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2018

Penn State

Nittany Lions

College Football

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Penn State missed out on the College Football Playoff last season and with a number of players gone to the NFL, it may be even harder to reach those heights again. The Nittany Lions don’t get any help in the schedule, either, although the non-conference slate is extremely favorable. At the least, they had the sixth-best odds at +325 to make the CFP (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) and +2000 to win it all coming out of the spring. 

Stud running back Saquon Barkley is gone, but also the offensive coordinator moved onto a head coaching position so Ricky Rahne will take over. The best thing for Trace McSorley (+2600 for Heisman) is that the offense shouldn’t change much since Rahne was the former passing game coordinator. McSorley was great last season, completing 66.5% of his passes to go with 28 touchdowns and 10 picks, but also 491 yards and 11 TDs on the ground. The pieces around him are much different, but he shouldn't drop that much in terms of statistics. Former five-star recruit Miles Sanders is set to take over at running back with help from freshman Ricky Slade and senior Mark Allen. Receiver also lost its top guys, but that was the case last year and everything went just fine. Juwan Johnson (701 yards) is expected to be the top receiver with help from DeAndre Thompkins (15.8 yards per catch) and Brandon Polk. The line returns four starters and the hope is that they’ve improved after giving up 29 sacks in 2017.

It’s a similar situation on the defensive side with numerous starters gone, including all four in the secondary. The offense can be just as good with McSorley, but can the defense repeat its 15.5 points allowed per game? There’s still plenty of talent at every level even where former starters are gone. Shareef Miller is set for another huge season at end, while tackle is still fairly deep even with two guys gone. There are bigger questions at linebacker outside of Koa Farmer, as there may be a freshman that wins one of the jobs (Micah Parsons). John Reid is back at corner after a torn ACL, while safety has plenty of experience, but maybe lacking talent as the two upperclassmen projected as starters have never been regulars before.

Things don’t really pick up in the schedule for Penn State until late September when it has Ohio State and then Michigan State following an off week. Those games will be extremely important if it wants to repeat last season’s 11 wins. It doesn’t end there, as the Lions have to go to Michigan and then host Wisconsin in back-to-back weeks. Those two-game stretches will decide the season for the Nittany Lions and while three of those games are at home, this isn’t the same team as a year ago. McSorley has more on his plate without Barkley and will have to do a little more by himself. If that happens and the defense doesn’t take a step back, double-digit wins should be expected, but maybe partly due to four truly difficult games on the schedule.

 

2018 Penn State Nittany Lions Football Schedule

Sept. 1 vs. Appalachian State

Sept. 8 at Pittsburgh

Sept. 15 vs. Kent State

Sept. 21 at Illinois

Sept. 29 vs. Ohio State

Oct. 13 vs. Michigan State

Oct. 20 at Indiana

Oct. 27 vs. Iowa

Nov. 3 at Michigan

Nov. 10 vs. Wisconsin

Nov. 17 at Rutgers

Nov. 24 vs. Maryland


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