Making a run at the Big Ten Crown again and the Rose Bowl….again

Paul SalmanSenior Analyst IAugust 25, 2009

Welcome to the second annual – Penn State Season Preview. Last year Penn State finished 11-2 with a loss to Iowa and to USC in the Rose Bowl. My predictions were right on minus the Iowa loss - I said we would lose to Ohio State. This year I hope to be wrong again but in the other direction and we end BETTER then my predictions.

This year Penn State returns a leader at quarterback along with the entire backfield. Some questions are yet to be answered about the wide receivers, all of whom have limited experience. The offensive line is also being rebuilt and it will be very important that they take advantage of early non conference games to gel and get ready for the Big Ten schedule when running the ball and giving Clark time will be essential.

The defense will remain a strong point; however the secondary brings in 4 new starters. The front seven will need to put lots of pressure on opposing quarterbacks in order to alleviate the pressure on the inexperienced secondary.

With that being said, here is this year opponent by opponent analysis and how each game will play out. I have also added a new “3 Thing To Look For” in each game analysis.

Week 1- 9/5/09 - vs. Akron Zips

The 2009 campaign begins on September 5th at Noon at Beaver Stadium with the Akron Zips (5-7 in 2008) of the MAC Conference coming to State College. Offensively, Akron presents a nice opening week challenge for a young secondary that the Nittany Lions are starting this year. With all 4 of last year’s starters gone, this will be an area that many teams will try to test. The tests should begin early with four of Akron’s leading receivers, including Deryn Bowser and Andre Jones returning for the 2009 season. With their two top running backs from 2008 gone, Akron’s offense will focus around these 4 experienced receivers.


Although projected starting CB A.J. Wallace will miss the first 2-3 games due to missing classes, CB’s Knowledge Timmons and true sophomore D’Anton Lynn will need to start out strong and show that they may not have experience, but they have the talent.


On the offensive line, Akron returns 4 of 5 starters who will protect their veteran quarterback Chris Jacquemain. Both the Penn State defensive line, and the linebackers will all focus on attacking Jacquemain who will rely heavily on his protection and wide receivers. This attack should help the secondary contain Akron’s experience at the wide receiver position.
On the defensive side of the ball, Akron is just not very good. They were tenth in overall defense in their conference in 2008, and have lost leading tackler Kevin Grant, along with a few key pieces in their secondary. This will help the young wide receivers get on their feet to start the 2009 season against an inexperienced Akron secondary. They will also get to work through some unique coverage’s as Akron employs the 3-3-5 set up on defensive.


Getting to the quarterback was also an issue in 2008 for Akron. The inexperience of the Penn State line will not be tested in this opening game and should provide Clark with plenty of time and a clean jersey.


3 things to look for: A big opening game for Evan Royster; Chaz Powell, now wearing number 2 reminding us of Derrick Williams with some trick plays to him; Curtis Drake to open our eyes as a potential big PR/KR threat.


Between the powerful front 7, and experience running game, with some flashes of stretching the field in this opening game, Penn State wins this game 45-10 covering the 26.5 opening spread.

Week 2 - 9/12/09 – vs. Syracuse

A new coach, Doug Marrone and a new Point Guard – I mean Quarterback, Greg Paulus have arrived this year for the Syracuse Football program. This is a program with history and pride, but has been shell of that for the last decade. Coming off a 3-9 2008 season, including a 55-13 blowout at home vs. Penn State, The Orange are hoping a new coach, new quarterback and the return of Wide Receiver Mike Williams (who was suspended in 2008 for academic reasons) will help rejuvenate this team.


Last year Quarterback Cameron Dantley, threw 11 touchdowns, 5 interceptions and had just a 48.2 completion percentage. This year, Greg Paulus will take the reign at Quarterback and he will not have running back Curtis Brinkley who was the main source for moving the chains in 2008. Paulus will be looking for Mike Williams early and often this season as that will be his main weapon. Williams is also hoping to have a big year and get back in front of NFL scouts eyes. Paulus will have to get Williams the ball fast as this is an offensive line that allowed almost 2.5 sacks a game last year, ranking them 98th in the country in that category. Hopefully, for Syracuse’ sake, Paulus can use his basketball skills to help him scramble around the pocket and buy some time.


