With so much turnover on both sides of the ball, it’s easy to see how our 7-5 prediction for the season preview could turn into 12-0. Though there is tremendous upside potential for the season, what if the train goes completely off the track? Penn State has only gone 3-9 once in its history, in 2003. That year, a double-digit loss to Boston College set the stage for a total meltdown once conference play began. 6 losses preceded a blowout win against hapless Indiana before Michigan State stomped the Lions 41-10. That team had significant turnover as well, with seniors Bryant and Larry Johnson departing for the NFL. The problem with the 2003 team was that the offense could not find a rhythm. Role players like Tony Johnson on the 2002 team were expected to step up to prime targets for QB Zack “General” Mills, but it never materialized.
Though this year’s team has more talent than the 2003 version, it does not have a proven QB. If things start to turn bad for the Lions during their tough stretch of the schedule, they may not be able to recover until Senior Day against Rutgers. We already predicted how Penn State could lose to Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Ohio State, so what would it take for the Lions to drop decisions to Pitt, Maryland, Purdue, and Indiana?
When is a rivalry game not a rivalry game? When it only matters to one team. Pitt, forever in the background in the Pennsylvania college football landscape, has to know it needs to beat Penn State on the teams’ last scheduled meeting for the foreseeable future. Another loss would further cement the Panthers’ irrelevance to Penn State. A noon kickoff is a shade too early for all the students, and the pregame atmosphere will not be as electric as usual. Pitt could lull Penn State to sleep in its Super Bowl and pull off a miracle that its fans would talk about for years to come. Remember how often they brought up 12-0?
Anthony McFarland went nuts in the Terrapins’ 52-51 OT thrilling loss to OSU last year. The sophomore running back tallied 298 years and scored 2 TDs in a dominant performance. Penn State’s strength will be its defense, but if the Maryland ground game is firing, the prime-time kick against a team they’d love to beat might be a formula for success in College Park.
An early game avoids the night atmosphere that makes Beaver Stadium so deadly for opposing teams. QB David Blough is in Cleveland, but the Boilermakers have a pass-friendly system that could present problems for Penn State’s secondary. This is the hardest game to see Penn State losing, but the game comes the week before the tough stretch of schedule. The coaches might have an eye toward Iowa during Purdue week, and if the Boilers punch Penn State in the mouth with a quick strike, they might be able to slip past the Nittany Lions.
Having only beaten Penn State once in its history, the odds are against Indiana doing it in 2019. However, the Hoosiers come to University Park after Penn State’s games against Michigan, MSU, and Minnesota. If things go south, the Nittany Lions could be in a free fall, swapping starters and searching for answers. Peyton Ramsey returns to lead a prolific passing attack, and if their defense improves the Hoosiers should be better than 2018’s 5-7 record. Indiana wants to get Penn State into a shootout, and if the Lions take the bait, they could see Indiana notch another win against them.
This year could be anywhere from 3-9 to 12-0 for Penn State. The Nittany Lions have to be able to run the ball and protect the QB, so the offensive line will again be under pressure to perform. Even though the Lions are likely looking at a 7-5 campaign, a handful of plays could make the difference between a lower-tier bowl and a return to the NY6. Penn State’s new stars will decide the team’s fate.
About the Author:
Adam Kimmel is the founder and Principal at ASK Consulting Solutions, a technical writing firm specializing in engineering content writing. A 2003 graduate and avid fan of Penn State, Adam has followed Penn State football for over 25 years, attending nearly 50 games and researching historical players and teams. He is also a Manager of R&D, and can be found on LinkedIn