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As Penn State enters the 2019 season, it seems like a dream that the Lions so recently went back-to-back NY6 bowls and captured a B1G title. A significant amount of roster turnover raised doubt that the team could recapture the conference and compete for a playoff spot. Ultimately, we predicted a 10-2 2018 campaign with a possible third loss as well. Unfortunately, the significant loss of offensive talent and some questionable play calling torpedoed any hope of a top-10 finish. Another 1-point loss to Ohio State and another unbelievable upset loss to Michigan State on a busted coverage wasted a favorable schedule. After Michigan blew the doors off the Nittany Lions, the feeling around the program is eerily familiar to start of the 2016 season. The team was coming off a shaky year, and many questions surrounded both players and coaches. This season will either show that last season was a blip on the radar, or that the team is not quite ready to re-enter the national discussion.

Individual Game Quick Links


Week 1: vs. Idaho Vandals

Saturday, August 31st – 3:30 PM
Beaver Stadium – State College, PA

A home opener against the Vandals kicks off a less-than-daunting non-conference slate. With so many changes on both sides of the ball, starting the year against a team that had a losing record in the “Big” Sky conference is a great way to get kinks worked out, especially on offense. It will also be interesting to see how the WR core, suddenly a veteran group with KJ Hamler, Jahan Dotson and TE Pat Freiermuth, performs under first-year coach Gerad Parker who comes up from Duke. Opening games also tend to have a lot of drives end in field goals as the offense finds itself, so hopefully the Lions’ kicking woes are behind them.

Final Score Prediction:

 336

Opponent Vitals:

Conference: Big Sky

Head Coach: Paul Petrino (7th Season)

2018 Record: 4-7

Conference Titles: 10


Week 2: vs. Buffalo Bulls

Saturday, September 7th – 7:30 PM
Beaver Stadium – State College, PA

With the ninth conference game, every two years Penn State enjoys playing all the non-conference games at home. This is a good thing in 2019, as Buffalo comes to Beaver Stadium after a narrow loss in the 2018 MAC championship game and a postseason appearance. Defense let the Bulls down at the end of last season, but their offense put up 24 points in each of the teams’ wins. Fortunately for Penn State, Buffalo QB Tyree Jackson has gone from the Bulls in 2018 to the NFL’s Bills this year. FOX has the game slated for a 7:30 ET start, so the networks think Buffalo might surprise the Lions. But a night game in Beaver Stadium? Good luck Bulls.

Final Score Prediction:

 3420

Opponent Vitals:

Conference: Mid-American Conference

Head Coach: Lance Leipold (5th Season)

2018 Record: 10-4

2018 Bowl Result: Dollar General Bowl, L 32-42 vs. Troy

Conference Titles: 1


Week 3: vs. Pittsburgh Panthers

Saturday, September 14th – 12:00 PM
Beaver Stadium – State College, PA

Penn State vs. Pitt Round 4

What a difference a year makes. Last year, the Penn State-Pitt game kicked off in prime time at Heinz Field. In a pouring rain, Penn State methodically established a 21-6 third quarter lead. Then a safety and a DeAndre Thompkins punt return blew the game open en route to a Nittany Lions blowout win 51-6. This year, ABC has the game at noon. With its performance the past two years in the series, Pitt is doing itself no favors if it hopes to secure an annual game against Penn State. Entering the last regular season game for the foreseeable future against Pitt, there’s still little upside for the Nittany Lions to play Pitt every year. The Panthers did perform better overall in 2018, capturing the ACC Sacrificial Lamb Division title and the privilege to be obliterated by Clemson in the title game. But Pitt needs to do something more, both in this year’s Penn State game and in the national scene, to warrant being anything more to Penn State than a sentimental trip down memory lane.

 

Final Score Prediction:

 286

Opponent Vitals:

Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference

Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi (5th Season)

2018 Record: 7-7

2018 Bowl Result: Sun Bowl, L 13-14 vs. Stanford

Conference Titles: 2


Week 4: @ Maryland Terrapins

Friday, September 27th – 8:00 PM
Maryland Stadium – College Park, MD

Penn State’s second-ever foray into Friday night football coincides with the team’s first road game of 2019 following its bye week. The Terrapins, once hoped to be a geographic rival to insulate the Lions from conference expansion-poaching, have been little more than a nice sendoff for the seniors the past two years. They’ve lost the last two games by a combined score of 104-6. Last year’s Friday night game at Illinois was strange, with the Illini within 4 points entering the fourth quarter before Penn State pulled away with 5 unanswered TDs. The Friday night games seem to be an attempt by the Big Ten’s TV partners to shine the prime-time spotlight on a second-tier conference team against a marquee opponent. Ohio State visiting Northwestern this year is another example of this. Still, the Lions could out-talent Maryland on a random Wednesday afternoon, so this one should be no problem either. A motivated Maryland team comes out excited but fades away.

