Move-in weekend at Penn State means a lot of things. Mostly confused looking people, cars going the wrong way down Beaver and traffic that makes you wonder why living in State College is worth it.
And with that traffic and confusion comes a whole new crop of Penn State football fans. Sure, plenty of freshmen have been following the Nittany Lions for years, some are from in-state, even State College, but plenty haven't really sunk their teeth into what the program has been up to. Chances are they've heard of the Sandusky scandal, and not so much about Paris Palmer.
While we could spend all day talking about the minor details and information that you should know heading into Penn State's 2016-17 season, here are five things you really ought to know in order to hold your own at the dining commons.
1. Christian Hackenberg
It's true that when it comes to this upcoming season of Penn State football Christian Hackenberg won't have anything to do with it. But between a new offensive coordinator and a new starting quarterback, Hackenberg is going to get talked about regardless. A current New York Jet, Hackenberg's legacy at Penn State is a slightly complicated one. Nobody denies his talents, but between a coaching change and maybe a slight bit of self-preservation, Hackenberg only occasionally lived up to the hype. To be sure Penn State won plenty of games thanks to Hackenberg's efforts, but there were plenty of throws he would have liked back as well. He owns just about every meaningful record in Penn State's passing book, but that doesn't mean your roommate won't have opinions about his mechanics.
2. Saquon Barkley
If there is anyone you've heard of prior to making it to State College it's probably Saquon Barkley. Now a sophomore, the Nittany Lion running back made his name by literally jumping over defenders and making more than a few come up empty trying to tackle him. With more than 1,000 yards on the ground in 2015 he set the Penn State freshman rushing record, which is equal parts impressive and misleading given how few freshman have historically gotten playing time. That aside, there is little doubt Barkley is one of the best in the nation, and if Penn State does anything of note this season it will be in large part due to Barkley's efforts. He's No. 26, so that's the custom jersey to order.
If you've heard about the Sandusky scandal then you're also probably aware that Penn State was sanctioned by the NCAA. A massive drop in scholarships on paper meant a massive drop in talent, and more importantly, the depth on the roster. This season is the first year since those sanctions were handed down that Penn State has been back at a full 85 scholarship roster. That doesn't mean Penn State's 85 scholarship players are all scholarship-level talent, but it's a work in progress that has taken a noticeable step upward the past 6-8 months. Penn State is still a work in progress in ways that go beyond the plays and the coaching, but getting back to 85 scholarships is a big step forward in that department.
4. The whole Pitt and Temple thing
Penn State opened up last season with a loss to Temple in Philadelphia thanks largely to 10 sacks given up by Penn State's porous offensive line. The loss gave the Nittany Lions an 0-1 record to start the year but also more importantly to many fans just the fourth loss in 44 games against the Owls. It would turn out that Temple was one of the better teams in the nation that year, but nevertheless it was a loss many Penn State fans simply couldn't swallow.
The Nittany Lions will now open the year against Kent State, but then travel to face longtime in-state rival Pitt before coming back home to host Temple. A win in both of those games would go a long way toward making up for the loss in 2015, and it will help reassert Penn State's dominance in Pennsylvania which has slowly slipped away as both Pitt and Temple have improved while Penn State has stumbled through the sanction era.
5. Joe Moorhead
Coming in to replace John Donovan after two years of stagnant offense, Joe Moorhead will be easy to spot as he roams the sideline in a visor. Fordham's former head coach, Moorhead brings with him an up-tempo, no-huddle style offense that will help, if nothing else, reinvigorate an offense that has struggled to move the ball in recent years. If the James Franklin era is going to work, a lot of that will be due to the fact Joe Moorhead's offense has worked as well. It will take time for Penn State to get up to speed with all the speed, but it's safe to assume that the Nittany Lions will be fun to watch even if they don't win every game.