On defense, Syracuse returns 7 starters on a unit that ranked 101st in the nation last year, including a secondary that allowed over 200 yards a game last year, and a front seven that only averaged just over 1 sack a game. This again will allow the inexperience of Penn State offensive line and wide receiving to get some more practice and time to gel early in the season.
In the end, I believe this will be a big game for Clark and his wide receivers who will stretch the field and expose a weak Syracuse defense. The front 7 will create problems for Greg Paulus in just his second start as a college quarterback, which will also allow the young Penn State secondary to have more time to cover Mike Williams.


3 things to look for: Kevin Newsome to make his first of a few appearances in some mop up time at the end of this game to get him some in game experience in preparation for 2010 when he takes over as the starting quarterback; Derek Moye catching some deep balls reminding us of Deon Butler; DE Jack Crawford stepping up and making a name for himself as our next leading threat on the outside.


Penn State takes this game 56-7 moving to 2-0 on the year.

Week 3 – 9/19/09 - vs. Temple

Entering the third week of the season, the youth and inexperience of the Penn State offensive line and wide receivers have not been tested. This week however will be the first minor hurdle the Penn State offense will face.

Temple returns 8 starters on a defense that allowed just 23 points a game last year (although Penn State scored 45 on them). 5 of these returning starters are on the front seven, including DE Junior Galette who tallied 7.5 sacks last year and is ready for a big senior season. This front seven will result in the offensive line getting a nice test 3 weeks into the season and will need to work to create some running lanes for Evan Royster and Stephfon Green, while giving Daryll Clark some time to pass as the wide receivers work through an experienced secondary.
As for that secondary, 3 of 4 members return, each of who had 3 interceptions in 2008. Safety Jaiquawn Jarrett is ready to emerge as all MAC Safety. The secondary may create some problems for the Penn State wide receivers that at this point in the season will need a minor test in preparation for the Big Ten schedule. They will finally have to do some work to get open and help quarterback Daryll Clark.


On the offensive side of the ball, Temple returns most of its starters who ranked last in their conference and 107th nationally. Passing was the strength of this offense, however starting quarterback Adam DiMichele has moved on and new starting quarterback Chester Stewart will have to deal with an offensive line that ranked 98th nationally. The key to this offense will be both returning running back Key-ayre Griffin and Joe Jones. The Penn State front seven will create many problems for the Temple offensive line and quarterback. They will not be able to run the ball, forcing Temple to throw the ball to have any chance allowing the Penn State secondary to get a nice day of work, which again is great in terms of preparation for the Big Ten schedule set to begin.


3 things to look for: Sean Lee to show that the rust after a year on the sideline is gone; D’Anton Lynn to have a nice day playing CB and have an interception (look for a pick 6?); Penn State Offensive Line to start out slow and giving up an early sack or two before having a nice second half giving Clark and his wide receivers some time to open up the offense.
Penn State takes this game 35-6 moving to 3-0 on the year and ready for the big ten season to begin.

Week 4 - 9/26/09 – vs. Iowa

Remember November 8, 2008? I do, and I know this Penn State Football team and Joe Paterno do as well. This game has been circled on the calendar since November 9, 2008 and this Penn State team will be fired up for an 8pm start with a White Out being called for this game. This is a formula that has worked for Penn State over the last couple years; avenge a loss from the previous season by scheduling that team for a night home game, a full stadium white out, and a fired up Penn State team. Just ask Notre Dame in 2007 and Illinois in 2008.
After ending the 2008 season very strong, winning 6 of their last 7, including the win over undefeated and 3rd ranked Penn State Nittany Lions (at the time), Iowa is a sexy pick in the Big Ten. I however beg to differ.


