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100 Days to the Start of Penn State Football ’21: 21 Numbers to Know

One hundred days and counting.

Penn State opens its 2021 football season in exactly 100 days on the road at Wisconsin. The Sept. 4 contest will test the Nittany Lions early.

But, if they beat the Badgers, they have an amazingly long stretch at home in Happy Valley to find their footing before heading to Columbus on Oct. 30.

Other than a trip to Iowa, they will spend almost two months (55 days) without leaving campus, thanks to a schedule that includes four consecutive home games and a bye week.

That number portends good things for the Nittany Lions, who are looking to bounce back after an uncharacteristic 4-5 record in 2020.

A number that could be ominous in 2021? Try 47 — the number of career starts Penn State returns on its offensive line. The trio of Rasheed Walker, Mike Miranda and Caedan Wallace is strong, but the lack of game experience at the other two starting spots and with key back-ups could signal a problem, at least in early-season matchups against Wisconsin and Auburn.

Here’s a closer look at those numbers, plus several more, as we share 21 numbers to know as The Countdown to 2021 officially begins:

.500 — Penn State’s winning percentage in WhiteOut games, when it is 8-8. That includes a 6-6 record in full WhiteOuts (the other four were student-only, dating back to 2004), according to GoPSUSports.com. James Franklin is 3-3 in WhiteOut games, having won three of his last four, beginning with the Grant Haley scoop-and-score upset of No. 2 Ohio State in 2016.

1 — Passes thrown in a game by Penn State backup quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson in his first two seasons. It was incomplete, in the fourth quarter of the final regular-season game of 2019 vs. Rutgers. He also has one career rush, for minus 1 yard in the same game.

2 — Number of home losses (with 26 victories) Penn State had in Beaver Stadium from 2016-2019, one fewer than it had in just 2020, when PSU was 2-3 at home. PSU was 7-0 at home in 2016, ’17 and ’19.

3 — Years as a starter for Sean Clifford, the third consecutive Nittany Lion quarterback to be the main starter for three straight seasons. He is 14-6 (.700), after yielding starts in 2019 (win vs. Rutgers, injury) and 2020 (loss to Iowa, benched) to Will Levis, who transferred to Kentucky in the offseason. Christian Hackenberg was 21-17 (.553) in 2013-15, while Trace McSorley was 31-9 (.775) in 2016-18.

4 — Teams Penn State’s new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich has coached in the past four seasons: Oklahoma State (OC/QB, 2018), Ohio State (pass game coord./QB, 2019), Texas (OC/QB, 2019) and Penn State (OC/QB). That’s a lot of packing and unpacking for him and his wife, Julie.

7 — Full seasons since Penn State played at Wisconsin, site of its 2021 season opener. The Nittany Lions last played in Madison on Nov. 30, 2013, when under head coach Bill O’Brien it upset No. 14 Wisconsin, 31-14. First-year tight ends coach Ty Howle was the starting center and co-captain for Penn State in that game. Current grad assistant Deion Barnes also started that day, as a junior defensive end, while current GA Wendy Laurent appeared as a backup offensive lineman.

8 — Football camps scheduled to be held by Penn State in June and July after a year hiatus caused by the pandemic. Penn State has not been able to host recruits in-person since March 2020. Camps are a key recruiting vehicle, and will be held on the PSU campus on June 5, 6, 13, 20, 25 and 27; and on July 25 and 30.

13 — Rushing yards gained on three carries in the 2020 season by running back Noah Cain, who was hurt on Penn State’s first drive last year in Indiana and missed the rest of the season. Cain had a banner 2019 campaign as a freshman, with 84 carries for 443 yards, an average of 5.3 yards per carry, and eight TDs. Remarkably, on those 84 carries, he lost only 2 yards.

19 — Nittany Lion starters back in 2021: nine on offense, seven on defense and three on special teams. (Ten additional PSU players have starting experience: five on offense, four on defense, one specialist.)

