12. Ohio (Sept. 10, noon, ABC) H
Perhaps I shouldn’t tempt fate considering the last time Ohio visited Happy Valley. But things are mighty different than they were in 2012. Frank Solich was fielding the best team in Bobcats history, who had a legitimate shot of going unbeaten had it not been for a slew of injuries on their offense later in the year. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions were trying to find their way in post-sanction, post-Paterno world.
Penn State has far more talent than the last time around, while Ohio has suffered greatly since Solich retired, and are coming off a 3-8 season. The one selling point for this game - football will finally be back in Happy Valley after spending week one on the road.
11. Rutgers (Nov. 19) A
There was exactly one exciting trip to Piscataway when Rutgers first joined the Big Ten. The rest have been largely uneventful. While the Scarlet Knights have shown improvements during the second regime of Greg Schiano, we’re probably looking at another late-season dud.
10. Northwestern (Oct. 1) H
The Wildcats fell to 3-9 last season a year after winning the West Division and giving the Buckeyes a fight into the fourth quarter in the Big Ten Championship Game. Not only did they lose a lot of games, but there offense was baaaaaad. There is no reason to believe they will be anything close to prolific in 2022, so this game will likely go one of two ways: Penn State’s offense shows up, getting an initial lead and then playing keep-away for the next three quarters — or, they are stagnant all afternoon and we have a repeat of last year’s disaster against Illinois. One of these options is much better than the other, but neither will result in a compelling afternoon of football.
9. Indiana (Nov. 5) A
Another bad offense. Another (likely) early kickoff in Bloomington. There won’t be much hype heading into this one, but at least we’ve learned that things can get pretty interesting in Bloomington.
8. Maryland (Nov. 12) H
Which will come first - Maryland takes a leap forward and becomes a Big Ten contender, or Penn State’s offensive line becomes a strength? We’ve heard the same things for both for years, but little to show for it on the field.
7. Central Michigan (Sept. 24, BTN) H
This may seem too high on the list, but this could be a sneaky good game. Central Michigan is coming off a 9-4 season an is a trendy pick to win the MAC. They return plenty of talent, including senior quarterback Daniel Richardson, who boasted a touchdown-interception ration of 24:6 last fall, as well Lew Nichols III, who led the nation with 1,848 rushing yards in ‘21. This also comes at an interesting point in the schedule — a week following the road trip to Auburn after a grueling first three weeks of the season.
6. Michigan State (Nov. 26) H
Many are speculating that the Spartans will come crashing back to Earth this fall, but I am careful to disregard them considering how they smashed expectations in 2021. Either way, it’s Senior Day in Happy Valley and there’s also the beautiful Land Grant Trophy on the line.
5. Purdue (Sept. 1, 8 p.m., FOX) A
This comes the point where I struggled to order the top of the list. This is easily the most anticipated Penn State-Purdue game since Drew Brees was in black and gold to face off against LaVar Arrington and an undefeated Nittany Lions squad. There are many reasons to get excited about this one — the season is starting off with a bang against a Big Ten opponent coming off a 9-4 season led by a talented veteran quarterback. It’s also the Thursday of week one, so a football-starved nation will have its eyes on this game (the sole competition is the return of the Backyard Brawl between Pitt and Wexst Virginia, which kicks off an hour prior). The atmosphere will be electric at Ross-Ade Stadium as we’ll get our first taste of what to expect from the 2022 Nittany Lions squad.
4. Auburn (Sept. 17, 3:30 p.m., CBS) A
Neither team enters this fall ranked after both had similar collapses during the second half of the season. However, this is an extremely rare opportunity, as the Nittany Lions venture into SEC territory for a CBS broadcast (although CBS will become a much more regular home for Penn State soon enough). A prime time kick would add to the specialness of this game, but late afternoon will do as these two programs with much in common battle it out.
3. Minnesota (Oct. 22) H
It’s the White Out! The Gophers will be first-time White Out opponents, as another program not named Ohio State or Michigan get to join the fun. Minnesota may not seem like the most exciting White Out option, but the last two games between the two have been highly entertaining and memorable. The 2016 contest saw a frantic comeback by the Nittany Lions to force overtime before Saquon Barkley pulled off one of his signature spin moves to seal the deal. That game would launch an unexpected Big Ten Championship for the Nittany Lions. Things didn’t go as well in 2019, as Minnesota upset #4 Penn State 31-26 in a battle of unbeatens. The Gophers are coming off a 9-4 season with serious hopes of winning the West Division this fall.
2. Michigan (Oct. 15) A
I didn’t expect to have Michigan on the list so high, but the Nittany Lions have a chance to knock off the defending Big Ten champs and playoff team in the Big House. There is a strong possibility the Wolverines come in undefeated, provided they survive a Oct. 1 trip to Iowa (Michigan has a laughable non-conference schedule this season with Colorado State, UCONN and Hawai’i all heading to Ann Arbor). This should be prime mid-October viewing.
- Ohio State (Oct. 29) H
I’m not high on Penn State’s chances, especially with the incredible amount of talent returning to the Buckeyes offense this season. But as long as the Buckeyes are being penclied in to win the Big Ten every year, this will be the marquee match-up and greatest opportunity for the Nittany Lions. The good news is that the game returns to Happy Valley this season. The bad news is that we’re likely looking at a noon kickoff with FOX carrying that World Series that evening. Penn State always gives their best effort, but the Buckeyes always come up with one or two more big plays to take care of business. Maybe a couple of those plays go to the guys in blue and white this time.
Now it’s your turn. What did I get wrong?
See how the oddsmakers view the Nittany Lions ahead of the 2022 season. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.