Like a camel thirsting for water, I've read all the analyses out there about the linebackers, quarterback, the loss of Jared Odrick and how Penn State can do no better than 4th place in the big ten this year. Well I don't buy it. I think the Nits are going to surprise some folks. So breaking it down, this is what I see.
The loss of AJ Wallace in the secondary, three outstanding linebackers and the aforementioned Mr. Odrick are pretty significant losses, of that there is no doubt. However, moving Chaz Powell to the secondary, added to the one more year of experience to a secondary that pretty much surprised everyone last year, I think the secondary is going to be at least as strong if not stronger than last year. I think the overall talent level of the linebacking core that is going to step in to fill some pretty big shoes could be better than the group that left, just lacking in experience. The defensive line, I believe will be at least as strong as last year, despite losing Odrick. More experience from the returnees and Devon Still taking over at DT will do a more than adequate job, giving a D-line that will be more balanced. Overall, I think this defense could possibly be better than last year's.
No doubt about it, the quarterback situation is a big question mark, but the rest of the offense, including the O - line is solid. I'm a little nervous about the left side, but I think they will jell by the beginning of the season. I also believe that a quarterback will emerge from the crowd that will really surprise. My biggest worry is that he has difficulty getting that timing down with the receivers, or has difficulty recognizing defensive sets, thus allowing the opposing defenses to rush like sharks at a feeding frenzy, but his mobility will keep him out of serious trouble. I really think that our quarterback play will be more than adequate.
Without a doubt, this is the one area that really concerns me, PSU was lousy at coverage and didn't scare anyone with their return game. The loss of Jeremy Boone will be huge and Collin Wagner has to improve both his distance and accuracy. My momma once said, "If you don't want to hear the answer, don't ask the question." So I won't ask who is gonna punt this year.
All in all, I think both the offense and defense will be able to compete with anyone in the league. The big question mark for me will be Special Teams. If they do well, this could be very good year, perhaps 11-1 or 10-2. If Special Teams disappoint, then 9-3 might be tough to achieve.
So my predictions:
Robert Bolden will emerge as the quarterback of choice. I believe that in true Joe Pa fashion, he just flat out has been downplaying QB so a fair chance can be given to all the candidates this fall.
Royster is going to have a banner year, with over 1,600 yards rushing and a surprise finalist for the Heisman.
The defense is going to rank among the top ten in the country in almost every team stat.
PSU will knock off Iowa this year. It will be close, but they will win.
The Lions might surprise Alabama in a game nobody expects them to be competitive in. This game will determine 11-1 or 10-2. I think a win is definitely possible.
Ohio State will just be too strong at home that late in the season.
Youngstown State (win; 45 - 10) There will be a lot of experimenting in this game.
Alabama (win; 23 - 21) It will be close and hard fought. Just something about a game where EVERYONE picks the obvious favorite. Call it a gut feeling if you will, but Special teams are going to come through to win it with a field goal.
Kent State (win; 31 - 17) This team will be better than a lot of folks think.
Temple (win; 28 - 17) Temple will surprise a lot of people this year and at 3 - 0, and a big win at Alabama, I suspect the Nits will be looking forward to Iowa.
Iowa (win; 17 - 14) It will be about payback.
Illinois (win; 35 - 13) Hitting stride now, two big wins under our belts.
Minnesota (win; 24 - 10) Close first half, then PSU pulls away.
Michigan (win; 35 - 17) Home, night, unofficial whiteout game, undefeated? Sorry Rich Rod, the stars aren't aligning this year. (on another note, I predict Michigan for about 4 - 8 or 5 - 7 this year)
Northwestern (win; 24 - 21) Emotional win against Michigan and looking ahead to Ohio State. This trap game will be close with PSU pulling out a close one at the end of the game.
Ohio State (lose; 21 - 31) Say it ain't so, Joe.
Indiana (win; 42 - 24) Indiana will score points this year, I just don't think they will stop anyone else from doing it.
Michigan State (win; 27 13) Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe that Michigan State has beaten Penn State at the Beav since we joined the Big Ten. Well, that isn't gonna change this year.
I cast the first vote for 11 -1
Whew, this was just going to be short.
So what is your guess for the year?