On Friday, we took an early peek at the 2023 Penn State Football schedule, which sets up nicely for a team that will enter the season with lofty expectations.
But where are the trouble spots on this year’s schedule? There is always a potential trap game or two - a very winnable game that suddenly becomes more difficult with the way the schedule sets up, especially when looking ahead to a big game or coming directly off an emotionally-charged contest (and sometimes both).
While I don’t see anything that leaps out as a trap game in 2023, there are definitely some trouble spots that could be reason for concern. Let’s take a closer look:
ILLINOIS (Sept. 16, A)
The Illini have come a long ways in a short time under Bret Bielema, mostly thanks to a stout defense that led the nation by allowing just 16 touchdowns in 2023. They know how to keep an offense from finding its rhythm, and this could be troublesome considering Penn State will be fielding a new starting quarterback. Assuming Drew Allar rises to the top of the depth chart, it will be just his third start overall and first one on the road.
IOWA (Sept. 23, H)
The Hawkeyes aren’t as dangerous outside of Kinnick, but they still have an outstanding defense who can find ways to shut down an offense. The especially challenging part though is to face two of the nation’s most physical and stingiest defenses in consecutive weeks. Iowa and Illinois were #1 and #2 in yards allowed per play in ‘22. It will be another week of earning every bit of yardage as the offense recovers from some extra bumps and bruises.
MARYLAND (Nov. 4, A)
It seems like the Terps keep acquiring more talent to become a greater threat, then the game comes along and the Nittany Lions have little to no trouble thumping them. This could become a danger spot if Penn State stuggles to get up for this game considering recent history, then slips up on the road as they look ahead to what could be a seismic game against the Wolverines the following week.
MICHIGAN STATE (Nov. 25, A)
There’s some wishful thinking here - that Penn State will have a game the following week on Saturday, December 2 in Indianapolis to even look ahead to. Even if the Spartans are more like the 2022 version that missed a bowl than the 2021 squad that helped get Mel Tucker his massive contract, they still have the talent on both sides of the ball to make plays and pull off a victory or two they shouldn’t each year.
I wouldn’t go all out and call any of these “trap games.” However, every college football season is grueling, especially in the Big Ten East. Which games are you concerned about in 2023?