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Penn State Football: Five Sure Things to Happen This Season

by on June 28, 2016 6:00 AM

Nothing in sports is an automatic. Nothing is for sure. But some things you can be pretty confident will happen. When it comes to Penn State football's 2016 season, these are five things that have a pretty good chance of happening by the time it's all said and done.

1000 Play Mark

With Joe Moorhead's new look offense an alleged mixture of speed, quickness and no-huddle attack, it might finally be the time that Penn State's offense breaks the 1000 play barrier for a season. All told, this isn't an impossible task. The Nittany Lions have cracked the 900s three times since 2009, with the highest actually coming in Franklin's first year at 948.

If Penn State can keep the ball, move with it and take little time off the clock, that's more possessions on the table. How many plays you run isn't exactly indicative of how successful things actually are, but it could be a sign of things actually changing on the offensive side of the ball.

Barkley Does It Again

Even with an exciting Miles Sanders in the backfield this season, Saquon Barkley seems poised to give Penn State its first back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing season since 2010-11. If healthy, and if he gets enough carries, Barkley could give the 2,000 yard barrier a run. But that still remains to be seen. Nevertheless, Barkley putting up  back-to-back 1000+ seasons would set him up for a third straight year hitting a grand, something that hasn't happened since Evan Royster did it three years in a row from 2008-10.

Hamilton Back in Form

In 2015 DaeSean Hamilton was hardly a disappointment -- his 45 receptions put him just 18 shy of what once was Penn State's single season receptions record before Allen Robinson blew that mark out of the water. (O.J. McDuffie and Bobby Engram's 63 reception seasons were the benchmark for years before Robinson put up 77 and then 97 in 2012 and 2013.) So to say Hamilton underwhelmed would be a bit much.

Even so, his production was cut nearly in half, going from his 82 receptions in 2014 to just those 45 last season.Some of that is the emergence of Chris Godwin and some of it was simply a struggling offensive unit. Regardless, Hamilton's move into the slot position ought to open the door for more opportunities this year. While he may never hit the 82 reception mark again, it's safe to say Hamilton will have a much bigger role than it may have felt like he did in 2015.

Punting Wins Penn State a Game

For all of the bad punts and issues on special teams Penn State has had the past few seasons, the introduction of scholarship punter Blake Gillikin into the picture might be the fix the Nittany Lions have needed. Certainly punting has never won anyone a game by the action alone, but long consistent punts have been missing when Penn State has needed them most. At some point during the year Penn State is going to be winning late and have to punt, and finally one of those punts is going to give the Nittany Lions' opponent just too much ground to make up in too little time.

Penn State Finally Wins November

The Nittany Lions have gone 2-6 under James Franklin in the month of November. This largely is the result of a backloaded schedule, but wins have been there to be had all the same. With Iowa, Indiana, Rutgers and Michigan State all on the schedule for the final month of the regular season, it's easy to see three of those games turning up as wins, and even a game against Michigan State could be winnable on Senior Day depending how the Spartans rebuild in 2016. Either way, Penn State finally has a winnable slate of games to close out the year with. If the Nittany Lions can start strong again, who knows what winning November could do for a decent postseason trip.



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