It seems like Penn State has to fight a new hardship every year, which maybe should be expected after what happened a few years ago. No matter, head coach James Franklin (from Vanderbilt) will lead the Nittany Lions’ third coaching staff in Four years. That stat doesn’t assure much consistency, but they’ve been a solid team throughout all of the turmoil.
5 dimes sportsbook lists the over/under total wins for Penn State at 7.5.
Sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg is everything one could have expected since he joined the team. Hackenberg won the 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year on his way to 2,955 yards and 20 touchdowns. That includeda big upset to close out the season over Wisconsin in which he posted 339 yards and Four touchdowns. You don’t see that every day against a team like the Badgers. Hackenberg’s main issue will be the loss of WR Allen Robinson who was incredible last season for him with 1,432 yards and six TDs. He’ll have to work with a number of fresh wide receivers and tight ends this year instead of focusing in on one. Geno Lewis and freshman DeAndre Thompkins figure to be at the top of the mix with tight end Jesse James.
The running Game returns all three of their top backs in Zach Zwinak (989 yards, 12 TDs), Bill Belton (803 yards) and Akeel Lynch (6 YPC). The problem for them is that the offensive line is one of the biggest question marks on the squad. Not only did they lose Four starters on the line, but lost a few more guys to injury in the spring. Without a solid foundation on the line, that could hurt not only the running Game, but also the amount of time Hackenberg gets to find his receivers.
Penn State’s defense struggled a great amount last year, but shored up near the end of the season and returns seven starters so there’s hope for improvement. They gave up at least 40 points in three straight Big Ten Games. They have a couple solid ends on the line with Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan which should keep the unit intact. Mike Hull leads the way at linebacker, but that position lacks depth, which could hurt them at some point. The secondary basically returns all Four starters, but that doesn’t mean much as it was one of the worst spots of this defense.
PSU’s special teams were brutal last year and will need to improve after finishing near the bottom of the Conference in nearly every category.
The Nittany Lions start their season in Ireland, which is something new and then they still have a Game seven days after that. Despite being in the tougher East division, Penn State has a pretty nice Schedule getting Northwestern and Illinois from the West along with Ohio State and Michigan State at home.
If this team doesn’t regress, eight wins should be the minimum here due to their ease of Schedule and more wins wouldn’t be a surprise. If Hackenberg can keep going without his stud receiver and the defense can shore up its deficiencies, expect more than just a Wisconsin-sized upset this year.
2014 Penn State Football Schedule
Aug. 30 vs. UCF (in Dublin)
Sep. 6 vs. Akron
Sep. 13 at Rutgers
Sep. 20 vs. Massachusetts
Sep. 27 vs. Northwestern
Oct. 11 at Michigan
Oct. 18 vs. Ohio State
Nov. 1 vs. Maryland
Nov. 8 at Indiana
Nov. 15 vs. Temple
Nov. 22 at Illinois
Nov. 28 vs. Michigan State