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Ben State Football: My Best Guess

by on August 28, 2017 2:00 PM

Penn State's 2016 season wasn't exactly chaotic, but it wasn't exactly normal either. Second half double-digit comebacks, amazing plays, incredible games. There was a lot going on.

So coming out of that season it's hard to really know what to expect in 2017. Not in the sense that Penn State can't or won't be good, but there is a level of uncertainty. Can they do it again? If the Nittany Lions were winning games in a more conventional fashion the answer might be easier to guess, but the nature in which Penn State's season unfolded lends itself to a shoulder-shrug and simply waiting to see.

But if you held a gun to my head right now my best guess is 10-2 in the regular season. On paper there is reason to believe that Penn State might be favored in every game but the trip to Columbus and even that there is a decent argument to be made the Nittany Lions should be favored in that one too.

And at last check....

Penn State still has Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley, two players who can make up for a lot of different shortcomings in seconds.

Penn State still has Blake Gillikin, who in many respects was a big part of the reason why the Nittany Lions won so many games last year with field position. 

Penn State still has Jason Cabinda, Marcus Allen and Grant Haley. All three are dependable defenders with thousands of snaps under their belt. There is nothing they haven't seen before.

Penn State still has Joe Moorhead who appears to be continuing to tune his offense to what he has to work with and doing it with ease and doing it at a high level. That offense alone will keep Penn State in every game it plays this season.

But...

Penn State has a lot of questions on defense. It also has potential answers, but nothing yet in the way of experienced and established solutions to the issues at defensive end, healthy depth at linebacker and a proven defensive line. There is no reason to think most of those questions won't be answered with plenty of positives, but they're questions all the same.

Penn State also doesn't have Chris Godwin, who at the end of the day made more than his fair share of plays most receivers couldn't. This roster isn't short on receiver talent but Hamilton and Blacknall are the only ones with big time catches to their name on multiple occasions, and both have a bit more to prove in that department moving forward.

Penn State also doesn't have the law of averages on its side either. Sooner or later the good bounces are going to go the other way. The Nittany Lions were the Big Ten's best team last season by the year's end and deserved everything they won, but they were undeniably fortunate on more than a few occasions. This team might be good enough to overcome the lack of bounces, but it seem inevitable the bounces won't be there. 

So it's 10-2 in the regular season.

All told I think that's a fair and plenty positive follow-up to the 2016 campaign. Penn State is going to be very good, even with some of its questions, but in the department of picking the four best teams in the nation, it's hard to see the hair-splitting going the Nittany Lions' way. Somewhere during the season the offense won't quite be able to save the defense, and somewhere in there the bounces won't go Penn State's way.

Of course, this is August, and sometimes all it takes is an overtime win and a blocked field goal to change everyone's tune for the better.

Anything better than 10-2 means a few things. Barkley stays healthy, Penn State's top two tacklers are linemen or linebackers, the Nittany Lions double their interception count from 2016 and the offensive line is as good as advertised.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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