 

Final Score Prediction:

 3724

Opponent Vitals:

Conference: Big Ten Conference

Head Coach: Mike Locksley (1st Season)

2018 Record: 5-7

Conference Titles: 11


Week 5: vs. Purdue Boilermakers

Saturday, October 5th – 12:00 PM
Beaver Stadium – State College, PA

Squarely in the middle of the conference every year, Purdue is an easy team to overlook. With The conference agrees, scheduling four of the Boilermakers’ early-season games for noon kickoffs. They lost QB David Blough to the Cleveland Browns, so Purdue will need to break in a new QB when it travels to Happy Valley. Purdue hasn’t beaten Penn State since the dark ages (2003-4), and is overdue for an upset. But it doesn’t seem like they have enough to get it done before the students wake up this year.Purdue Head Coach Jeff Brohm has assured fans there is no QB controversy around who would be replacing David Blough. 5th year signal caller Elijah Sindelar should be the man under center when the Boilermakers visit Happy Valley in early October

Final Score Prediction:

 2714

Opponent Vitals:

Conference: Big Ten Conference

Head Coach: Jeff Brohm (3rd Season)

2018 Record: 6-7

2018 Bowl Result: Music City Bowl, L 14-63 vs. Auburn

Conference Titles: 12


Week 6: @ Iowa Hawkeyes

Saturday, October 12th – TBD
Kinnick Stadium – Iowa City, IA

Iowa QB Nate Stanley Returns to Face Penn State in Iowa

Iowa QB Nate Stanley Returns to Face Penn State in Iowa City

This is the game the schedule starts to toughen up for Penn State, kicking off a brutal stretch against the toughest teams in the league. PSU Zone staff will be on-site at this year’s game in Iowa City, but the Hawkeyes are poised to finally get over the hump against the Lions. The past two years have been [way] too close for comfort, and Kinnick Stadium has been a tough venue for road teams. QB Nate Stanley returns to lead the offense, and the Iowa defense always matches up well against Penn State. The Hawkeyes snap 5-game Penn State win streak at home, with their trademark weird score.

Final Score Prediction:

 1315

Opponent Vitals:

Conference: Big Ten Conference

Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz (21st Season)

2018 Record: 9-4

2018 Bowl Result: Outback Bowl, W 27-22 vs. Mississippi State

Conference Titles: 13


Week 7: vs. Michigan Wolverines

Saturday, October 19th – TBD
Beaver Stadium – State College, PA

I love how surprising Penn State tries to make the announcement of which game the white out game will be every year. Shockingly, this year’s white out game will be against Michigan, offering Penn State a good chance to beat what should be a better team. The last time the Wolverines came to Beaver Stadium, they were bombed 42-13 in a retribution game. This year, Penn State hopes to atone for a similarly poor performance in the prior year’s contest in Ann Arbor. However, I think this is Michigan’s year. No Urban Meyer, and they get the Buckeyes at home. Harbaugh wants to take Michigan over the hump, no doubt about it. Penn State will play inspired for a half, but it will tire at the end and get out-depth-ed in a humbling loss.

Final Score Prediction:

 1324

Opponent Vitals:

Conference: Big Ten Conference

Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh (5th Season)

2018 Record: 10-3

2018 Bowl Result: Peach Bowl, L 15-41 vs. Florida

Conference Titles: 42


Week 8: @ Michigan State Spartans

Saturday, October 26th – TBD
Spartan Stadium – East Lansing, MI

Since the Franklin era started, Mark Dantonio has out coached Penn State more often than not

Since the Franklin era started, Mark Dantonio has out coached Penn State more often than not

It has to be tough to be a Spartan fan. Perennially the Mets to the in-state Wolverines’ Yankees, it just never seems that Mark Dantonio’s team gets enough credit. Though not at the Rose Bowl caliber of the mid-2010s, the Spartans always play good teams tough despite dealing with the leftovers of the talent pool. MSU certainly plays Penn State tough, winning the last two years and wrecking a lot of plans the Nittany Lions (and their fans) had in the postseason. While it’s not surprising for Ohio State and Michigan to be on par with (or better than) Penn State, Michigan State is a team to whom I always have trouble losing. This sentiment is the likely source of the quiet-but-growing-louder grumblings about James Franklin. When matched up with a superior gameday coach, Franklin consistently falls short, especially on the road. Both last year’s tilt and the 2017 game were available late in the 4th quarter. The less talented team won in both cases. Brian Lewerke, somehow only a junior, is back, and the Spartans host this year’s game. Until Franklin demonstrates he and his staff can win the chess match against the elite conference coaches late in games, I’m picking MSU every time.