Iowa returns 8 starters on a defense that led the Big Ten with just 13 points per game allowed. The defense will remain stingy, although both starting defensive tackles are gone. Inside Linebacker Pat Angerer (what a great name for LB) who had 107 tackles, 1 sack and 5 interception, along with the solid secondary will cause teams in the Big Ten problems, forcing most to focus on their running game and expose the main weakness being the two new defensive tackles.


On the offensive side of the ball, Iowa returns quarterback Ricky Stanzi, leading receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, along with 3 of 5 members of the offensive line. However the loss of running back Shonne Green, who was the key to the Hawkeyes late season success will put much more pressure on Stanzi and his offensive line this year. This is an offense that ranked 53rd in the nation last year with the running game being 26th and the major strength of the offense. Look for a major drop off here resulting in more pressure on the defense to keep the Hawkeyes in the game due to lack of offensive fire power.


3 things to look for: A crowd ranking in the top 3 all time to attend a Penn State game. I want to go off on a limb and predict even more than the 2002 Nebraska game, however nothing seems to be able to surpass that crowd (110,753); The Penn State defensive to force multiple turnovers with some help from crowd noise; A big game for Daryll Clark who has a major chip on his shoulder after last year game. I predict that he will have a big game passing and running. The wide receivers will impress with the ability to get open against an experienced Iowa secondary.
Penn State wins this game 31-10 moving to 4-0.

Week 5 – 10/3/09 – @ Illinois

Although I want to believe that this year is different given how fired up Joe is about having a perfect season, I have to go with history here and say this is going to be a tough opening road game after an emotional night game the previous week.


After a Rose Bowl bid in 2007, 2008 was supposed to be a great year for Illinois, but in fact turned out to be a huge disappointment with Illinois not even gaining a bowl bid.


This year however, Illinois is poised to be one of the most dangerous offenses in the Big Ten. Three key returning leaders are back - Juice Williams, in his fourth year as starting quarterback, and Arrelious Benn as the best Wide Reciever in the big ten and one of the best in the nation, and 2nd year starting running back Daniel Dufrene. All three will benefit from 3 of the 5 offensive linemen returning for the 2009 season. Last year Juice led the team in passing and rushing but this year look for Dufrene to get his share and be the team’s leading rusher.


Illinois will have issues on the defensive side of the ball. They lose 6 starters, including cornerback Vontae Davis and both of their defensive ends. The total defense last year with these key starters ranked 56th in the nation and the strength came along the front seven which ranked 17th nationally and first in the big ten with 2.7 sacks per game. This defense will experience a major drop off in 2009 and will need the offense to score enough points in order to stay in games.


Illinois road to this game is very different from Penn States. Illinois has to face Missouri and travel to Ohio State within the first 4 weeks of the season. The team will be tested and know more about its strengths and weaknesses as this point in the season than the Nittany Lions. Assuming this game will start later in the day, the home crowd will be pumped and ready to avenge last year loss at Penn State.


Last season Illinois scored the most points against Penn State of any team that Penn State beat (24), and that was against a defense which had a more experienced secondary. I look for a similar situation this year, especially being a home game and getting the Nittany Lions fresh off an emotional win against Iowa the previous week.


3 things to look for: Look for the Penn State offense to be out of sync early and not take advantage of a weak Illinois defense; new kicker CollinWagner will get lots of work this game as PSU struggle to get into the end zone; Look for a big second half by Evan Royster against a weak Illinois defense getting PSU in a position to win the game.


Penn State loses a heart breaker, and their annual road clunker 27-26 moving them to 4-1 on the season and out of the top 10 ranking.

Week 6 – 10/10/09 – vs. Eastern Illinois

Not much to preview here as DIAA (or the FBS as it’s now known) Eastern Illinois comes to State College to play an angry Penn State football team. EIU can try to bank on the fact that quarterback Jake Christensen, who transferred from Iowa in the off-season, has started a game at Penn State in 2007 (although it was a 27-7 loss) and was on the Iowa team that beat Penn State in 2008. However that will not be enough for a D1AA school to do much damage against the Nittany Lions on this day at Beaver Stadium.