24.2 — Average Penn State punt return yards in 2020, No. 1 in the nation, thanks to Jahan Dotson, who had eight returns for 197 yards and one TD.

27.67 — Average number of points per game the Nittany Lion defense surrendered in 2020, the most in Penn State history. (By comparison, in 13 games in 2019, the PSU D gave up 208 points, just 16.0 per game.) The 268 points PSU gave up in nine games is the seventh-highest points yielded in a season in Penn State history. 

30 — Consecutive regular-season games Penn State has faced an unranked non-conference opponent, beginning after the Nittany Lions lost 27-11 to No. 3 Alabama on Sept. 10, 2011, in Beaver Stadium. Record: 25-5. It is possible that Ball State — which is PSU’s home opener on Sept. 11 and finished in the top 25 last year — could break that string, if it gets ranked after beating Western Illinois in its opener Sept. 2. It’s more likely that Auburn halts that streak. Auburn opens its 2021 season with home games against Akron and Alabama State — two pretty sure-fire wins — before its 7:30 p.m. Sept. 18 contest at Beaver Stadium.

34 — Consecutive calendar days at home for Penn State after returning from Madison for the 2021 season-opener. After Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions play four straight home games before flying to Iowa City on Friday, Oct. 8 for their game the next day against the Hawkeyes. In fact, beginning Sept. 5 (the day after the Wisconsin game), Penn State will be gone only parts of two days — the trip to Iowa — in the next 55 days before flying to Columbus on Friday, Oct. 29 for its game the next day against Ohio State in The Horseshoe.

47 — Combined career starts for Penn State’s returning offensive linemen, lowest of the Franklin Era since his first season, when the returning O-linemen had just 43 starts in 2014. They are: Rasheed Walker (22), Mike Miranda (18) and Caedan Wallace (7). For comparison, the Nittany Lions had 91 career starts returning on the offensive line in 2016 and 88 in 2017.

50-1 — Odds of Penn State winning the national championship, according to DraftKings. That’s tied for 15th overall, with Auburn, Miami (Fla.), Cincinnati and Oklahoma State. Alabama is 3-1, Clemson 3.5-1 and Ohio State 4-1.

61.1 — Percentage of field goal attempts made by Penn State field goal kickers Jake Pinegar (9 of 13) and Jordan Stout (2 of 5) in 2020. That includes Stout’s 1-of-3 mark for attempts from the 50 and beyond. Penn State’s single-season record is 91.7% by Tyler Davis, who made 22 of 24 attempts in 2017.

88 — Games that Franklin has coached at Penn State. No. 100 will be the regular-season-ender on Nov. 27 in East Lansing against Michigan State. Franklin (60-28, .681) should move into third place all-time in October or early November, surpassing Hugo Bezdek (65-30-11, .665) and trailing only Rip Engle (104-48-4, .678) and Joe Paterno (409-136-3, .749) among Penn State’s 16 head football coaches.

99 — Passes thrown with only one interception by Clifford during Penn State’s season-ending 4-0 winning streak in 2020. In that span, Clifford was 65 of 99 (65.7%) for 813 yards and five TD passes, with six sacks. (His first five games: 87 of 152, 57.2%, for 1,070 yards, eight interceptions, 11 TD passes and 16 sacks.)

112 — The NCAA’s official end-of-the-season ranking (out of 127 teams) of Penn State’s strength of schedule for 2020, when its opponents went 33-38; No. 112 was also its official NCAA ranking for turnover margin (minus .78 per game).

299 — Wins by Penn State in Beaver Stadium, where the Nittany Lions have been 299-77 (.795) since 1960. A victory over Ball State would be No. 300.

644 — Days between home games in Beaver Stadium with a full complement of fans, from Nov. 30, 2019 (a 27-6 victory over Rutgers) to Sept. 4, 2021, assuming a return to normal by then.