Final Score Prediction:

 1623

Opponent Vitals:

Conference: Big Ten Conference

Head Coach: Mark Dantonio (13th Season)

2018 Record: 7-6

2018 Bowl Result: Redbox Bowl, L 6-7 vs. Oregon

Conference Titles: 11


Week 9: @ Minnesota Golden Gophers

Saturday, November 9th – TBD
TCF Bank Stadium – Minneapolis, MN

A second bye week precedes Penn State’s trip to Minneapolis to play the Golden Gophers. This opponent never scares you, but it always presents as a team just a step (or two) away from becoming relevant in the conference’s weaker division. I’d rather play at Minnesota than at Nebraska this year, but the Gophers are a tough out and will catch Penn State after a string of losses, asking questions at nearly every position, possibly QB and head coach as well. A win here would stop the bleeding and keep the team in the conversation for a decent bowl game. I don’t see it, though, as Minnesota gets its second win since 2004 in the teams’ first meeting since the 2016 game that started Penn State’s conference title run.

Final Score Prediction:

 2934

Opponent Vitals:

Conference: Big Ten Conference

Head Coach: P.J. Fleck (3rd Season)

2018 Record: 7-6

2018 Bowl Result: Quick Lane Bowl, W 34-10 vs. Georgia Tech

Conference Titles: 18


Week 10: vs. Indiana Hoosiers

Saturday, November 16th – TBD
Beaver Stadium – State College, PA

Usually the cure for what ails ‘ya, good old Indiana gives the team a chance to recover from the daunting stretch in its final tune-up for Ohio State. Short and sweet – Penn State will NOT lose to Indiana. What is this, 2013?!

Final Score Prediction:

 4520

Opponent Vitals:

Conference: Big Ten Conference

Head Coach: Tom Allen (3rd Season)

2018 Record: 5-7

Conference Titles: 2


Week 11: @ Ohio State Buckeyes

Saturday, November 23rd – TBD
Ohio Stadium – Columbus, OH

Ohio State RB JK Dobbins

The Nittany Lions defense will need to find a way to stop Ohio State running back JK Dobbins in order to to leave the Horseshoe with a victory

No Urban Meyer for the Buckeyes, so at least James Franklin isn’t up against a [definitively] superior gameday coach. Ohio State enjoys the luxury of reloading, so even when they lose a JT Barrett, they have a Dwayne Haskins waiting in the wings. Haskins is now relegated to the Redskins, and the starting QB is not clear-cut as Justin Fields and Matthew Baldwin are competing for the job following spring practice. OSU brings back JK Dobbins at starting RB, which is bad news for any LB group. The receivers, who are just products of the same factory anymore, will be a strength. Binjimen Victor (we remember him from last year’s blown 12-point lead debacle) leads a corps of returning players that should help the eventual starting QB. On defense, they lose Nick Bosa but always reload on the line. Like Penn State, there is a lot of turnover at key positions, but unlike Penn State (at the moment), the Buckeyes have a pipeline of program-specific players capable of plugging in openings when the arise. Winning this road game with a rebuilt offense is too much to ask, and it could get away from the Nittany Lions late.

Final Score Prediction:

 1738

Opponent Vitals:

Conference: Big Ten Conference

Head Coach: Ryan Day (1st Season)

2018 Record: 13-1

2018 Bowl Result: Rose Bowl, W 28-23 vs. Washington

Conference Titles: 39


Week 12: vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Saturday, November 30th – TBD
Beaver Stadium – State College, PA

The Scarlet Knights round out the regular season for Penn State, who should be playing for bowl positioning with an outside shot at a New Year’s Day game. This is another case of a total talent mismatch, and any ties going to home field advantage on Senior Day. The Lions will cruise, and begin to show signs of a team ready to take the next step the following season.

Final Score Prediction:

 4126

Opponent Vitals:

Conference: Big Ten Conference

Head Coach: Chris Ash (4th Season)

2018 Record: 1-11

Conference Titles: 1


Summary

Last year’s team underachieved, though I could make a strong case it should have only lost 1 game. Predicting a 7-5 finish assumes the team will not replace elite players like Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders with comparable talent; the recruits and underclassmen coming up certainly have the capability to perform better than expected. As a result, 9 wins isn’t out of the question; I just think team is due for unlucky bounces against Iowa and Minnesota, and has not shown the ability to finish against top teams. This season has the look of a good, old-fashioned rebuilding year, but don’t be surprised if the next Saquon Barkley or Chris Godwin quickly emerges to turn the division on its head. WE ARE!

About the Author:

Adam Kimmel


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

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