Welcome to my third annual Penn State Football, game by game analysis. This will be an interesting year with one of the nation’s toughest road schedules, while featuring a young inexperienced quarterback, no matter who gets most of the snaps this year. Penn State will be the first school in the BCS era to face 3 teams that won a BCS game the previous year! On top of that, all three games will be on the road, and on top of that, they play Alabama who won the National Title in 2009. In addition, Joe Paterno enters the year just 6 wins shy of 400, and Evan Royster enters his senior season just 481 yards shy of the all time rushing mark at Penn State set by Curt Warner. With that said, let’s begin.
Game 1 vs. Youngstown State
The Penguins face a similar situation to Penn State this year breaking in a new quarterback while having a very tough road schedule. Coming off a 6-5 record in 2009, The Penguins hope to compete this year and get back to the D1AA playoffs (Bowl Subdivision). Week one at Penn State is not the ideal place to break in a new quarterback.
For Penn State this should be a glorified scrimmage, and in some ways may be easier than playing their own scout team. All signs point to Newsome getting the start here, but expect to see Robert Bolden and Matt McGloin get a lot of snaps. I really expect Robert Bolden to eventually take over the starting job based on what the scouts and inside sources are saying. He has definitely shown to be the most ready and talented of the three (Paul Jones has been Red Shirted).
Look for the staff to test out a few various formations and offensive lineman positions, but not too much as to keep some new additions to the playbook a secret for their big week 2 match up at Alabama.
Penn State wins this game easy.
Final Score: 41-10 Penn State goes to 1-0.
Game 2 @ Alabama
The toughest road schedule in the nation begins on September 11 @ Alabama. Alabama does lose a lot on defense from their National Title team, but we know that Nick Saban has done a great job recruiting so the holes should get filled. On offense they return their entire backfield and a quarterback who has never lost a game since middle school. I venture to guess this year they lose a game somewhere along this schedule (look for the Auburn game at the end of the year?!?!).
For Penn State, this game will be a rude awakening after their week one sleeper. Expect the Alabama defense to make the quarterback (whoever it may be at that point…Bolden hopefully) throw the ball to win the game. I do expect a couple big plays from Evan Royster, but for the most part, the running game will be diminished for Penn State.
The Nittany Lions will lose this game; however will they show that their defense is still strong even if they have lost a lot of key players since 2009. In the end the defense will be worn down by being on the field too much. I also expect this game to be very pivotal in the quarterback decision. Kevin Newsome will show that he is not ready to be a throwing quarterback while Robert Bolden shows that he can deliver the ball, along with being able to run when needed. I believe this game Bolden begins to separate himself from the other two as the future starter.
In what will be a better game than some may think; Alabama wins this game 20-10. Penn State moves to 1-1.
Game 3 vs. Kent State
After an emotional loss at Alabama, expect Penn State to come out a bit sluggish against an inferior Kent State team. Kent State is a talented team, and returns most of their starters. Barring injuries, which halted any potential this team had in 2009, Kent State should have a solid year and be near the top of the MAC conference.
This talent will show early in the game as The Golden Flashes take advantage of a sluggish Penn State squad. In the end, Penn State will wake up and just be too much for this Kent State team, which will gain some great experience in this road match up as they enter conference play.
Look for a big game for Evan Royster, following a tough match up against the Alabama front the previous week. Penn State will really show off their running game in this match up and the offensive line should start to gel here.
After an early scare, Penn State wins this one easy, 30-14 and moves to 2-1.
Game 4 vs. Temple
In its final warm up before Big Ten play, Penn State will face its second consecutive MAC opponent, this time it’s the Temple Owls, an in state “rival.”
Temple will be a tougher opponent than Kent State as they feature an outstanding running back in Bernard Pierce who will really test this in experienced Penn State Linebacker group. This is a team looking to get to that elusive 10 win season (9-4 in 2009) and this could be their year. Al Golden has done a great job instilling his inner Joe Paterno since arriving at Temple in 2006, and has shown improvement with his on field product every year.
This game will be more competitive than Penn State fans are used to seeing against Temple, who has become a common opponent the last few seasons. This is a team with experience and a team that should not be intimidated by the Beaver Stadium crowd, as they have been here before.
Penn State will be in for a battle throughout the day and will find that Robert Bolden can throw to win. Look for a big day in the air for Bolden and his receivers as Penn State comes back from a deficit to win this game in the fourth quarter 21-17. Penn State moves on to 3-1.
Game 5 @ Iowa
Since my freshman year at Penn State in 2000, I have seen just ONE Penn state victory over the Hawkeyes, and that came in 2007. Iowa has been a thorn in Joe’s side for many years now, and has helped ruin what could have been more successful seasons in 2002, 2008 and 2009. Luckily Iowa was off the schedule in 2005, that year Michigan played the spoiler!
