What I Expect From Penn State This Year

I was planning a writing some stuff about PSU this morning, but I’m currently soaked in the euphoria/joy/shock of the Eagles trading their starting QB for a first round pick one week prior to the season. Astonishing.

Let me try to focus on PSU though, which I’m actually quite expected for, despite

A new offense brings hope

Joe Moorhead replaces John Donovan as offensive coordinator, and by all accounts huddling is a thing of the past at Penn State. This up-temp spread system is all the rage in college football and it’s much needed change of pace from whatever the hell PSU was doing the last two years under Franklin/Donovan. Even if the offense, struggles this year, it shouldn’t be a slop-filled sackfest like the end of the Hackenberg era turned out.

As long as Trace McSorley can reliably utilizes the loaded skill positions he has at his disposal, the offense should be successful. Not Ohio State, or Oregon levels of success of course, but functional, efficient and hopefully appealing to recruits.

Also, Moorhead likes the word tuddies. I like tuddies too. Let’s hope Penn State scores lots of tuddies this year.

James Franklin to get a signature win

So far Franklin’s biggest win is… a double OT loss to eventual national champion Ohio State at Beaver Stadium in 2014. I mean he really doesn’t have a win that anyone can point to and be proud of.

He’s winless against Sparty, OSU and Michigan. But he’s also winless against Northwestern. Is his biggest win the Croke Park Classic against Central Florida? Quite possibly, yes.

In fact, he has a signature loss, the 2015 nightmare opener at Temple, that will likely follow him through the bulk of his PSU career, even if he does get things turned around.

But there are opportunities aplenty to finally notch a momentous win and help boost Penn State’s standings in the conference and future recruiting efforts.

Pitt week two, is the big one. A rivalry renewed after years of hiatus. A loss to Temple last year followed by a loss to Pitt this year, doesn’t sit well for Penn State’s claim as the top program in the state.

Ohio State on October 22. A whiteout game in Beaver Stadium is one of the best home field advantages in sports. It’s also kept the Nittany Lions in the game with OSU the last two times the Buckeyes have visited Happy Valley. Penn State got throttled at the Horseshoe in 2013 and 2015.

OSU is good this year and a popular big for the Big Ten crown, but they lost a ton of starters from last year’s squad. This is the perfect opportunity for Franklin’s first victory over a powerhouse program.

Iowa on Nov. 5. Penn State hasn’t faced Iowa during Franklin’s tenure, but Iowa has been a thorn in the side of the program for years. After nearly making the CFB playoff, Iowa is the No.17 team to start the year. This wouldn’t be the most significant win Penn State can obtain this year, but it would definitely be a quality one.

Michigan State on Nov. 26. Mark Dantonio seems to have it out for Penn State for some reason, after needlessly embarrassing PSU in last year’s regular season finale. The Spartans are at the top of the conference’s pecking oder after winning two of the last three conference titles, but like OSU have lost a ton of starters. With last year’s humiliation fresh in their minds, I’m sure Franklin and Co. will

I don’t know why, but I truly think Penn State wins at least two of those games.

This Penn State backfield is great on paper and should be great in the games

Sequin Barkley is back after his 1,000-yard freshman debut and he’s joined by four-star running mate from the 2015 class Andre Robinson and five-star 2016 signee Miles Sanders. I can’t wait to see how the coaching staff works in the running backs, as their should be plenty of opportunity to keep Barkley fresh while also not losing much production when he’s on the sideline.

With Trace McSorley still an unknown, the running game should be the propeller of Penn State’s offense and serve as the primary source of tuddies.

The defense is the strength

Brandon Bell, Nyeem Wartman-White and Jason Cabinda are a real solid starting linebacking group. Manny Bowen and Jake Cooper are nice reserves. Depth is thin there, but the starting group should be one of the most dependable in the country.

In the secondary, John Reid and Grant Haley already have a one and two years of experience under their belts respectively. Marcus Allen is entering into his third year with starting safety experience. Malik Golden has seen plenty of time as well, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Koa Farmer overtakes him as the starter at some point.

The only concern is defensive line where you lose Carl Nassib, Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson. I’m very interested to see how the new interior lineman play for the defense.

Special teams has to be better right?

I can’t wait to watch freshman punter Blake Gilliken punt. He will be an improvement over the punters Penn State has used the past few years.

To conclude, the first two years of James Franklin have been less than ideal to say the least. Average record, terrible offense, very poor in-game coaching adjustments etc. But Franklin has done a great job recruiting and restocking the depth of talent on the roster. He’s a got a quarterback who by all accounts is a better fit than Christian Hackenberg and a new coordinator who is well regarded by many and will have full control of the offense. I see no reason to be negative, as there’s been plenty of negativity around the fanbase and program the past half decade.

I expect 9-4, bowl game victory included, from Penn State this year.

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