Penn State Nittany Lions: Ten Matchups that will Make or Break the Season
The Penn St. Nittany Lions are coming off an 11-2 season, a Big Ten title, and a Rose Bowl berth.
But this season, the Nittany Lions will have a lot of new faces in high-profile places.
They'll need their returning stars to lead the way.
Here are ten crucial matchups that the Nittany Lions must win in order to have a successful season.
Penn St. O-line vs. Akron's Defense
The Nittany Lions have lost three first team All-Big Ten performers on the O-line.
They'll need to come out and dominate an inferior Akron defense to get the season started off on the right foot.
They'll have their first game-action together in this matchup and have to be able to gel as a unit.
Penn St. Secondary vs. University of Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi
Penn State's secondary will be very athletic, but inexperienced.
The Nittany Lions will need them to prevent the big play and possibly make a few plays.
Going against crafty Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi will be their first true test.
Because, as last season showed, the Iowa game will be a hard fought one, with the win going to the team that makes the least amount of mistakes.
LB Sean Lee vs. Iowa Running Game
Iowa is known for their running game, so this will likely be the senior captain's first true test coming off a knee injury.
Daryll Clark vs. Juice Williams
Even though they will not actually be facing each other, their play will likely determine who wins this matchup.
College football is a quarterback's game. And in this game, two of the best and most athletic QBs in the Big Ten will be facing off.
The QB that makes the most plays and avoids the costly turnover will likely lead his team to victory.
AJ Wallace vs. Arrelious Benn
Arrelious Benn is one of the most talented wide outs in the Big Ten, if not in the whole nation.
He has torched the Nittany Lions in the past.
AJ Wallace is a very talented CB who is expected to step up this season.
If Wallace can contain Benn and prevent him from making the big play, the Nittany Lions are likely to prevail against Illinois.
Penn St. LBs vs. Michigan's Running Game
With Michigan's spread offense, the Nittany Lions LBs will have to read, react, and make plays in space.
Tate Forcier & Brandon Minor are talented players that should excel in a second season under Rich Rodriguez's offense.
It'll be up to Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman, and the other LBs to lead the Nittany Lions to a win over Michigan.
Daryll Clark vs. Terrelle Pryor
These two QBs are likely the most talented QBs on the most talented teams in the Big Ten.
Just as Clark's matchup with Juice Williams will likely determine that game, it will be the same with Clark and Pryor.
As proven by last seasons slug-fest, it will be a game of inches. The team that can actually move the ball consistently and avoid the mistakes will win.
That all starts and ends with these quarterbacks.
Evan Royster vs. Ohio State's LBs
One way to keep Ohio State's explosive QB Terrelle Pryor in check, is to keep him off the field.
To do that, Penn State will have to run the ball and Evan Royster is their man at RB.
Coming off a very successful year in 2008, Royster will be counted on even more this season, due to Penn State's lack of proven playmakers on offense.
Penn State O-line vs. Ohio State D-line
In typical Big Ten fashion, the Penn St/Ohio St. game will be a battle of inches.
To win the game, you'll have to win the battle in the trenches.
Stefen Wisniewski, the Nittany Lions' new center, will be featured in this battle. He will be in charge of making the correct adjustments while going against a talented OSU D-line that includes Thaddeus Gibson, Doug Worthington, Dexter Larimore and Todd Denlinger.
Penn St DBs vs. Ohio St WRs
Once again, I'm returning to the Ohio State game, because I believe that the winner of this game will likely win the Big Ten.
Another key is for the Penn St DBs to keep the Ohio St. WRs from getting behind them, especially when Pryor starts to scramble.
If they can keep Ohio State from making a big play, they should be able to frustrate Pryor, and hopefully he'll make a costly mistake as he did last season.