All things considered, Penn State had yet another successful season under head coach Bill O'Brien. Sure, there were some complaints about how the Nittany Lions were performing, but they had a freshman at quarterback and were still trying to mitigate the NCAA punishment. Then, the dominoes started to fall in the NFL and the writing that had been on the wall from the second BOB took the Penn State job was now in permanent ink.
How They Did
|8/31||Syracuse (Met Life Stadium)||W 23-17|
|9/7||Eastern Michigan||W 45-7|
|9/21||Kent State||W 34-0|
|10/5||@ Indiana||L 44-24|
|10/12||Michigan||W 43-40 4OT|
|10/26||@ Ohio State||L 63-14|
|11/2||Illinois||W 24-17 OT|
|11/9||@ Minnesota||L 24-10|
|11/23||Nebraska||L 23-20 OT|
|11/30||@ Wisconsin||W 31-24|
Although the team went 7-5 and alternated wins and losses for pretty much the entire year, it was still mostly a success. Again, a team that was starting a true freshman at quarterback and a depleted roster just wasn't going to go very far. But, they played well enough to still earn respect of almost everyone out there.
Versus Michigan: I think the best word to describe this game would be "exhausting". After being down 10-7 in the first quarter, Penn State was able to come back and score 14 points in the second quarter to hold a 21-10 lead at halftime. Michigan was able to put together a 17-point third quarter, but it wasn't enough to pull out the win. Christian Hackenberg had a very good outing: 23/44, 305 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 INTs. Most of Hackenberg's passes went to Brandon Felder and Allen Robinson, for a combined 181 yards and two TDs (both by Felder). Running back Bill Belton was solid on the ground, too, with 85 yards and one touchdown.
Speaking of Allen Robinson...
And then Bill Belton did this...
When Michigan had the ball: Devin Gardner put on quite the show; his 240 passing yards, three touchdowns, and 121 yards rushing were tremendous in keeping Michigan in this game at all. With 112 yards, Devin Funchess hauled in almost half of Gardner's passing yards. None of his yards were as beautiful as these 37...
Best Win: Wisconsin. Camp Randall is one of the toughest venues in college football, and Penn State was able to go in and beat the Badgers by a touchdown. The Lions scored at least a touchdown in each quarter, and although Christian Hackenberg and Badgers QB Joel Stave had matching 339 yards games, Stave threw 3 INTs to Hack's 4 TDs and 0 INTs. Perhaps the biggest stat is what Penn State was able to do with their rush defense. Prior to meeting the Nittany Lions, Wisconsin had rushed for less than 200 yards only once, and that was a 104 yard performance against Ohio State. When Penn State got to Madison, they were able to hold Melvin Gordon and James White to a combined 147 yards...and zero TDs. Mucho impressive.
Worst Loss: Indiana. I'm not really comfortable in making this pick; the Hoosiers put an average of 38.4 points on everyone they faced, so it was expected that Indiana was going to score often. However, there were high expectations for the Hoosiers, and they just couldn't live up to the hype and hopes that were surrounding the team. Many (including yours truly) predicted them to be a bowl team, but they instead finished the year at 5-7. Penn State had a pretty successful day offensively, with Hackenberg passing 340 yards, 3 TDs 0 INTs; Robinson catching 173 yards worth of passes and 2 TDs, and Zwinak and Belton combining for 103 on the ground. Defensively? What defense?
Outlook for 2014
As expected, BOB took off for the NFL, but the Lions got Vanderbilt's James Franklin and shouldn't have any problems continuing to have success in the face of adversity. That adversity, however, was weakened a little bit when it was announced that there would be a reduction in the scholarship penalty placed on Penn State. Allen Robinson and BOB are the key departures for Penn State; with Christian Hackenberg returning, the young receiving corps should be just fine. Also returning are Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak; the two combined for 1,792 yards on the season for 86% of the output on the ground. The Nittany Lions have a very manageable schedule in 2014, with matches against Akron, UMass, Temple, and Illinois making a nine-win season very attainable.
Do they play Michigan in 2014?
Yes. Michigan welcomes Penn State to the Big House on October 11. With that relatively soft schedule to start the season, the Lions could very well be 5-0 heading into Ann Arbor.