3 things to look for: Huge bounce back game for Daryll Clark and his receivers; Curtis Drake returns his first punt for a touchdown; Penn State’s front seven wreak havoc for the EIU offensive line.


Penn State wins this game big 63-3 and is now 5-1.

Week 7 – 10/17/09 – vs. Minnesota

Penn State has not played Minnesota in 2 years so this will be a new matchup for this team of returning starters. The Nittany Lions will be matched up against a team that is returning 18 starters, including 10 on offense. Quarterback Adam Weber was very efficient last season completing 62% of his passes, most of which went to wide receiver Eric Decker who caught 84 receptions for 1,074 yards. He is easily the second best wide receiver in the conference after Illinois’ Arrelious Benn, and is also a top wide receiver nationwide. He will cause many mismatches for the Penn State secondary, which at this point will have half a season of experience under its belt.


The offensive line for the Golden Gophers returns all 5 starters which may not necessarily be a good thing given that they ranked 90th in the nation in sacks allowed (2.3 per game). However, given how well the passing game was last year with this offensive line, it’s safe to say that experience will make this line better, in turn improving a run game that ranked last in the Big Ten and 104th in the nation last year.


On the defensive side of the ball, the Gophers struggled last year and bring in a new coordinator this year. The key to their limited defensive success last year was defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg, who is no longer a part of the team, had 19 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks and contributed to a .92 turnover margin which was 2nd in the Big Ten and 16th in the nation. Outside of this, the Golden Gophers defense was not good in 2008 and replacing VanDeSteeg will be very difficult.


Penn State will be able to run the ball all over this defense which will open a big passing day for Clark and his wide receivers. Penn State’s secondary will struggle with the Golden Gophers passing game at first, however once the running game is shut down, the secondary, with some help from the linebackers will be able to contain the passing and pull this game out.
Penn State pulls out a win that looks more lopsided then it really was. This game may start out a bit of a shoot out until the second half when the Penn State defense finds a way to slow the Minnesota passing game.


3 things to look for: Evan Royster continues his successful year with another big game on the ground and receiving, which will be a new aspect he will add to his game this year; Look for Eric Decker to have a very big game against the PSU secondary; Look for the Penn State front seven to hold the Gophers to under 50 yards on the ground.


Penn State wins 38-21 and moves to 6-1.

Week 8 – 10/24/09 – @ Michigan

Welcome to the house of horrors. This is a place where Joe Paterno has not won since 1996. Penn State has many bad memories from The Big House. However there is reason to believe this year will be different.


At this point in the season, it will be interesting to see if Coach Rodridguez is still sticking with freshman quarterback Tate Forcier or if he goes back to last year’s part-time starter Nick Sheridan. If Forcier is still the quarterback, it’s safe to say that he is having a respectable first half and showing signs of being the quarterback of the future for Michigan and capable of running Rodridguez’s style of offense.


Outside of Forcier, 11 starters return and that is the key for this type of offense which takes time to learn. Although they went 3-9 last year, the experience will help Michigan improve on the offensive side of the ball which ranked last in the Big Ten in every category and 109th in the nation. Against the Penn State front seven, expect Michigan to struggle with the run game although spreading the field will help Michigan move the ball.


The defense was the bright spot of last season, although it was hard for them to keep up given the amount of time they spent on the field due to lack of offensive production. 6 key players on defense are gone, however returning LB Obi Ezeh (leading tackler) and DE Brandon Graham(20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 2008) are key to this defenses success. If the defense as a whole is going to have any success, the will need some other players to step up and help these two.
Although this is a place where Penn State struggles, I believe that this year they come out strong in this game. Penn State will be able to control the clock and run the ball keeping the Michigan defense on the field. I believe the Penn State defense, after a slow start against Forcier and the spread option offense, will adjust and force him to turn to the passing game to stay in the game, which will be a problem for Michigan.


Expect this to be a grind it out Big Ten game with lots of running. Penn State always plays conservative in road games, especially at The Big House.