Back to 2010 where Iowa returns most of its players from the team that won the 2010 Orange Bowl against ACC champions Georgia Tech. This is a team that does not win big or pretty but they win, mostly through their defense. They boast a solid offensive line, and maybe the best defensive line in the nation. They also have a quarterback who is prone to making mistakes, and last year was bailed out time and again by his defense.
I do expect Iowa to be very good this year. However, I do not think they can continue the way they played last year. Although they do return some weapons on offense, especially their senior wide out Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Ricky Stanzi will need to be much improved for this team to repeat what they did last year. Coming in with expectations is very different than being under the radar.
With that being said, Penn State will enter this night game as solid underdogs. This young team will have grown up fast through its first 4 games, with a road test in Alabama and a couple of gutsy wins against solid, but inferior opponents. I expect Penn State to go after the secondary of this Iowa defense, which although is solid, it is the weakest link of the defense. This should help open some of the run game up and allow for a well balance game out of the Penn State offense, which many don’t expect to see this year.
The Penn State defense is very strong, and its secondary is a strength, and will find a way to force Stanzi into a couple costly mistakes.
Look for a classic Penn State/Iowa match up and in the tradition of the underdog playing the spoiler, I am calling for the upset here.
Penn State wins this one 17-14, shocking the nation and putting itself in the mix for the Big Ten title. Penn State moves to 4-1 and gets near the top 10 in the rankings.
Game 6 vs. Illinois
Again, coming off an emotional game, Penn State shows they have a habit of starting out sluggish and look for an early scare from Illinois.
This is a team that has lost a lot of contributors from last year’s squad, which was not very good on either side of the ball. Familiar names like Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn are no long there and fresh faces will have a tough time this year, especially on the road. Ron Zook is coaching for his job this year so I do look for some inspired play, however this team will not be able to compete in the deep Big Ten this year.
Look for the early sluggishness to wear off, and Penn State will realize that they are in the thick of it for the Big Ten crown and eventually win this game going away, 27-10.
Note: Evan Royster passes Curt Warner in this game to become Penn State’s all time leading rusher.
Penn State moves to 5-1.
Game 7 @ Minnesota
Penn State enters this game with a chance to give their legendary coach his 400th win against a team that has lots of new faces on the sideline, and on the field.
The Golden Gophers face an uphill battle this year with a new offensive staff and nine new starters on defense. They do return their all time passing leader in Adam Weber, but will that be enough to do any damage in the Big Ten? I doubt it.
Penn State, coming off an easy home win and ready to get their coach his 400th win, will not be sluggish here. (Feels like just yesterday I was there to see Zach Mills lead Penn State to a come from behind victory at home against Ohio State in 2001 and give Joe Paterno his 324th win, passing Bear Bryant….how time flies). Penn State’s defense should be way too much for the inexperienced offense, and Penn State’s running attack is going to gash up the young Minnesota defense. Look for another easy win for Penn State getting Joe his 400th, unfortunately this one is on the road.
33-13 Penn State moves to 6-1.
Note: Joe Paterno will be carried off the field. Brace yourself for the ESPN “look back” at some of Joe’s most classic victories, his career etc…It may even be overload for a Penn State fanatic like myself….on second thought, that stuff never gets old!
Game 8 vs. Michigan (Night game, Halloween eve, ruled not an official White Out game…but we know better!)
For Michigan, this year is very important. This team will either take a step forward and show they are growing under Rich Rod, or they do not show much progress, meaning Rodriguez may be out at the end of the year. They have two early chances to prove where they stand with a home game against a strong UConn team, and then travel to South Bend to play Notre Dame. I say they split these two with a loss coming at Notre Dame.
Moving forward, Michigan should have a nice start to the season and enter this match up against Penn State at 5-2, with its other loss coming against Iowa. The Wolverines are a team with lots of talent, but also lots of youth making it hard for them to succeed on the road.
Like PSU, they have a 3 headed race at the QB position. Denard Robinson has shown lots of improvement in this offseason, while Tate Forcier has shown that he is not quite who we thought he was early last year. Also look out for freshman Devin Gardner who is bigger than the other two at 6’5 225lbs, and enrolled early so he could be a pivotal player in this quarterback race.
I do believe that Rich Rodriguez will make a bowl game this year and have a strong team; however a night game in Happy Valley will be too much for them.
The Penn State crowd and defense will cause multiple turnovers and Evan Royster will have a big game in his last “White Out”. Robert Bolden continues to get the majority of the snaps, however I do believe that Newsome, and even McGloin may still see some play time, even at this point in the season.
Penn State wins this one big 31-14 and moves to 7-1 and remains around the top 10 in the rankings.
Note: Remember the days when Penn State couldn’t beat Michigan? Not so much anymore! This will be 3 consecutive wins vs. The Wolverines!
Game 9 vs. Northwestern
Northwestern has become an extremely well coached team under Pat Fitzgerald and their spread offense has always given Penn State trouble. Dan Persa took over last year when Mike Kafka got hurt and gained some valuable experience and now returns to lead The Wildcats. He will also have his top wide out from last year in Drake Dunsmore.
