Penn State looks forward to facing Southeastern Conference opponent

·2 min read

Sep. 15—Ellis Brooks' only previous experience facing a Southeastern Conference team came during his redshirt freshman year in 2018 when Penn State lost to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl.

That's why Brooks, a Penn State linebacker, carries great anticipation for Saturday night's game between the No. 10 Nittany Lions (2-0) and No. 22 Auburn (2-0).

"It's very exciting to play an SEC team," he said. "They're a great team. They're well-coached. They play hard. I feel like it's a great opportunity to represent the Big Ten and how we play football here."

The Tigers' visit to Beaver Stadium for the 7:30 p.m. White Out (TV-ABC, WEEU-AM/830) is only the second by an SEC team since 1989. Penn State lost a home-and-home series to Alabama in 2010-11, the first game in Tuscaloosa and the second in State College.

Since James Franklin became coach in 2014, the Lions have played two SEC teams, losing to Georgia in the 2015 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl and to Kentucky.

"Growing up in the South, you kind of think you want to play in the SEC," said Penn State wide receiver Parker Washington, who's from Texas. "I'm just excited to play an SEC team for the first time. I'm just ready to embrace this moment. I'm ready."

Franklin, of course, was the head coach at Vanderbilt from 2011-13, when he led the Commodores to a pair of nine-win seasons and posted an 11-13 record in SEC play. That included a 17-13 win over Auburn in 2012.

Saturday's game is the only regular season meeting between teams from the Big Ten and SEC this year.

"It's not every day you see an SEC opponent on our schedule," safety Jonathan Sutherland said, "but the answer is never going to change. We prepare for every single team the same. It doesn't matter if you're part of the Pac-12, Big 12 or SEC. We're going to treat you the same.

"We respect all our opponents regardless of what conference, but obviously an SEC opponent is not something you see every day."

Penn State played a 10-game series with Alabama and went 4-6 from 1981-90, split a four-game series with Kentucky from 1975-78 and dropped two games to Tennessee in 1971-72, both in Knoxville.

Auburn is just the third SEC opponent to travel to State College since 1957. The Tigers have walloped Akron 60-0 and Alabama State 62-0 in their first two games.

"Getting a good Big Ten-SEC matchup, I think that's great," Sutherland said. "It's not something that you see quite often. When it does happen, I think it's good for college football, it's good for the fans and it's good for us as players, too."

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