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Penn State Football: Way Too Early Schedule Prediction

by on July 19, 2018 2:00 PM

If you want to talk about stories that absolutely come back to haunt you, it's trying to predict how a season will go, game by game. So if you're looking for ammunition to send my way in the middle of November, well, here you go.

I must confess that I'm not as sure as some that Penn State is going to maintain the level it has been at the past two seasons. I think in general the offense has too much talent to lay an egg, but at the end of the day this is a team replacing a ton of experience with players that just haven't been through everything yet. There is a reason why three straight 10-win seasons is hard to do and a reason Penn State hasn't done it since the 1980,81 and 82 seasons.

It really comes down to a lot of factors that nobody is going to have an answer to until the games start getting played. Can Penn State get production out of its tight ends? Is the offensive line actually better? Are the linebackers going to be good enough? Can the secondary be as consistent as it was last year?

Mostly, and perhaps most importantly, can this team take a punch and bounce back like it has the past two years? That will probably define the season. Going down, and retaking the lead. It's hard to bet against Trace McSorley in that department, but he's just one guy.

That being said, the schedule sets up in a way that Penn State still ought to have a chance at the three-peat, even if the playoff picture is a little less optimistic than it was last season.

Appalachian State (W)

Yes, Michigan, and, yes, App State is a decent team in general. But if I picked Penn State to lose this game I probably wouldn't be talking myself into a 10-win season. Maybe a little bit of rust in the early stages but this will be win No. 1 on the year unless something really really strange happens, and I can't even think of what that might be.

@Pitt (W)

By all accounts Pitt isn't going to be as good as it was the last time these teams met in Pittsburgh. It's hard to say that playing at night at a rival's house (yes i said it, deal with it) is easy, so I wouldn't expect this to be a walk in the park, but I imagine Penn State will pull away eventually. Miles Sanders returning to Pittsburgh will only add to the motivations. Good experience builder for the guys who haven't been in a big game yet.

Kent State (W)

Another competent opponent, but again, something weird is going to have to happen for Penn State to lose this one. Now the real games begin.

@Illinois (W)

The Friday night aspect of this game is strange and playing at night is never easy in the Big Ten. But I'm just going to assume Illinois isn't going to be that good and Penn State fans will make the trip to sort of even out the crowd a bit. Anything is possible, but Penn State ought to be finding its stride in the early going and this is a good chance for some under the lights experience for the young guys yet again.

Ohio State (W)

A caveat here is that I don't ever assume Penn State is going to beat Ohio State, because well, it's never safe to assume Ohio State is going to lose. But this game is early in the year, which means the Buckeyes will still be working in a new quarterback and, much like Penn State, new faces around the field. Of course, Ohio State has made a living by simply reloading, but Penn State always plays Ohio State close at home.

This game could go either way, but McSorley will be ready for it, the crowd will be ready for it, and with last year's loss still fresh in everyone's mind, Penn State will want to make it two-straight at home against the Buckeyes. For my money this is the best series the Big Ten has, and one of the best going on right now in college football. Whatever happens, it will be fun. Both teams are reloading, so edge to the home team.

Michigan State (L)

A run at going undefeated at home for three straight seasons stops here. Michigan State is going to catch Penn State coming off an emotional win, and Mark Dantonio has made a habit of ruining other teams' seasons. This is going to be the game Penn State shows some cracks in the armor. Linebacker depth will be an issue, the Spartans will throw it well and Penn State will be coming off a bye week and will have lost a little bit of steam. Simply put it's just hard to imagine Penn State beating Ohio State and Michigan State in back-to-back games, so feel free to flip these results if you'd rather. I'd believe either.

@Indiana (W)

Indiana is probably better than it gets credit for on most occasions but Penn State knows how to beat the Hoosiers and will be looking to bounce back on the road. This is a good day for McSorley to shine and he will. He's still a Heisman fringe candidate but gets his name back in the mix a bit after today. If Indiana can move the ball through the air, this could get interesting, but Penn State's offense will be rounding into 2017-18 form and the Hoosiers won't have an answer to that.

Iowa (L)

Iowa is really Michigan State with a different colored jersey. This game is going to be physical and tough and Iowa will want to have a better showing that it did the last time in State College. This, of course, is predicated on Iowa being as good as I think the Hawkeyes might be, but if any team is going to make you pay for linebacker issues, it's the Hawkeyes. This will be a squeaker, but Penn State is going to be more prone to mistakes than in previous years, and a late field goal will be the difference because of it.

@Michigan (L) 

This game might be at night, and Michigan might actually be good this year. Emphasis on might. Regardless, Michigan will have learned from the last meeting and things won't be quite as easy as before. If the Wolverines are good this game is a nod to home field. If Harbaugh finds himself on a hot seat, this game is Penn State's to take. it all depends on which Michigan team shows up. I'm counting on the good one.

Wisconsin (W)

Another Trace McSorley special, but it won't be pretty and Wisconsin will be eager to add to its resume with a quality win from the Big Ten East. This is another coin flip, but Penn State will have something to prove at home after back-to-back losses and nobody on this Wisconsin team will have played at Beaver Stadium. Plus, the Badgers might be ranked higher than Penn State at this point, only adding to the fire.

@Rutgers (W)

I mean.

Maryland (W)

On Senior Day, Maryland will make it a challenge because that's what Maryland tries to do, but good luck beating Trace in his last home game at Beaver Stadium.

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So that's 9-3 headed into the bowl. Feel free to check back in when I turn out to be wrong.



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