We wrote way too many words on these predictions that
probably won’t be correct, but here they are.
Last season, I was my usual pessimistic self and predicted that Penn State would finish 9-3 in the regular season, with the potential of 8-4. I was never more happy to be wrong (although I did say there was a chance for the Nittany Lions to start 2-2, which did come to pass.). I am slightly more optimistic about the Blue and White's chances in 2017. The schedule is more favorable, but there are a few tricky road games against traditionally difficult opponents that give me a slightly queasy feeling. Penn State has no shortage of explosive playmakers, and their defense will be better this season. Good enough to run the table? Let's find out:
Penn State starts 6-0, with semi-close games against Iowa and Northwestern (that dreaded 12:00 road start in Evanston). I did have a pretty massive paragraph going through each game, but it's not really necessary. Suffice it to say that I am usually pessimistic about the season, and expect there to be challenges where there shouldn't be. Anyway...
Following their off week, Penn State starts their toughest stretch of the season with Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State. The Wolverines will come in looking to play spoiler for the defending Big Ten East champions, and I think they'll give Penn State a challenge for at least the first half, and possibly the first three quarters. However, quarterback and offensive line are not their strong points this year, and I think by this point, Cothren, Cothran, Windsor, Givens, Brown, Buchholtz and Simmons (along with several others) will give Michigan fits and disrupt things enough for Penn State to win (7-0). Then we come to the Buckeyes. I think Ohio State wins. The Horseshoe, combined with the edition of Kevin Wilson as offensive coordinator, and the amount of offensive and defensive talent, gives Ohio State the clear edge (in my opinion). Of course, there is a chance that Urban Meyer gets conservative or misuses his players (such as not using Curtis Samuel enough last season), but I think this is where Penn State's undefeated season ends. (7-1.) Last year, I thought that the Spartans would ruin Senior Day and drop Penn State's record to 9-3. Whoops. This season, Michigan State will be better, but it's a question of how much better they will be. The problem for the Spartans is that Penn State is also better, and the Nittany Lions will emerge victorious (8-1).
Penn State should cruise in their final three games (though if Tanner Lee develops the way people think, Nebraska may give them some issues) and end the regular season 11-1. Will that be enough to go to the Big Ten Championship? Who knows...
My pick is that they head to the Fiesta Bowl, making the top six, but missing out on the playoff.
(Don't kill me, Eli.)
I could write 2,000 words on the upcoming season, but instead of diving into every detail, let's keep this short and sweet.
1. The offense is going to be 1994-esque ridiculous. The best running back in the country, a stable of talented receiving options, and an offensive line with a beautiful mixture of youth and experience. The improvement this unit has made in just two years really is incredible. Thanks, JoeMo.
2. If you doubt Trace McSorley, please do me a favor and set yourself on fire. Kid is a winner, and he’ll prove it again this year.
3. The defense is going to be pretty solid too, but it needs some of these younger, less experienced guys to take that next step. Three names I think are crucial: Shareef Miller, Manny Bowen, and Lamont Wade. If those guys have the type of seasons they’re capable of, this defense will take off.
4. No-bias here: The Nittany Lions check the boxes — talent, depth, experience, leadership, and familiarity — for not only another run at the Big Ten title, but for a National Championship, too.
5. Hand up here, I am biased, but: Penn State will lose to Northwestern. It will win every other game. Yes, even Ohio State.
Prediction: 12-1, Big Ten Champs — Rose Bowl vs USC in the CFP Semi-Final
Why not undefeated and another Big Ten Championship? Because that would be too easy. Right now, I'd have to be seriously convinced that PSU would be able to beat OSU *in* the Horseshoe, *after* dispatching Michigan. What, may you ask, is the other? Either Northwestern or Iowa, and since Kinnick scares me less this year than, except for last year, any year since 2009, I'm thinking that ****** Pat Fitzgerald keeps his unbeaten record against Franklin intact. I'm a downer. But this is pretty close to our floor this year, so I'll be stoked if we exceed it.
I really, really hate these types of prediction posts. It's so easy to go game-by-game and say "Oh, 11-1 or 12-0" but how often to seasons /actually/ play out the way you expect?
Yes, Penn State is good. Yes, they'll win double digit games. No, they won't lose to jNW because it is, after all, just Northwestern. Penn State is going to boat race Akron, and Pitt, and GSU, and Rutgers and it's gonna be legen(wait for it)dary. I have slight concerns over the linebacker unit, particularly against the run. Luckily, very few if any teams will be able to slow down the offense.
