Penn State fans have got to be excited for the upcoming season. After completing a successful recruiting campaign for 2013, the Nittany Lions will have high expectations heading into the upcoming season. Though there will be some changes from last year, Penn State will look have a chance to put up another solid win total.
In 2012, Penn State surprised many by finishing the year 8-4. That was after losing the first two games of the season against Ohio and Virginia. The team stood together and fought hard, winning the next five games.
Though several starters are gone from last year, the Nittany Lions have a lot of experience returning and will look to build off of the momentum from a year ago.
The following slides will look at three reasons the Nittany Lions will at least match last year's win total in 2013.
One thing that the 2013 Nittany Lions have working in their favor is the schedule. Penn State starts the year with five winnable games. If they do in fact manage to win all of them, the team will have a lot of confidence heading into the heart of the Big Ten schedule.
Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, UCF, Kent State and Indiana are all teams that Penn State should be able to handle. Syracuse and Indiana are both road games, but that shouldn't matter.
If there's a trap game in the first part of the schedule, it's the Sept. 21st matchup with Kent State. The Golden Eagles are coming off an 11-3 season and will be returning star playmaker Dri Archer. He compiled nearly 2,500 all-purpose yards as a running back, wide receiver and kick returner.
After the first five games of the year, Penn State has seven matchups with conference foes.
Home games with Illinois and Purdue, as well as a road game at Minnesota should all end with a Nittany Lions victory.
Matchups with Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska will present the biggest challenge of the season. Lucky for the Nittany Lions, Michigan and Nebraska are home games in front of what's sure to be a raucous, sold-out Beaver Stadium.
It's not unreasonable to think that they steal one of those two big home games.
On paper, the Nittany Lions look like they should manage, at worst, a record of 8-4. However, with a little luck, the record could jump up to nine or even 10 wins.
The talk of the spring at Penn State is going to be the battle for the quarterback position. The Nittany Lions need to find a way to replace Matt McGloin, who finished last season as the top passer in the Big Ten.
Sure, the quarterbacks on the roster have just eight pass attempts combined at the major college level, but that shouldn't be as big a factor as some may think.
The reality is that Penn State returns a lot from last year's 8-4 team, especially on offense. All staring running backs, wide receivers and tight ends will be back in 2013. Perhaps more importantly is the fact that the offensive line will be very experienced and only needs to replace two starters.
Leading receiver Allen Robinson is sure to be a favorite and reliable target to whoever is under center in 2013. Kyle Carter and Jesse James are pass-catching tight ends that will also positively impact the offense.
In the running game, Penn State returns both Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak. Belton started five games a year ago while Zwinak started the final four. Zwinak led the team with 1,000 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
While the defense will have big holes to fill, there are six starters from last season returning. The secondary should be the strongest group of the entire defense, returning three of four starters, including Adrian Amos, who will be one of the top cornerbacks in the conference.
This team will be very experienced and will present a tough test for opponents.
Head coach Bill O'Brien proved in 2012 that he has what it takes to be a successful coach. After what can only be described as a tumultuous offseason, O'Brien led the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 record.
The first-year coach showed the determination that is needed to be successful at the college level.
Last season, O'Brien had to deal with several challenges. He was an unpopular hire in the minds of some alumni and had to replace a beloved coach that was forced out. He also had to deal with severe sanctions that were handed down in July as well as the transfer of key starters just weeks before the start of the season.
Entering 2013, things should be a bit more settled for the coach.
Though current players are still allowed to transfer this offseason, it seems unlikely that any starters will, as they had the same chance a year ago.
With a full offseason to just concentrate on football, look for the 2013 Nittany Lions to be well-coached and ready to compete.
O'Brien showed last season that his NFL-style passing attack can be very successful in college. In 2012, former walk-on quarterback Matt McGloin went from being a virtual unknown to leading the Big Ten in passing yards and touchdowns.
The leader of the Nittany Lions has already proven that he can be successful at Penn State, even in the face of adversity. His players have bought into what he says and compete hard.
It's for that reason that 2013 will be another successful season in Happy Valley.