3 things to look for: Both Stephfon Green and Evan Royster to have over 100 yards rushing and Evan Royster will cross the 1000 yard mark for the season in this game; Navorro Bowman will have a huge game here running around containing the spread option; Not many big passing plays and lots of use of the Tight Ends in this game – Andrew Quarless has a career day.


Penn State wins this game 24-13 moving to 7-1.

Week 9 – 10/31/09 – @ Northwestern

Penn State’s last trip to Northwestern was a memorable one and the beginning of Derrick Williams’s career at Penn State. I think we all remember the 4th and 15 pass by Michael Robinson to Isaac Smolko (who is currently on the Ravens practice squad), followed by Robinson’s underthrown pass that D-Will adjusted for and scored the game winning touchdown. That was the beginning of the return of Penn State Football. Now, 4 years late Penn State returns to Chicago.


This is a Northwestern team coming off a 9-4 season with a loss in the Alamo Bowl. They return 8 starters on defense including DE Corey Wootton who is coming off a knee injury in the Alamo Bowl. If he is healthy, he should perform as he did last year, leading the team with 10 sacks. The secondary, lead by safety Brad Phillips, all return for their second full season together and should improve on their 71st ranked pass defense of last year. Key losses include DT John Gill and DE Kevin Mims. To make up for this, the rest of the defense will need to step up allowing time for the D-Line to gel.


On offense, The Wildcats lose quarterback C.J. Bacher and running back Tyrell Sutton, however, both were hurt most of last season giving the back-up players lots of game experience. QB Mike Kafka and RB Stephen Simmons both return and will start this year. Red Shirt freshman running back Alex Daniel will also be in the mix for carries. The key on offense will be the offensive line. Despite losing some players at skill positions, the entire line comes back and this was a line that ranked second in the Big Ten last year in sacks allowed, and 18th in the nation. If the line provides Bacher with time, which all signs point to that they will, and gives the running game lanes to run through, the offense should be able to score some points to stay in games.


Penn State should be able to run and pass at relative ease on the Northwestern defense. The key will be how the defensive line of Penn State matches up against the offensive line of Northwestern. If the Nittany Lions front seven is able to penetrate into the Wildcats backfield, which I expect they will, this game should be relatively easy for Penn State.


3 things to look for: Another sluggish offensive start to a late season road game for Penn State; Evan Royster will continue a big second half of the season with a big game against a weak Northwestern defensive front; the game to remain close in the first half with Penn State pulling away in the second half.


Penn State wins this game 38-14 moving to 8-1 and solidifies a top 10 match up vs. Ohio State next week.

Week 10 – 11/7/09 – vs. Ohio State

First of all to really gauge how big this game will be we have to take a look at where Ohio State will be at this point. I really believe they will be 9-0 and in the top 5 at this point. This means I think they will beat USC at home in week 2 of the season. I don’t feel that Ohio State is necessarily better then USC, especially at the skill position, but I do feel that being at home against a freshman quarterback in Matt Barkely will help Ohio State win the game. Their defensive front will still be intact this season and be able to cause Barkely many problems. The USC defense loses 8 starters from the 2008 team and although we know how they reload, they may need a couple weeks to really mesh. We also have seen how USC defenses have trouble with mobile QB’s and Pryor has the ability to make Vince Young type plays with his feet, which as USC knows, is very dangerous.


With that being said, Ohio State’s defense will be very good this year. They return 3 of 4 starters on the defensive line and in the secondary. They will be able to pressure quarterback and contain the pass. The key will be the loss at the linebacker position which will allow teams to have some room to run, if the linebackers don’t step up. Ohio State has depth at the linebacker position and players with some game experience, a couple who were 4 star recruits like Ross Homan and Andrew Sweat. So, although the unit will be the weakest on the defensive side, it should be ok given how strong the line and secondary are.


I believe the Penn State offense will have to focus on the run in this game to have success. Ohio States secondary will be tough to pass on, especially with young wide receivers. I do believe at this point in the season the wide receivers will have enough experience and show that they are not much of a down grade from last year, however I think establishing the run with Royster and Green will be key in this game. Penn State will have to make the linebackers and secondary of Ohio State work and bite on the run in order to open up the passing game. In addition, we know in these big games late in the season, Joe goes to the grind it out style so expect a heavy dose of Royster/Green combo.