Northwestern does lose some key pieces along the defensive front and one of its three Linebackers from last season which will cause some problems against strong running teams like Penn State.
The Nittany Lions will use Royster plenty in this game to take advantage of these loses which will allow them to control the clock. Look for Penn State to avoid its usual hangover following a big game and control this game early.
Penn State wins 27-13 and goes to 8-1 entering its match up against Ohio State, who will be undefeated - at this point.
Game 10 @ Ohio State
Ohio State enters this game with 2 key wins on the season, at home against Miami and on the road against Wisconsin. Penn State will be the first of another tough two game stretch where they will travel to Iowa after this game.
They Buckeyes will be looking to gain ground on the top ranked Crimson Tide and a win against Penn State would help this cause, giving them three key wins by November 13th. If they win this game, they may even jump Alabama who will be facing an inferior Mississippi State team at home on this date; we all know how the voters vote on a “What have you done for me lately” basis.
Terrell Pryor showed during the Rose Bowl that he can win at the collegiate level. This is his year to show that he can be the leader of a team that has very high expectations. All the pieces are in place. The offense returns 9 starters and the defense, which has shown to reload every year, returns 6.
Penn State will be ready for this game given its two tough road tests already. This team should be all grown up by this point in the season.
As with most of the Penn State/Ohio State match ups, this will be a defensive battle for most of the game. I expect the game to be close through the first half, but Ohio State, being at home and having the edge at quarterback (at this point) will win this game 24-13. Look for a key Penn State turnover in the fourth quarter.
Penn State drops out of the top 10 and moves to 8-2. Look for Ohio State to claim the top spot in the rankings upon winning this game.
Game 11 @ Indiana
This game will take place at Fed Ex field in Maryland, and is a home game for The Hoosiers, but this is a region Larry Johnson Sr. owns in recruiting.
Indiana has not been a very good football program in the Big Ten and things don’t look to be any different this year. On defense they only return 4 starters which will most likely allow too many points for the offense to recover from. The offense does return 8 starters and boasts some big wide outs that will give some opposing corner backs issues, but not enough to do any damage in the Big Ten.
Penn State wins this game easy with a well balance attack; 31-16.
Penn State moves 9-2 entering the last game of the season.
Game 12 vs. Michigan State
Entering this game, Penn State will be in alone in second place in the Big Ten with just one in conference loss, to Ohio State. Penn State will control its own destiny here for the at large bid for the Rose Bowl. (Ohio State will get the nod for the National Title game being undefeated).
Michigan State will return 7 starters on each side of the ball, so this is a team with lots of experience. 4th year Head Coach Mark Dantonio is excited about finally getting some of his own players into key positions on the team. Michigan State is always a competitive team in the Big Ten and is very capable of being the spoiler.
Many think this will be Joe Paterno’s last year as head coach, just based on his health and appearance at Big Ten Media Day. His contract does run through 2011, but all know Joe doesn’t care about contracts.
Expect this to be an emotional and close game. I would not be surprised if Penn State blows this game, as they have been known to lose one game a year to an inferior opponent and based on these projections, this has not happened yet. With that being said, I am going to give Penn State the win here in a game that goes the distance! Penn State wins its last game of the season 24-20 and moves to 10-2, earning a bid in the Rose Bowl against Pac Ten champions Stanford! (USC will be the unofficial Pac Ten Champions, but given the sanctions against them, Stanford, the two seed, will get the Rose Bowl nod.)
Penn State wins the 2011 Rose Bowl – 34-21…Joe Paterno gets carried off the field for the second time this season….is this the last time ever?!?!
I am going against the grain here and being extremely positive, however I see a 2005 aspect to this team, being under the radar and with the quarterback being a question mark, but having potential. Like in 2005, the wide receivers are very talented, although in 2005, we didn’t know that going into the season, this year we do! On top of that, this team has solid veteran leadership in Evan Royster and Stefen Wisniewski, and depth at every position on defense. The Nittany Lions will be hungry to win for Joe Paterno who is obviously nearing the end.
The Rest of the BCS Games:
BCS National Title Game: Ohio State (Big Ten) vs. Nebraska (Big 12)
*Nebraska’s last game as a member of the Big 12 will be for the National Title against The Big Ten Champions Ohio State, a team they will be facing on a yearly basis starting in 2011. Nice story for ESPN to run with.
All State Sugar Bowl: Auburn (SEC) vs. Texas (At Large)
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: UConn (Big East) vs. TCU (At Large)
Discover (no longer the Fed Ex) Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech (ACC) vs. Alabama (At Large)
*The Alabama at large pick will cause some controversy as Florida will be SEC East Champs. (Auburn and Alabama are both in the SEC West). However, after the loss to Auburn in the SEC Championship game, Florida will have two loses, one of which is a regular season loss to Alabama on October 2. Alabama, in the tougher SEC West, along with the head to head win will get the bid over Florida.