Today marks one of the best days of the offseason - the start of the countdown that will bring us a brand spanking new season of Penn State Football.
There is one big wrinkle for the countdown this year - for the first time, it will end on a day besides Saturday. Penn State will kick off the 2022 season at Purdue on a Thursday evening on the first day of September. This will be the first Thursday game for the Nittany Lions of the modern era (Penn State was scheduled to play Virginia on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2001, but the game was postponed following the aftermath of 9/11).
As opposed to the standard week one contests against a rotating MAC squad, this year’s season opener has immense importance for both squads. Penn State is in desperate need to start the season on the right foot after a two disappointing seasons. Purdue is looking to build off the momentum of a 9-4 season as they aim for a Big Ten West championship.
That 11-11 mark during the past two seasons encapsulates the current state of a program that finds itself at a crossroads. The last two seasons have been filled with remarkably uneven streaks as the team desperately searches for some consistency, before they can even get back to the place where Penn State seemed to be on the verge of becoming an elite program.
There are reasons to believe Penn State can take that jump forward again. Sean Clifford returns with an explosive set of passcatchers, with the hopes of returning to the pre-Iowa version of the prolific offense with a healthy #14. The nation’s top incoming running back is set to make an early impact, as fans hope that Nick Singelton’s freshman season is reminiscent of another true freshman that became a national name a few years back.
There’s also plenty of questions to answer. Some new faces will need to step up quickly for the defensive line to thrive at the level expected in Happy Valley. The linebacker position is far from clear following a departure of talent from a year ago. And the offensive line picture looks murky at best, even for the low standards set during the past decade-plus.
We’ll begin to get answers in 100 days when the Nittany Lions take the field in front of a boisterous Boilermaker crowd under the lights of Ross-Ade Stadium, in the main event of the night for a football-staved national audience. Just 100 days until that Thursday evening when Penn State Football begins the 2022 season.