On offense I really believe Ohio State will struggle all year outside of Pryor making big plays with his feet. They do return most of their offensive line, but losing their Hartline and Robiskie as their top receiving threats, along with running back Chris Wells will hurt a lot. At this point in the year they should have established their new threats, but I don’t expect them to be as good as what they had. A lot of pressure will be on Pryor this year who is only a sophomore, and showed last year that he has a lot of work to do in order to improve his passing game.


Playing a night game on the road is something that Pryor will not have done in his career until this match up on November 7th. Some may bring up USC last year but he did not start and once he came in he was not expected to be a savior in week 2 of his career. Since then his biggest road test was at Wisconsin in 2008 where he did win in dramatic fashion by using his feet. However it was his error that caused the loss at home last year to Penn State. Playing at Penn State, at night (time is still TBD but I am pretty sure this will be a late afternoon or evening game), in a game of this magnitude, with a rowdy crowd who wants to stick it to him for leaving the state of Pennsylvania and going to hated rival Ohio State is not an atmosphere Pryor will be familiar with. I think this will affect his game, especially because at this point I am sure he will be very confident given how his season has been playing out. He will be due for a wakeup call.


I believe the experience and speed of the Penn State defensive line and linebackers will be able to force Pryor to pass, which will not be a good thing for Ohio State. I believe this will be your typical low scoring close game that we are used to seeing when these two teams match up.


3 things to look for: Evan Royster and Stephfon Green to combine for over 30 carries; A key defensive takeaway to lead to a game winning scoring drive; Multiple false starts by the Ohio State offense due to the Penn State crowd.


Penn State wins another close matchup with Ohio State 20-17 and move to 9-1 and passing Ohio State in the polls moving up around 5 in the AP and BCS poll. This game will put Penn State in control of its own destiny for a 3rd Big Ten Title in 5 years and 2nd consecutive Rose Bowl bid.

Week 11 – 11/14/09 – vs. Indiana

As a Penn State fan, I know that the team always struggles the week after an emotional game, win or lose. Indiana at home is a perfect match up for the Nittany Lions following the Ohio State game because even if they start sluggish, Indian just does not have enough fire power to do much damage in this game.


Indiana returns there jack of all trades Kellen Lewis who was the team leader in 2008 in passing and rushing, and will start 2009 as a wide receiver. Ben Chappell who split time as quarterback last season will be this year’s starter and Lewis will be his only offensive weapon. The offensive line does return all five starters so if they can give Chappell some time, Indiana may be able to have some big plays during the season by getting the ball to Lewis. However it won’t be enough to win many games.


On defense the story is not much better. Although they return 8 starters, this was a unit that ranked dead last in the Big Ten last year and 107th nationally. The main strength is at the defensive end position where Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton can get some pressure on the quarterback. Outside of that, the rest of the defense is sub-par and Penn State should be able to pass the ball at ease in this game, once they get over their Ohio State game hang over.


3 things to look for: Daryll Clark and his wide receivers have big games (pending the weather of course); Indiana is held to under 200 yards of total offense; A quiet crowd at the beginning of the game because I expect this to be a 12pm start time and coming off Ohio State the crowd will be late and drowsy this week.


Penn State wins this game 33-6, moves to 10-1 and remains around 5 in the AP and BCS ranks.


Week 12 – 11/14/09 – @ Michigan State


Michigan State is another sexy pick in the Big Ten this year, but I however disagree. They need to replace their quarterback Brian Hoyer (who is now learning from Tom Brady) and running back Javon Ringer who is now a member of the Tennessee Titans.


Last season the game plan was pretty much hand the ball to Ringer. This year The Spartans have to replace multiple skill positions and have lots of youth at the wide receiver position. Luckily they to return 3 of their offensive linemen, but that will not be enough for the offense to be a serious threat.


