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Five Things I Know I Know About Penn State Football (2023 Edition)

You’ve come to the wrong place if you are looking for predictions that actually end up being “correct.”

Auburn v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Can you believe this is the SEVENTH annual “Five Things I Know I Know” predictions I’ve done here for BSD? If these predictions were a child, they would be in like first grade.

For those that are new here, every year dating back to 2017 I have been tasked with coming up with five things I know I know about Penn State football. The premise is a bit subjective, but relatively simple: not all super obvious predictions, nor all completely bold predictions, but nonetheless still things I believe will/could happen. Here’s a complete rundown of my projections:

2017 (0-5)

1. Shareef Miller and Manny Bowen will be 1st Team All-B1G — L
2. Lamont Wade will lead the team in INTs with 4 — L
3. Bates & McGovern will both be 1st Team All-B1G — L
4. Saquon Barkley will run for 300+ yards in 2 games — L
5. PSU will win the Big Ten (again) — L

2018 (0-5)

1. Tariq Castro-Fields will make 1st Team All-B1G — L
2. Jan Johnson will lead the team in tackles — L
3. Justin Shorter will have 40+ receptions — L
4. Hamler will return 2 punts for TDs — L
5. PSU won’t make a FG beyond 40 yards — L

2019 (0-5)

1. CJ Thorpe will get thrown out/will be the reason for someone getting thrown out of a game — L
2. Fries will make 1st Team All-B1G — L
3. Penn State’s defense will get 50+ sacks — L
4. Damion Barber leads DTs in sacks — L
5. Joe Moorhead will be Penn State’s head coach by mid-December — L

2020 (0-5)

1. Pat Freiermuth will have double-digit receiving touchdowns — L
2. Adisa Isaac will lead Penn State in sacks — L
3. Cam Sullivan-Brown will be Penn State’s second leading wide receiver — L
4. Brandon Smith will make 1st Team All-B1G — L
5. CJ Thorpe will get thrown out/will be the reason for someone getting thrown out of a game — L

2021 (1-4)

1. Arnold Ebiketie will finish with double-digit sacks — L
2. Both Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington will have at least 60 receptions — W
3. Marquis Wilson will score an offensive touchdown and record an interception in the same game — L
4. Sean Clifford will throw at least 30 touchdowns — L
5. Penn State won’t start 3-0 — L

2022 (1-4)

1. Nick Singleton will rush for over 1,000 yards — W
2. Curtis Jacobs will finish with 100 tackles and 12 TFLs — L
3. Sean Clifford Will Throw At Least 30 Touchdowns — L
4. Hakeem Beamon will lead Penn State’s defensive tackles in sacks — L
5. Patrick Kraft will do something that gets him fined by the Big Ten — L

That is 2-28 and two seasons in a row where I got one prediction right. Will I continue my hot streak in 2023? Can I get to 3-32?

Penn State’s Defense Will Have At Least 50 Sacks

We start off with a prediction that I used in 2019. Unfortunately for me back then, the Nittany Lions fell just shy of 50 sacks, finishing the year with 45 instead. But as the saying goes: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me — can’t get fooled again.

What gives me the confidence to go back to the well is the obvious: Penn State’s front seven has some capital D dudes. Chop Robinson is a projected first round pick across the board. Adisa Isaac is another full offseason away from the achilles tear that costed him the 2021 season. Dani Dennis-Sutton flashed the five-star pedigree as a true frosh. Hakeem Beamon is a certified beef boy now at 290 pounds. Jordan van den Berg squats 1,200 pounds ASS-to-GRASS! Abdul Carter is going to fulfill the prophecy that was the 2020 Micah Parsons season we were promised as a nation!! CAN I GET A HALLELUJAH?!? CAN I GET AN A-FREAKING-MEN!!!!

*catching breath*

50 is a big old number. It depends upon the year, but usually only about 2-3 schools hit the 50 mark in a season. It’s something a James Franklin-led Penn State team has never done. But when you combine the Jimmys and Joes that the Nittany Lions will have on defense with Manny Diaz’s aggressive-styled nature, and I really think 50 sacks is rather doable — even if they only play 13 games instead of the expected 15.

Penn State Won’t Make A Kick From Beyond 40 Yards

If we’re being honest, I don’t ask much from college kickers. Sure, Jordan Stout and his blowing locks of curly hair and big kicking leg were cute, but the 69.6% field goal percentage on 23 kicks as a senior? Miss me with that bb.

