touchdowns, thrown for 369 yards and two more scores and caught nine passes for 131 yards.
"That's a guy you have to understand on every single snap where he is," O'Brien said. "They're doing a great job of putting him into position to make plays. In order to play QB and receiver in same game you've got to be a smart and instinctive football player."
Penn State (3-2) will enter its Homecoming contest on a three-game winning streak and coming off of arguably its most complete performance of the season, a 35-7 rout of Illinois. O'Brien said the coaches focused on both what the players did right and wrong during Monday film breakdowns and repeated the mantra of playing "12 one-game seasons."
This one game will be a big one, though.
"Northwestern is the best team that we've faced," O'Brien said. "Pat's done a great job of putting an excellent team together. We've got a huge challenge on Saturday."
Notes: O'Brien said that defensive end Pete Massaro would be ready to go for Saturday's game. The senior hasn't played since the Virginia contest. Safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, who missed most of the second half at Illinois with cramps, is also expected to be ready. ... O'Brien said the result of Saturday's game would determine his team's schedule for the upcoming bye week. ... The Nittany Lions, now finally healthy at the position, will continue to use a running back-by-committee approach. O'Brien said 12-15 carries was the highest total any one back would be likely to receive. ... Penn State has already worked on its field-goal protection team this week, O'Brien said, after Sam Ficken had his 18-yard attempt blocked by an Illinois player from the long side of the field. "We can't let that happen," he said.