The key to this team will be the defense which ranked in the middle of the pack last year in the Big Ten and returns 8 starters. The strength lies in the middle with all 3 linebackers back including Junior Greg Jones who lead the team with 127 tackles last year and is ready to be the team leader. They lose 2 members of last year defensive line, but do return senior DE Trevor Anderson who led the team with 8 sacks last year. The secondary is also intact so overall the defense will need to carry this team.


Like in 2005, Penn State will be playing on the road for the Big Ten Title and BCS birth. I believe they will not come out and be their “sluggish selves” in this road game and the defense should dominate a weak Spartans offense. I expect another big game on the ground for Evan Royster in his last regular season game, and maybe his last college game.


3 things to look for: A really cold day in East Lansing – look for possible Snow (yes I am now forecasting the weather for late November); multiple takeaways by the Penn State defense; Roses on the sideline by the middle of the fourth quarter.


Penn State wins this game 24-7 – 11-1 on the season, Back to Back Big Ten Titles and Back to Back Rose Bowl’s!

January 1, 2010 – Rose Bowl


Based on my Ohio State preview, you already know that I expect USC to have at least 1 loss. I also think they may suffer a loss at Oregon on Halloween. As mentioned above, USC struggles with spread offenses especially a quirky one like the one Chip Kelly runs up in Eugene, Oregon. Jeremiah Masoli showed us in the second half of last year (going 6-1) that he is capable of running this offense as Dennis Dixon once did. I do think Oregon will end up losing one other game in the Pac10 (maybe at Stanford or UCLA) giving them 2 in conference loses resulting in USC, who will have 2 overall loses, but just 1 in conference loss, to be the Pac 10 champs for the 8th straight year.


Based on this, we will have 11-1 Penn State at the Rose Bowl to face 10-2 USC, in a rematch of the 2009 Rose Bowl.


USC reloads extremely well every year under Pete Caroll, we all know that, however this year reloading won’t be an issue on the offensive side of the ball as they return 9 starters including the entire front line. Matt Barley has been touted as the next John Elway/Joe Montana and if he performs at even a fraction of that, this USC offense, with all the weapons and protection around Barkley, should be explosive.


The major question around USC will be how the defense reloads after losing 8 starters, most of which went to the NFL including 3 of the best Linebackers to every play at USC in Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga and Clay Matthews. In the secondary they return safety Taylor Mays, but he is the lone returning player in this young depleted secondary. However, USC recruits extremely well and although they may take a step back from last year’s top ranked defense, blue chip prospects should fare well and keep this defense ranked pretty high.


I believe Penn State will match up much better with USC this year. Penn State will have the experienced defense against a young quarterback and an experienced leader at quarterback against a young offense.


I think this will help Penn State move the ball well on the USC defense. Penn State scored 24 points on USC’s defense last year which was more than any USC opponent. Penn State also had more offensive yards (410) than any of USC’s opponents last year. With this year’s defense being weaker for USC, I believe Penn State will be able to do more of the same.


On the other side of the ball, the match up will be very close. Most of the players in this year’s Penn State defense vs. USC offense match-up return from the 2008 Rose Bowl. I think this time Penn State will fare better against a freshman quarterback. They will need to make sure to pressure him and confuse him because as we know, Penn State has first year starters in the secondary against an experienced group of wide receivers for USC.


3 things to look for: Daryll Clark to come out very strong early in his last game at Penn State and ready to make a name for himself in the upcoming draft; Key Penn State takeaway in the 4th quarter to lock this game up; Joe Paterno gets carried off the field.


In the end Penn State will be able to move the ball against the USC defense and outscore the USC offense. Penn State will win this year’s Rose Bowl 38-31.


There you have it. Penn State will end 12-1 this year with a Big Ten Title – its 3rd in 5 seasons, and its second Rose Bowl victory since joining the Big Ten in 1993.


Here’s to another great season, and here’s to hoping I am wrong and Penn State can find a way to finish 13-0 and win the OTHER Rose Bowl game this year!
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