Ultimately, I think Penn State is on the precipice of becoming a power program again, but I'm not sure its quite there yet. I think we'll see an 11-1 regular season which may or may not get them into the B1G championship, but will get them into the playoffs where they lose in the semifinals against Alabama.
The last few years I was always on the more pessimistic side of the spectrum of record predictions- no more. This team has taught me time and time again not to doubt that, and with so many key leaders returning I expect the same type of mentality that led them to an unexpected Big Ten title. The biggest reason for optimism heading into 2017 revolves around the offense. As I lay my head on my pillow at night, visions of Saquon Barkley running through massive holes created by a more talented and experienced offensive line dance through my head. The prospect of a second-year quyarterback leading the charge for an offense that is fully ingrained in Joe Moorhead's system is making me downright giddy for the start of the season.
I do have some concerns, but they are minute compared to what the team has been dealing with during the past several seasons. While the defensive line seems to be heading towards greatness with a several emerging stars, injuries could really take its toll on the back seven. Of course, the defense often exceeded expectations last year when you consider the amount of youth and injuries. Brent Pry had a quietly magnificent first season as defensive coordinator, and just like with Moorhead, he's now had another year to familiarize his players with his way of doing things. No more learning on the fly- it's now time to go out and perform.
Last year I laid out scenarios on how Penn State could go 2-10. After starting 2-2 and being down vs Minnesota, I, for the faintest of moments, thought about the words I wrote and how they might come true. On the other extreme, I also made the now infamous "prophecy" that Penn State would lose to Michigan, Michigan would lose to Iowa and Ohio State, and by virtue of tiebreakers, Penn State would get to to go the championship game. Long story short, I let doubt take over for a second, and that will never happen again.
Penn State starts out light with three mid-majors out of the gate, then gets tested against Iowa in their first road game of the season. People start remembering last season's team when Penn State uses a second half explosion to put Iowa away, and some start to worry that the unsustainable YOLO offense will cost them a game. Northwestern, the trendy "trap game" pick, forgets that there's a game on Saturday and is buried before the first quarter ends. With the roles reversed, Penn State's experienced offense proves too much for a talented, but still too young Michigan defense, and the response to "49-10" becomes "77-7". Lady luck strikes once more, and Penn State comes out of Columbus with a victory that everyone says they didn't deserve because the sun wasn't at the exact angle and intensity or reasons. It's smooth sailing from there, and the Lions end the season with aspirations of becoming the first team to go 15-0, which they do.
Say what you want, but I'm probably right.
Personally I hope that the team will finish undefeated and will win a National Championship. If I stepped outside of my body, which is compromised by a nearly life-long obsession with all things Penn State, and gave an honest prediction, it would be 10-2. It's always hard to guess which games will be the most challenging and which will be comfortable wins at the beginning of the season. Traveling to Iowa and the Ohio State University scares me. While the team has recently gotten over the Iowa speed bump that lasted the better part of the past two decades, until the team leaves Kinnick with a win it will be tense on my end. The Ohio State game, if won, will be the same way. Not until the team is safely on the plane, the wheels lifted after take-off en route back to State College, with a win in the books, will I feel comfortable about that game.
My concerns are not geared toward a deficiency in talent, preparation, or coaching on the Penn State side. The team has all that it needs to win every game. My concern is the shape of the football, the unpredictable winds and rain, and the fact that there are a half-dozen solid football teams on the schedule. A win or a loss can come down to such tiny details, ones that are hard to predict just moments before they occur, much less months in advance.
I predict that the season will be very entertaining. Even if the team loses a couple of games it may still have a shot at the playoffs, so here's to keeping that in mind if the team proves to be anything less than perfect this season.
For the longest time, I was planning to predict 10-2 with losses to Northwestern and Ohio State on the road. Then I realized how it seems virtually everybody and their dog in the Penn State blogosphere seems to be predicting a loss at Northwestern and since I'm not a conformist, I've decided to switch my pick to PSU beating the Wildcats (and for James Franklin to get his first ever win over Pat Fitzgerald dating back to his Vanderbilt coaching days). Unlike last season, when I gave PSU virtually zero chance against the Buckeyes, it wouldn't be the most shocking thing in the world to see them spring an upset in Columbus. Michigan will certainly be a tough one, even though they have lost so many talented seniors, they have recruited well enough under Harbaugh that the impact of the personnel losses won't be felt as much. That being said, I like PSU to win a by a couple of touchdowns over the Khaki God under the lights in the White Out.