Call it vanilla, but I’ll be satisfied with an average leg that’s consistent from make-able ranges. Like Tyler Davis 2016 is basically what I hope for: 91.7% on 24 kicks with his season long being from 40 yards exactly? Oh yeah, THAT’S the stuff, baby.

With the loss of Jake Pinegar, Penn State will be trotting out redshirt sophomore Sander Sahaydak who has attempted two field goals in his career and/or Columbia transfer Alex Felkins who was 4-of-10 from 40 yards last season in the Ivy League. So yeah, not exactly the ideal situation for Penn State to be in kicker wise, which is why I am ONCE AGAIN bringing back this prediction. The last time I made it was in 2018, when Jake Pinegar hit three 40+ yard field goals right in my face against *just* Iowa. Let’s hope for a similar story, but perhaps with a little more consistency than Pinegar showed as a frosh.

Theo Johnson Will Lead The Team In Receptions

If there is one position I think I am down on compared to the consensus, it’s the wide receivers. From all accounts, it appears that KeAndre Lambert-Smith and Harrison Wallace have separated themselves as WR1 and WR2, which you would think should excite me. I’ve long been fan of Wallace, naming him my “Most Underrated” player in the 2021 class. Ditto for KeAndre Lambert-Smith — I devoted an entire blurb in my column after the Ohio game last year pleading Mike Yurcich to get him the ball more.

But yet, despite my affinity for both of them in years prior, I find myself having a difficult time committing to KLS and Wallace fully. Both are super talented, but the lack of consistency each showed last year makes me nervous to totally trust them. That’s why I’m going with tight end Theo Johnson to lead Penn State in receptions, who is the beacon of consistency.

Okay, so “talented but lacks consistency” might explain Johnson too. But that’s partly my point here: I don’t know if I feel all that strongly about any one or two players leading Penn State in receptions. Even if Lambert-Smith is the most likely option and probably viewed as the safer pick, there’s still a level of projection there that I don’t think there was for players like Jahan Dotson in 2021 and Parker Washington (injury aside) in 2022.

With that being the case, I like the idea of riding with Johnson. Yes, he’ll be sharing playing time with Tyler Warren which could cut into his targets — something I actually mentioned a few weeks back — but after brooding on it through camp, I think we might be underestimating Johnson’s opportunities in the offense. This isn’t a case where it’s Johnson or Warren — where when one is on the field, the other is off. Instead, we’re going to see a ton of 12 personnel; perhaps more than ever before, given the strength of the tight end room and some of the question marks around the wide receivers. If we do see that, I think the tight ends — and Johnson in particular — will be the greatest beneficiaries to what should be a lethal play-action attack led by Drew Allar.

Kaytron Allen Will Lead Penn State In Rushing Yards

I don’t have any actual data to back up this up, but I felt like during much of the regular season, there was a real debate as to which of Penn State’s fantastic freshman running backs was better. As the Rose Bowl came and went though — and Nick Singleton did this — it seemed like the consensus in the fanbase was that Singleton was ever-so-slightly the better back. That was confirmed in some sorts with our Top 10 Penn State players articles here on BSD, where Kaytron came in ranked No. 6 while Singleton was No. 1.

It should go without saying, but this prediction isn’t so much a slight at Singleton, as much as it’s a vote of confidence in Kaytron. I think both backs have really strong All-B1G caliber seasons, with each breaking the 1,000 yard mark. But with Singleton getting more of the national accolades this offseason, I feel like the growth in Kaytron’s game has gone a little bit under the radar. This was a kid who played his high school ball at 220 pounds, but when he enrolled at Penn State, had to drop about 20 pounds of “high school” weight. He ended up playing last season around 205 pounds, showcasing elite vision and balance despite playing smaller than he was used to.

Fast forward to today and Kaytron comes in listed at 222 pounds — except instead of it being excess weight, it’s Chuck Losey approved muscle. This will help greatly with his power, as I think we only saw the tip of the iceberg when it comes to that side of Kaytron’s game. I’m not just expecting breaking through arm tackles this year, I’m thinking this:

Penn State Will Go 11-1 & Miss The College Football Playoff

Maybe not for my mental well-being and overall happiness, but the funniest outcome to this season is Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State all going 11-1. The tiebreaker somehow goes against Penn State, and it puts Ohio State and Michigan in the College Football Playoff where they wind up facing each other in the National Championship. Of course, the team that Penn State beat wins the title. Meanwhile, The Nittany Lions get stuck with like Mountain West Conference Champion Wyoming in the Fiesta Bowl and I literally pull my fingernails off.