Penn State Football Schedule 2011: What to Know for Each Game

Kevin McGuire@KevinOnCFBAnalyst IIAugust 6, 2011

Penn State Football Schedule 2011: What to Know for Each Game

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    Penn State is coming off a 7-6 season and begins play in a new Big Ten in 2011. The Nittany Lions will enter the season as a slight underdog in the Big Ten Leaders Division with Wisconsin and Ohio State predicted by many to be the top two contenders. 

    On the following slides is a breakdown of the 2011 schedule, with some basic information on each game this season including series history, kickoff times and television information where available. This will be updated as needed once more information becomes available in regard to television coverage.

    Kevin McGuire is the national college football writer for Examiner.com. Follow his college football discussion on Google+ and Twitter. Become a fan of him on Facebook.

    Helmet images credited to The Helmet Project.

Penn State vs. Indiana State, September 3, 2011, 12:00 P.M.

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    TV: Big Ten Network

    Series History: First meeting

    Penn State has never lost to a school from the FCS, and that trend should continue against the Indiana State Sycamores, who are in the middle of the pack in the Missouri Valley Conference. Penn State is 4-0 against FCS opponents.

    Penn State opened the 2010 season with a 44-14 victory against FCS Youngstown State but trailed after one quarter. It was the only time Penn State ever trailed an FCS opponent.

    In 2009 Penn State defeated Eastern Illinois 52-3, and in 2008 Penn State smashed Coastal Carolina 66-10 in the season opener. Penn State won the first game they ever played against an FCS program when they defeated Youngstown State 37-3 in 2006, a week after losing to Notre Dame in South Bend. 

    What to Watch

    Do not expect much creativity from the offense, which is typical under Joe Paterno in a situation like this. The Nittany Lions take on Alabama the following week, so they will be playing a vanilla scheme.

    The visiting Crimson Tide do not have much game film to study for the Week 2 match-up of traditional powers.

Penn State vs. Alabama, September 10, 2011, 3:30 P.M.

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    TV: ABC, ESPN, ESPN2

    Series History: Alabama leads 8-5

    The Alabama Crimson Tide make a rare appearance by an SEC program in to Big Ten territory in the back-end of a home-and-home series with Penn State. It will be the first time the Tide have played in Beaver Stadium since taking a 17-16 decision in 1989.

    Alabama defeated Penn State, led by freshman quarterback Rob Bolden in his second game, 24-3.  

    What to Watch

    How much has Penn State grown in a year?

    Last year the blue and white were still trying to find themselves at quarterback and on the offensive line. A year has passed, and if Penn State is going to stun the second-ranked team in the USA Today Coaches Poll, they will need to find ways to progress from last year's meeting, which means converting on red zone opportunities.

    Alabama may be a BCS title contender. For Penn State, this will be an early measuring stick type of game.

Penn State @ Temple, September 17, 2011, 12 P.M.

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    TV: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU

    Series History: Penn State leads 36-3-1

    Joe Paterno has never lost to the Owls, who will play host in this year's game in Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Penn State has not lost to Temple since losing for the third time in four meetings in 1941.

    Temple let their best opportunity to upset the Nittany Lions slip through their fingers last year in State College, with Penn State coming from behind in the second half to edge the visitors 22-13.  

    What to Watch

    Running backs found some success against the Penn State defense in 2010, more than usual. Temple's Bernard Pierce had some early success against the Penn State defense, and if he is healthy, he could present some problems for Penn State. 

Penn State vs. Eastern Michigan, September 24, 2011, 12 P.M.

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    TV: TBA

    Series History: Penn State leads 1-0

    Penn State last played Eastern Michigan a season before officially joining the Big Ten, in 1992. Penn State won the only meeting between the two programs, 52-7.

    Paterno has lost to MAC programs just once in his career, and this year's second MAC game should be a cakewalk for Penn State. 

    What to Watch

    The Eastern Michigan game should be a light one for Penn State, and a good opportunity to iron out any remaining wrinkles on offense and defense before starting up Big Ten play.

    The Eagles ranked among the bottom of just about every possible statistical category in college football on both sides of the ball, so this could be a game in which a number of Nittany Lions get to see some playing time.

    After a game against Alabama and a road game against Temple, the starting quarterback job could be firmly in place by this point.

Penn State @ Indiana, October 1, 2011, TBA

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    TV: TBA

    Series History: Penn State leads 14-0

    Since joining the Big Ten, Penn State is undefeated against the Indiana Hoosiers. Penn State picked up their 14th straight win a season ago in a game played in FedEx Field in Washington D.C.

    The game was an Indiana home game moved from Bloomington upon invitation from the Washington Redskins. No change in scenery this time around, but the result should still end up being the same. A win for Penn State.

    What to Watch

    Penn State can set the tone in the Big Ten Leaders Division with a win against a program that is sitting on the bottom right now. Indiana picked up some great recruiting buzz with landing the nation's top quarterback recruit, but he won't be helping the Hoosiers this season.

    Advantage: Penn State.

Penn State vs. Iowa, October 8, 2011, TBA

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    TV: TBA

    Series History: Iowa leads 12-11

    There is no sugar-coating this series history.

    Kirk Ferentz and Iowa just flat out own Penn State since 2000. The Hawkeyes have won all but one meeting between the two schools (2007). Iowa handed Penn State their second 24-3 loss of the season on the road, dropping Penn State to 3-2. 

    What to Watch

    Penn State's offense has had trouble going up against the Iowa defense in recent years, but maybe this could be the year Penn State has the upper hand.