Aside from the teams I just mentioned, I could see Iowa or Michigan State being peskier than imagined, but PSU's sheer talent advantage alone should ultimately win out. We all know what the offense is capable of at this juncture and salivate at the thought of what another year with Joe Moorhead calling the shots will bring out in this bunch, but the defense is somewhat of a question mark, particularly at defensive line and linebacker. If the younger talent replacing the departed seniors can emerge quickly enough, this team will be every bit a contender for the Big Ten title as the pundits are making OSU out to be.
Gun to my head: I'm saying 11-1 and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl for the first time since Curtis Enis ran all over Texas in 1997.
This season will be very different from 2016. There won’t be 3 losses. There won’t be 2 losses. Our only loss this season will be to Ohio State. We will have one of the best offenses since 1994, my senior year of college, and with Trace and Saquon, we’ll be nearly unstoppable – until Ohio State .Yes, I know we won last season, and although I truly believe our coaching and talent is better than the Buckeyes, playing in the Horseshoe is a very different situation. Road games can be tricky, and playing in Columbus is probably the last place the Nittany Lions want to be.
We’ll easily win our first three games against Akron, Pitt and Georgia State. We will defeat the Hawkeyes, but since it’s a road game against an improving Iowa team, it will be closer than we want, and will end with a heart-attack-inducing last minute play. We’ll easily beat Indiana and Northwestern, then we’ll struggle against a talented Michigan team, but since we’ll be at home in Happy Valley, we’ll rally and pull out a victory.
Coming off the Michigan win, our offensive line and linebacker units will be tired, bruised and battered going into the toughest road game of the season, at Ohio State. That game will be hard fought but a loss, sadly, not a repeat of last year. The offense and Saquon Barkley, as great as they’ll be, will be shut down by OSU’s defense.
The Nittany Lions will pick themselves up, dust off the dirt, and breeze through the last four games of the season against Michigan State, Rutgers, Nebraska and Maryland with easy wins. Ending the season 12-1, we’ll again make an appearance in the Big Ten Championship, winning again, and will have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Will we make it in this year? Yes. But we’ll lose in our first playoff game, but will have another fabulous football season for the record books.
And if I’m proven wrong, as I happily was last year, then we’ll have a top rated Penn State team and a National Championship. Payback for 1994.
I really, really, REALLY want to say 12-0, because I think this team is special. I just can't bring myself to call for a PSU upset of OSU at the Shoe, not after playing Michigan at home just a week before. So I'll say 11-1 instead.
The Lions take care of the week 1 MACrifice, and dole out vengeance on Pitt, before completing the non-conference schedule at 3-0 against Georgia State. The game at Iowa always scares me, but we're better than last year while they're worse. Indiana is going to be tough to score on, but won't put up many points (apparently 2017 is Bizarro year in Bloomington), and I like us to win at home. Northwestern for an 11 AM kick honestly is the second-most terrifying game on the schedule, but I think Franklin finally gets W over Fitzgerald and the team goes to the bye week at 6-0.
Michigan is going to be good, but they replace too much and Penn State gets the win before going to Ohio State. As much as it pains me, I think the Buckeyes win and exact their revenge from last year. Michigan State has lost too much, and has too many off-the-field issues to concern me, then we get our second bye week, at which point we'll be 9-1. Nebraska comes to town for an interesting matchup, but their ineffectiveness on offense rules the day, and then we finally get to play at Maryland, where we pants the Fightin' Durkins and finish the season 11-1.
I'd love to say PSU makes it back to the B1G conference championship game, but I think Ohio State runs the table and gets the nod at 12-0 (conveniently, they'll take on 12-0 Wisconsin for the crown). Barring craziness, one of those two teams gets the playoff nod, and the Lions end up in a New Year's Six game. Maybe an Orange Bowl showdown vs. Clemson? Sounds like a good time to me.
I have some concerns.
Not large-scale concerns, mind you. Not the kind of concerns that came during 2003-2004 during the Dark Years, or 2011 through 2015 during the end of days and the roster collapse. But the kind of concerns that come with attempting to repeat as conference champions and moving forward as national title contenders.
