Prior to the 2012 NCAA Football season, things weren't looking great for Penn State in terms of national scope.
After the well-known departures of Silas Redd and Justin Brown to other schools, pundits across the country pinned the Nittany Lions as a team that would struggle.
Even though the team started off 0-2, Bill O'Brien and his clan banded together and remarkably won eight of their final 10 games of the season.
Looking back on all the naysayers and losing record predictions, it's pretty incredible how Penn State was able to pull out an 8-4 record in the first year of sanctions and first full year without Joe Paterno at the helm.
However, a repeat of the 8-4 record shouldn't be the benchmark for this team heading into 2013 because, in my opinion, the sanctions will hit harder this year than last and the losses to graduation will take their toll.
In terms of the sanctions, the scholarship limit will start to hit this year, and depth, like last season, will be an issue.
However, I think the biggest challenge the Lions face is an issue all college teams deal with year in and year out: seniors graduating.
On the offensive end, playmakers like power back Zach Zwinak, wideout Allen Robinson and sure-handed Kyle Carter, among others will be back.
On the defensive side of the ball, Deion Barnes at defensive end looks to be Larry Johnson, Sr.'s next star project and Adrian Amos will be expected to make plays in the secondary.
Regardless, the most recent senior class will never be forgotten in Happy Valley and for good reason.
Not only were they leaders off the gridiron, but they flat-out performed on the field.
While John Butler is primed to do a bang-up job organizing a top defense, the loss of linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, along with that of defensive tackle Jordan Hill won't go unnoticed.
Offensively, Matthew McGloin's development under center is something I'm sure the Lions wish they had the past two years and reliable linemen Matt Stankiewitch and Mike Farrell must be replaced.
Overall, the Lions have a lot of questions heading into the 2013 season.
Who will start at quarterback? Will it be heralded recruit Christian Hackenberg, JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson or last year's backup Steven Bench?
How well will lack of depth in the secondary hold up, and who will help Mike Hull fill the holes in the linebacker corps?
Bottom line: the Lions will face adversity in 2013 after losing a 2012 senior class that was perhaps unprecedented in the program's history.
With all that taken into consideration, the Lions have a fairly favorable schedule, with four manageable non-conference games and hosting two of their three hardest opponents in Michigan and Nebraska.
I'm not saying 8-4 is unreachable because it is certainly a possibility but, in my opinion, a 7-5 record would be a success in 2013 given the obstacles they must overcome to finish over .500.
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