    The offensive line is looking to be more stable than many will give them credit for. If they can hold strong against Alabama, then doing so against Iowa should be likely. If not, this could be another rough one for the quarterback and running game.

Penn State vs. Purdue, October 15, 2011, 12 P.M.

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    TV: TBA

    Series History: Penn State leads 10-3-1

    Penn State has only lost to Purdue twice since joining the Big Ten (2003 and 2004). Penn State won the most recent meeting between the two with a 20-6 decision in 2008 in Lafayette. Penn State is 5-1-1 all-time against Purdue in games played in State College.

    This will be Penn State's second Leaders Division game.

    What to Watch

    Purdue was one of the bottom feeders in 2010, but they return a number of players who took advantage of playing time last year. How much of an impact will that early playing time have on the team this year? Whatever it is, Penn State should still look like a favorite by the time this game comes around.

    With a homecoming crowd on hand, Paterno will be sure to not send the alumni home with a disappointing homecoming loss for a second straight season. 

Penn State @ Northwestern, October 22, 2011, 7 P.M.

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    TV: Big Ten Network

    Series History: Penn State leads 11-3

    Penn State's second most lopsided series record among Big Ten opponents is against Northwestern, but the Wildcats have a history of playing tough against the Nittany Lions. A season ago Penn State rallied in the second half to pick up Joe Paterno's 400th career victory.

    Penn State has won four straight meetings. 

    What to Watch

    Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa is one of the best players in the Big Ten, and he can make defenses pay for mistakes.

    Penn State has been lauded for having one of the top secondaries in the Big Ten, though, so in order for Persa to do some damage, he may need to rely on running the football, which should play in Penn State's favor if the linebackers are playing well.

Penn State vs. Illinois, October 29, 2011, TBA

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    TV: TBA

    Series History: Penn State leads 14-4

    Penn State head coach Joe Paterno said he was embarrassed by the way his team played last year against Illinois, at home. The 33-13 homecoming loss was one of the worst of Paterno's career, and he admitted it freely.

    It was just the third win for Illinois in the series since Penn State joined the conference. 

    What to Watch

    Illinois shoved Penn State around last season, but do not look for the same kind of performance in 2011. Penn State will have a more stable offensive line and the defense, if they can stay healthy, should be tougher to push around.

    Illinois still has quarterback and playmaker Nathan Scheelhaase to focus on, but the Illini lose their top offensive player from last season in running back Mikel Leshoure, who rushed for 119 yards last year against Penn State.

    If Penn State can avenge last season's loss to Illinois, it should set them up nicely to control their own Leaders Division fate heading into the final couple of games of the regular season.

Penn State vs. Nebraska, November 12, 2011, TBA

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    TV: TBA

    Series History: Penn State leads 7-6

    Nebraska joins the Big Ten this season, and with that Penn State has a new annual rivalry to look forward to (thanks for filling up some time Michigan State).

    The Huskers make their first trip to Beaver Stadium since getting blasted 40-7 in 2002. Nebraska got the most recent laugh though with an 18-10 win in Lincoln in 2003. 

    What to Watch

    Penn State's final home game of the season may not be one that determines the division race, but it could play as a Big Ten championship game preview.

    Nebraska enters the Big Ten as one of the favorites in the Legends Division, and if Penn State beats Indiana, Purdue and Illinois then the division race will be in their hands after this game.

    Nebraska will bring one of the toughest defenses to the table, so Penn State's young offensive stars will be put to the test. By this point in the season Penn State's younger players will be tested and have gone through some more growing pains.

    Will it make a difference for this game?

Penn State @ Ohio State, November 19, 2011, TBA

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    TV: TBA

    Series History: Ohio State leads 14-12

    Penn State ends the season on the road for two games, starting with a trip to Columbus to play Ohio State. Penn State has won in the Horseshoe just once since joining the Big Ten and the offense tends to struggle to score points when they make the trip.

    Penn State lost at Ohio State last season 38-14 despite taking a 14-3 lead into halftime. 

    What to Watch

    What state of mind will Ohio State be in at this point?

    With an interim head coach in Luke Fickell, the Buckeyes are a bit of an enigma heading in to the 2011 season. They could implode or they could be the favorite.

    As of now, Ohio State still looks to be a very talented team and nothing that has happened this offseason has changed that, so expect Ohio State to be a tough match-up every week this season. But if the mental state of mind starts to be affected by off the field issues with the NCAA, who knows what could happen.

Penn State @ Wisconsin, November 26, 2011, TBA

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    TV: TBA

    Series History: Wisconsin leads 8-6

    Penn State is 3-3 in games played in Madison since joining the Big Ten, so winning in one of the most intimidating atmospheres in the conference is not something that is out of the question.

    Penn State has won two straight meetings in the series, including a 48-7 victory in Madison in 2008. Penn State has outscored Wisconsin 86-14 in the last two meetings between the two programs. 

    What to Watch

    Can Wisconsin live up to the hype?

    With the transfer of quarterback Russell Wilson from N.C. State, the Badgers are becoming one of the favorites in the Leaders Division and the Big Ten.

    Coming off a Big Ten championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl, there are plenty of reasons to like Wisconsin this season. Now they must meet those lofty expectations, which has been a problem for them before in recent years. 

    A trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game could be on the line for one or both of these schools in the final game of the regular season.

    Kevin McGuire is the national college football writer for Examiner.com. Follow his college football discussion on Google+ and Twitter. Become a fan of him on Facebook.

    Helmet images credited to The Helmet Project.