The offense will be fire - Saquon the Don is going to run around, through, and (most fun) over people all year. His backups are all potential starters on quality teams in their own right. Trace McSorley is going to sling the rock and has a myriad of options. But losing Chris Godwin hurts. Kid was a gamer, and I'll only be comfortable with someone else replacing his clutch hands and body control after seeing Juwan Johnson or Irvin Charles become the targets we've been hoping for.
The defense will be...less fire. I love Jason Cabinda, but now-graduated Brandon Bell was our best linebacker last year and the corps still has quality depth issues. Replacing the production from our defensive ends is a real priority - the talent is exceptional, but young. Losing John Reid to injury hurts, and so does losing Malik Golden to graduation. The defense should be good, but will have some question marks.
Can we resolve those question marks to get to 12-0? 13-0? 14-0? 15-0? If we have a setback, can we count on other teams to fall out of the top 4 and behind us? That's the concern. Ohio State in the Horseshoe is always a concern. This defense against someone away (like Northwestern?) is a concern.
But really, as Eli will tell you, 15-0 or GTFO.
I don't buy all of the hype surrounding this Penn State team that returns an abundance of talent on offense. I think Saquon Barkley is an inefficient runner who needs to settle for three or four yards every so often instead of trying to make everything a touchdown. Likewise, Trace McSorley could stand to check down more often instead of making every throw a "YOLO" throw.
Even with those concerns, as well as some questions about the pass rush, I have Penn State going 11-1. It's just hard to imagine this squad losing to most of the teams on its schedule when so many key players from last year's incredible nine-game winning streak are coming back. The hope is for Barkley and McSorley to not only remain big-play threats, but also to develop enough so that gaining 10 yards doesn't seem harder than exploding for 50. A more experienced offensive line should help in that regard, with Barkley not having to make his own holes as much and McSorley getting more time to survey the field.
If the offense is a little more efficient, it should cover for a defense that might go through some growing pains. The voices in my head are telling me that 10-2 is the more likely result of the 2017 campaign, but it's okay to be a fan every once in a while. 11-1 it is.
I have rewritten this prediction multiple times, but every time I have Penn State losing in the regular season it feels wrong. Playing in Columbus scares me, but I think it should scare the Buckeyes more. They'll have the Nittany Lions, fresh off a dominating win over Michigan, coming into their house looking to put them in the back seat of the B1G championship discussion. The most worrisome thing about Northwestern is their place in the schedule before back-to-back games against Michigan and Ohio State - but there's a bye week between the Wildcats and the Wolverines which prevents a let-down performance. Outside of that there's the road game against Iowa, who may or may not contend in the West. Should I be more concerned?
Still, I don't have it in me to predict a National Championship. Eventually Penn State runs into a team with a strong enough defense to hold on a few drives, and a strong enough offense to take advantage of the liabilities on Penn State's defense. I hope I'm wrong, but I'd still be pleased with this result. The Nittany Lions establish themselves as title contenders in the coming years, and send a chill throughout Ohio State fandom after consecutive head-to-head wins, and Big Ten titles.
It's entirely possible they drop one in Columbus, but go big or go home. This team still has some more magic in it, so try to enjoy the ride.
Last year, I was the only person in the entire media world that picked a Penn State upset over Ohio State. I did it not out of homerism, but out of logic. Ohio state was coming off a physical game in Madison, while a confident PSU got to rest. Factor in the home field and the fact that JT Barrett is an exceptionally bad quarterback in big games and I felt pretty good. This prediction is not based on some outstanding logic. Sometimes you've just got to believe.
I'll never forget where I was when I read the Sandusky indictment. I remember what I was eating, what game I was watching, who was with me, everything. I thought right there that was fhe death of Penn State football. Yet, like our hero, Daenerys Stormborn, our darkest moment became one of rebirth. Just as she hatched those dragon eggs after losing her wife and child, Penn State has come back stronger than at any point in my 17 years of fanhood. Speaking of three dragons, Trace, Saquon and Gesicki are our dragons. Defensively, there are question marks, but I'm a firm believer that our deep defensive line unit will end up as one of the nation's best come the end of the season..
I plan on beating Wisconsin in Indianapolis, Florida State in New Orleans, and, after Oklahoma state upsets Alabama in Pasadena, oklahoma state in Atlanta. I hope to see you all there. It's going to be one hell of a party.
Prediction: 15-0 or GTFO