A new coach, a dynamic young quarterback, and the light at the end of the sanction tunnel. Let's take a look at Penn State's schedule and see how things may end up for the Nittany Lions.
8/30 UCF (Dublin, Ireland)
The Knights were actually up on the Nittany Lions by 18 points in the third quarter of last year's game, a game in which UCF never really looked back once they got the advantage. However, that was with Blake Bortles as their quarterback. This year's version of the Knights will be led by sophomore Justin Holman, who played in just three games in 2013, and completed only nine passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. But, he'll have almost all of the same receivers Bortles had last year, so watch out.
They're in Ohio and did some horrible things to Michigan last year. I'd prefer to leave the discussion there.
9/13 @ Rutgers
Things are not going to be easy for Rutgers in 2014. The lone commenter on that post says that passing teams will give Rutgers the fits. If you still had Allen Robinson, Penn State fan, this would absolutely hold true; he's gone, and things may be a little bit different. The Rutgers rush defense ranked 5th in the country last year, and could force Penn State into beating them with a passing game that was erratic but was kept alive by Robinson. The Rutgers defense overall is a very young one, filled with freshmen and sophomores in the secondary. Still, I have a feeling that the Scarlet Knights will play inspired enough to make this a toss-up.
In their first two years as a D-1 program, the Minutemen have won a total of two games. They are bad, bad, bad. They have matched up with three Big Ten teams in the last two seasons and have lost those games by a combined 153-19. So very bad.
The Wildcats have lost the last six games against Penn State. Since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten back in 1993, the Wildcats have won only three times, with the last time coming ten years ago. They'll be relying only on Trevor Siemian at the quarterback position, which could lead to more consistency from the position. And Venric Mark will be a most welcome return for the Wildcat offense.
10/11 @ Michigan
Four overtime sessions last year. Will it happen again this year? Maybe not four, but it could still turn out to be one hell of a game; each night game at Michigan Stadium has been a pretty good one so far, and Penn State is a quality opponent to bring in for this year's incarnation. With Doug Nussmeier coming in as the new offensive coordinator for Michigan, the offense(ive line) will hopefully be able to get out of their own way and make the jump from last year's punch in the nuts to perhaps only a palm to the forehead.
10/25 Ohio State
The last time the Buckeyes lost to Penn State in Beaver Stadium was back in 2005. 2013 was a complete dismantling to the tune of 63-14 in favor of Ohio State. In the most truisty of truisms, Ohio State has a ton of talent. The youth and stable of running backs to go along with Braxton Miller is impressive...and scary.
Maryland is going to be a better addition to the Big Ten than many people think but their first year is going to be a struggle--although not necessarily a failure. Keep in mind that Stefon Diggs and Deon Long were both lost for the Terps half way through the 2013 season, but Maryland still finished ranked in the top 50 in passing (248.5 ypg). A healthy Terrapin receiving corps going up against a Penn State defense that gave up an average of 237.3 ypg (73rd in the nation) means that this could actually turn into a bit of a shootout.
11/8 @ Indiana
It's possible that Indiana walks away with their second win against the Nittany Lions in as many years. Who is Christian Hackenberg going to throw to? Allen Robinson is gone, and the next guy on the stat sheet had only 333 yards receiving last year. Oh, wait, it doesn't matter who Hack throws to, the Hoosiers don't have a defense. Indiana's will have to do without and , but they'll still have Shane Wynn to step up and make some plays. Quarterback Tre Roberson has decided to transfer, which makes Nate Sudfeld the definitive starter. Even with the loss in offensive production, the Hoosiers keep Tevin Coleman, and Sudfeld can manage a game well enough. If the defense can stay above the Fuck Me!-Yay! line, an entertaining game could ensue.
The Owls are a team that has had quite the mood swing-set in their back yard and that makes it hard to gauge this team. It hasn't been easy for the Owls, but there was a glimpse of some good things when Al Golden was heading the program. Steve Addazio took over after Golden and achieved a 9-4 record, left for Boston College, and opened the way for Matt Rhule and a Temple-ish 2-10 record. SB Nation's Bill Connelly sees potential in Temple, but not so much this year.
11/22 @ Illinois
Some teams get a break on their schedule, and then there's Illinois: at Washington, at Nebraska, at Wisconsin, and at Ohio State. Should we kick their dog while we're at it, too? Look, that's a brutal road schedule, but the Illini won't necessarily be pushovers, either. Penn State needed overtime to beat Illinois last year, and this could actually be a tougher challenge for the Lions than it seems. Wes Lunt and Josh Ferguson will be the go-to guys for the Illini, while Bill Cubit looks for some weapons on the outside. The defense has a ton of young guys coming back, so a step forward for them and a decent offense will make Illinois somewhat respectable.
11/29 Michigan State
I'm going to repeat myself from a previous post: resistance is futile. MSU is the Borg and they are just looking to assimilate the rest of the Big Ten into the collective. Hey, I'm not a nerd just because I made a Star Trek reference; there are a ton of other things that make me a nerd...just ask my kids, they'll tell you all about 'em.
- Sure Things -- Akron, Rutgers, Massachusetts, Temple
- Probable -- Central Florida, Northwestern, Illinois
- Toss-up(s) -- Michigan, Maryland, Indiana
- Thanks for playing -- Ohio State, Michigan State
Nine wins seems to be the probable outcome for the Nittany Lions in 2014. Given the fact thatdeparture for the NFL takes one million percent of the team's offense--yes, I looked it up; I don't just grab numbers out of the air, y'know--and there's a new head coach, the cupboard actually isn't bare and there is plenty of room for a guy like James Franklin to make a pretty big splash in his first year. This schedule is pretty gravy, really: they get Ohio State and Michigan State at home, along with some other mushy teams like Akron, UMass, and Temple. All in all, the Nittany Lions should be fighting for the third place slot in the Big Ten East.