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Penn State Football: What Could Go Wrong

by on June 11, 2019 2:20 PM

As mentioned Monday, June is (still) not the time of year to break down the nitty-gritty of Penn State's upcoming season and very often results in being wrong about more than you are right.

Even so, there are broad strokes that can be thrown around, things that everyone knows to be true or at least possible, regardless of what happens between now and the end of August. 

So with that in mind, here are a few things that could go wrong to see Penn State's season go from one of a hopeful new chapter to a bump in the road. 

If you're not into the negative, you can ready about what will have to go right and what very well might go well, that posted yesterday. So no worries, not a bunch of negative writers here, just covering all the bases.

What If It Doesn't Get Better:

It's unlikely but not entirely impossible that Penn State's receiving corps will have its fair share of ups and downs. What will happen if the drops come at the worst moments? The idea that a fairly young group of wideouts struggles in big games isn't all that absurd.

KJ Hamler and Jahan Dotson will anchor this bunch, but Hamler's usage felt hit-or-miss the back half of the year and Dotson will have plenty to prove when it comes to being an every week receiver and not just a guy who was able to spark this unit a year ago.

What If Tommy Was Nearly The Guy For A Reason:

James Franklin said a lot of good things about Tommy Stevens, enough that it's hard to imagine he wasn't planning on him eventually starting. Injuries sidetracked that particular plan, not to mention a transfer, but the overall point remains: it's hard to picture a world where Tommy Stevens wasn't starting if healthy.

Instead it's Sean Clifford, and that might be a perfectly fine result in the long run, but at one point in time that wasn't the plan for a reason.

Nobody really knows what a quarterback is going to look like until he's playing on Saturdays, but it's not unreasonable to ask (in June) if Clifford is jumping into the role faster than the program ever really wanted him to, and what that means.

What If The Hump Is Still There:

Penn State is going to have to play at Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan State and the at least new and different Minnesota. That's a lot of games on the road in difficult places to play against at least three teams that should be on par with the Nittany Lions.

Let's say that Penn State is good but not great this year. That will mean getting over the hump against good teams in marquee games. It's not as though the Nittany Lions have failed to win big games over the past few years, but those biggest moments have gone against Penn State more often than not.

You can argue as to why that is the case, but getting over the hump is a real narrative at this point, and if they can't it could spell another long season in Happy Valley.

What If The Line Is A Rebuild:

It has taken half a decade for Penn State's offensive line to get to this point, and now it has to start with a new look unit. That's not automatically a bad thing, but it certainly isn't ideal. What if this group takes a season to gel and even longer to get back to where it can be?

This is particularly true if opponents opt to rush Ciifford and try to give him the Hackenberg treatment in the backfield.

What If The Defense Doesn't Hold Strong For Quite As Long:

There's no reason to think Penn State's defense will be bad. Brent Pry's unit has pretty much established itself as reliable on a weekly and annual basis, but what if that fourth quarter empty gas tank shows up a bit sooner than normal? What if John Reid doesn't ever really get back in form and Micah Parsons can only do so much on his own?

This will be even more important if Penn State's offense isn't holding serve. Suddenly a 10-point deficit feels like that much more if the offense can't move the ball. Sometimes the defense's best friend is getting off the field and staying there, and that means an unproven offense proving itself and doing it quickly.

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