With the 2020 season kicking off in just a few days away, we are almost done previewing each opponent for Rutgers this fall. SB Nation sites for every Big Ten school have provided a detailed overview of what to expect from their respective team heading into this season. We continue our opponent preview series with week 7 foe Penn State.
Rutgers has been somewhat competitive against the Nittany Lions the previous three seasons, including being down just one score in the fourth quarter last season on the road. However, Penn State is primed for another good season, despite the reported medical condition of returning rusher Journey Brown. The Scarlet Knights have lost the last 13 games against PSU, so it will take a heroic effort to end that streak this season.
Earlier this month, Jared Slanina, a managing editor for Black Shoe Diaries, gave an in-depth look at the current state of Penn State football entering the 2020 season.
List your team’s key departures:
KJ Hamler- WR, Yetur Gross-Matos-DE, Micah Parsons- LB, Ricky Rahne-OC
List your team’s key returnees:
Journey Brown-RB (Editor’s Note: this was written before Brown’r reported medical condition), Sean Clifford-QB, Shaka Toney-DE, Pat Freiermuth-TE
List a few true freshmen or transfers that will make an instant impact:
KeAndre Lambert Smith-WR, Parker Washington-WR, Curtis Jacobs-LB Lance Dixon
Brief overview of 2020 team:
Penn State returns its starting quarterback, 4 of 5 offensive lineman (with the new starter with extensive playing time under his belt), a stable of talented backs led by Journey Brown...and only one wide receiver with any practical experience. It will be crucial for at least two young wideouts to emerge early in the season and for Sean Clifford to quickly build a rapport with them as KJ Hamler is no longer around to bail out the offense like he did so often the last two seasons.
The strength of the defense will be the linebackers, even with the departure of Micah Parsons. The defensive line returns plenty of talent and should be deeper than in recent years, but will need to get after the quarterback with more consistency throughout the season. The secondary was exposed toward the end of the season and could again be a liability against opponents with a quality quarterback.
What’s your team’s biggest strength?
A stable of talented running backs guided by a veteran offensive line
What’s your team’s biggest weakness?
A lack of experience at wide receiver
How does your fanbase feel about your coach and his staff?
The fanbase is largely happy with what James Franklin has done in Happy Valley, especially getting the program consistently in the top 10 and winning a Big Ten championship well ahead of schedule. The biggest questions are if he can ever get past Ohio State on a regular basis (tall order) and if those disturbing fourth quarter collapses in big games is behind him. With that being said, there is a vocal minority who think that the he should be fired, every player cut, and the stadium torn down every time they lose a game - or heck, don’t win by 40+ points.
Who is your team’s MVP this season and why?
I’ll go with tight end Pat Freiermuth, who has an excellent shot at being a first-team All-American and winner of the Mackey Award. He will play an even more essential role as Penn State works to break in several inexperienced wide receivers.
Predict your team’s record, its best win, and a potential surprise loss:
7-1, win them all but Ohio State. However, I wouldn’t be shocked if they lose at Indiana, where they always seem to be stuck in slow motion, or drop one against Iowa or Michigan, who they play in back-to-back weeks.
What else should we know about your team this year?
Penn State is set up for success more so than the last two seasons, but it will be a moot point if they cannot get past Ohio State for the first time since 2016.
Thanks to Jared for taking the time to give such great insight on Penn State football ahead of the 2020 season. You can follow him on Twitter here and make sure to visit Black Shoe Diaries for complete coverage of Penn State athletics.
2020 Opponent Season Preview Series