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Penn State Football: First Glance Schedule Predictions

by on September 23, 2020 2:00 PM

If all goes well, Penn State will be traveling to Indiana a month from today for a Saturday evening/afternoon/night meeting against the Hoosiers to open up the 2020 season over a month later than usual.

No fans, no pomp and circumstance and a lack of atmosphere will make for a unique climate to play football in for a program used to having an abundance of all three of those things. 

Nevertheless an even playing field will make for a memorable season no matter what happens. It's hard enough predicting a season before it ever happens, let alone one under such unique circumstances, but what is the offseason for if not making bold declarations that later turn out to be wrong.

10/24 - @ Indiana

Indiana is a better program than it probably gets credit for, and if nothing else, a program that has played Penn State well at home for the better part of the past two decades. Of course, taking fans and the general atmosphere out of the equation changes things a bit, but the Hoosiers -like every team- are comfortable at home.

Michael Penix Jr should be at the helm this season and his dual-threat capabilities will test a Micah Parsons-free Nittany Lion defense.

All told Penn State has more experience and better talent top to bottom, but don’t expect this to be a walk in the park. Especially right out of the gate during an unusual year. Penn State wins, but early season woes make it a close one.

Penn State is going to trip up somewhere, just don't think Game 1 will be it.

Last seven trips to Bloomington.

  • 2018: five point win

  • 2016: 14 point win, Indiana led in fourth and fumble-six in final 30 seconds

  • 2014: six point win

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  • 2013: lost

  • 2011: six point win

  • 2007: five point win

  • 2004: four point win

10/31 - Ohio State

There is really no time of year a team would like to play Ohio State. Play the Buckeyes early and catch them before they hit their stride. Play them late and maybe you’re in better form, but then again so is Ohio State. End of the day Penn State is going to have the benefit of one game under the belt and that doesn’t seem like enough time to iron out the wrinkles. An empty stadium won't help the cause either, especially when you consider even close games against the Buckeyes have been a bit more about survival than anything else. 

Justin Fields is the better quarterback, and college football is a quarterback game. Ironically, Penn State’s best bet might be to lean on its stable of running backs and try to keep the ball out of Fields’ hands. End of the day Ohio State is the better team, and while it’s safe to assume Penn State will give them a test, it’s hard to imagine Penn State giving them a loss.

11/7 - Maryland

Any game that comes after Ohio State has the potential for a letdown but until the Terps do something to prove they can hang with Penn State on a regular basis, it’s hard to pick against the Nittany Lions here. It will be interesting to see if the lack of crowds helps the underdogs at all, but at the end of the day the crowd isn’t responsible for tackling Journey Brown. 

11/14 - @ Nebraska

Nebraska has actually won four of the last five meetings against these two teams but the Cornhuskers have their fair share of issues to iron out. What would have been a great trip to a great stadium has turned into another in a long line of “I wish things were normal” as both teams take the field with nobody watching from the stands. In a strange twist this is only the second time Penn State has traveled to Lincoln since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, but such is life in separate divisions. The farther you go into a season the harder it is to predict how things will go, but Scott Frost has far more questions to answer than James Franklin, and without a crowd, it’s hard to say no to Penn State here.

11/21 - Iowa

Iowa has had a challenging offseason with its own in-house drama but that appears to be in the rearview at this point. Any team that comes to an empty Beaver Stadium will have a better chance than usual and Iowa is no different. It’s hard to imagine -as things stand today- that this game will be anything but close. Edge goes to the home team here by virtue of an experienced quarterback, all those running backs and the institutional knowledge of six-straight wins against the Hawkeyes.

11/28 - @ Michigan

On paper Penn State is probably the better team but it's hard to ignore the struggles Penn State has had in Ann Arbor. Michigan is perpetually in a state of “this being the year” but popular message board jokes aside, the Wolverines have managed pretty consistent seasons under Jim Harbaugh. Penn State is going to trip up somewhere, may as well be the place James Franklin has yet to win at.

12/5 - @ Rutgers

I mean, anything is possible.

12/12 - Michigan State

The Spartans enter the year with a new head coach which either means he’s figuring things out by the end of the year or the wheels will still be flopping around a bit. There’s really no knowledge of how a Mark Dantonio-less Michigan State will play so this is a bit of a guess. That being said, always go with the team that has continuity. Can’t guess the score, but can’t pick against Penn State either.

12/19 - Big Ten Championship Game or plus-one game vs. west division opponent

It stands to reason that Penn State will finish high enough in the East to pick up a solid opponent. Without knowing where this game is even going to be played, or when, or against who, hard to predict anything. The good news for the Nittany Lions’ the lack of depth in the West probably means Penn State should be favored in Vegas when this matchup finally is announced.

Overall: 7-2

This season is going to be weird and the lack of fans adds an entirely unique layer to trying to pick games. That aside, Penn State and James Franklin have gotten to a point where they ought to be given the benefit of the doubt more often than not. This team probably isn’t good enough to avoid the hiccup in the middle of the road, or quite good enough in Week 2 to beat Ohio State, but there are worse things than that, especially during a year that nearly never happened.

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