Penn State Football Predictions
Penn State finished 9-4 in Joe Paterno’s last season as coach, and I’m sure the school will gladly take the same result in 2012 in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
New head man Bill O’Brien has a great offensive mind, but winning nine games won’t be easy. The Nittany Lions have won at least nine games six of the past seven years but only return eight starters from last year’s team.
O’Brien has been given free rein to build the program the way he wants and has wasted no time putting his stamp on all facets of it. He retained just two coaches from the previous staff and overhauled the strength and conditioning program as well as the offense.
O’Brien looked a like genius while calling plays for Tom Brady in New England. He’s about to find out that it’s not as easy to work with Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden. With those two under center in 2011, Penn State ranked 11th in the Big Ten (110th nationally) in scoring with 19.3 points per game.
Bolden has a stronger arm, but McGloin is the more accurate passer. He completed 54.1 percent of his passes for 1,571 yards with eight touchdowns and five interceptions. Bolden completed only39.3 percent of his throws for 685 yards with two touchdowns and seven picks.
The Nittany Lions are set at running back with Silas Redd, who finished with 1,241 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Yards could be a little tougher to come by this season as he will be running behind a line that only returns one starter.
Senior wide receiver Justin Brown is the team’s biggest pass-catching threat. He hauled in 35 passes for 517 yards and two scores last season.
The defense carried the Nittany Lions in 2011 and will be asked to do so again.
The stop unit led the Big Ten in scoring defense with 16.8 points allowed per game. It is unlikely that a unit returning only four starters will be as stingy.
Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Devon Still, will especially be missed. His absence puts more pressure on Jordan Hill to hold down the fort on the interior.
The defense should get a boost from the return of end Pete Massaro and outside linebacker Michael Mauti, who both endured ACL injuries last season. Mauti combines with Gerald Hodges and Glenn Carson to form a formidable linebacker unit. Hodges, who tallied 106 stops in 2011, is the team’s top returning tackler.
The secondary is the biggest area of concern. All four starters were lost from a unit that led the conference in pass efficiency defense.
Big Ten Leaders Prediction: 4th Place
Sometimes things must get worse before they get better. That could be the case for Penn State.
There’s enough talent remaining on defense for the Nittany Lions to be solid on that side of the ball, but an offense that was among the worst in college football a season ago is still a major concern.
Penn State gets Ohio State and Wisconsin at home but will have a tough time winning either of those games. It will also have its hands full with road contests against Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. I don’t see the Nittany Lions winning more than four games in conference play and may only win three.
Penn State has enjoyed seven straight seasons with at least seven wins, and it should be able to do enough to keep that streak alive.