After the Great Transfer Portal Exodus of 2019, Penn State was once again left with a fairly young team. I actually expect this to be the case in general moving forward - between transfers and early departures for the NFL, I expect a team like Penn State will always be on the younger side of things. It’s the start or depart era of college football, for better or for worse.
This season, the early part of the schedule actually sets up really nicely for a young team that is finding its way, particularly on offense.
Week 1 - Idaho, a below-average FCS team. Basically a glorified scrimmage that lets pretty much every player get some playing time.
Week 2 - Buffalo, a middling G5 team. A step up from week 1, but not a team that the Lions should struggle with over 60 minutes.
Week 3 - Pitt, a middling P5 team. Another step up, but the talent disparity should be too great for the Panthers to overcome.
Week 4 - Bye. This is, to me, a very opportune bye week, as the coaching staff can review what worked (or didn’t work) in the non-conference, before heading on the road for a Friday game against a rival, who also happens to be playing well.
Week 5 - Maryland, an above-average P5 team. Make no mistake, when healthy, Maryland is a decent football team. The Lions must travel to College Park and play on a Friday night - last season, a worse Illinois squad took a brief lead over the Lions on a Friday night road game before PSU woke up and pulled away.
Overall, I don’t think you could ask for a better early schedule. After these 5 weeks, a wounded Purdue comes to town, which should be an easier game than Maryland. Then comes the real grind, as the away game at Iowa, home game against Michigan, and away game at Michigan State will make or break the season.
But by then, the offense should have ironed out all of its wrinkles, and the defense should be peaking as well.
Suffice to say, if the Lions haven’t sorted themselves out by the time they head to Iowa City, things will have gone badly for the team. I think they’ll be just fine.