Sat, Sept 5 @ Temple
Sat, Sept 12 vs Buffalo
Sat, Sept 19 vs Rutgers
Sat, Sept 26 vs San Diego State
Sat, Oct 3 vs Army
Sat, Oct 10 vs Indiana
Sat, Oct 17 @ #1 Ohio State
Sat, Oct 24 vs Maryland
Sat, Oct 31 vs Illinois
Sat, Nov 7 @ Northwestern
Sat, Nov 21 vs Michigan
Sat, Nov 28 @ #5 Michigan State
A soft schedule and one of the nations best defenses in 2014, the Nittany Lions are being pegged by some college experts as a sleeper in the Big Ten and a potential 10 win team.
Penn State’s first six games see them face Temple, Buffalo, Rutgers, San Diego State, Army, and Indiana before a showdown with No. 1 Ohio State on October 17.
Penn State’s win probability in their first six games is 63% or better in all six games.
In Games 8-11 (Maryland, Illinois, Northwestern, Michigan), Penn State’s win probability is 58% or better in all four games.
Anything below an 8 win season should be looked at as a disappointment.
GLORY DAYS RETURNING?
James Franklin has brought in a top-15 class and with a potential top-5 recruiting class coming in 2016, the name recognition of Penn State is coming back as a school that top talent wants to go.
IS CHRISTIAN HACKENBERG A BETTER PRO PROSPECT THAN COLLEGE QB?
The Lions in 2014 went 7-6 and after looking like a team trending up the first four weeks of the season, Penn State would lose six of its last eight games, and the offense evolved into one of the worst offenses in college football.
The Nittany Lions ranked 113th out of 128 schools, averaging 20.6 points per game. One of the biggest flaws with the offense was a lack of explosive plays.
The Christian Hackenberg led offense was 114th in yards per game and had an IsoPPP (measures explosiveness of offense) of 0.73 which ranked 120th in college football.
Hackenberg enters his junior season with high expectations but how much better will he and the Penn State offense actually be?
Hackenberg has all the tools of being the top quarterback taken in the 2016 NFL draft, some believe he could go No. 1 overall, but Penn State fans have to wonder, is he one of these quarterbacks who’s a better NFL prospect than a college quarterback.
Hackenberg was 270/484 for 2,977 yards in 2014 with 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Hackenberg averaged 6.2 yards per attempt and was sacked 44 times on the season. It was a miserable 2014 campaign for Hackenberg individually but did little to bring down his NFL draft stock, despite throwing just 4 touchdowns in Big Ten play.
BIG PLAY POTENTIAL?
What’s going to change in 2015 for Penn State’s offense?
The offense in 2014 was stagnant, couldn’t finish drives, constantly failed to get a big play when needed.
If you’re looking for the offensive line to be improved just from an experienced standpoint, the group returns four starters, left guard Brendan Mahon, center Angelo Mangiro, right guard Brian Gaia and right tackle Andrew Nelson.
Where the Nittany Lions have questions has been at left tackle. Junior college transfer Paris Palmer (6-7, 290) has won the job in camp and gets the call to protect Hackenberg’s blind side.
A non-existent running game, junior Akeel Lynch is the lead back going into the season. Lynch rushed for 678 yards in 2014, averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
At wide receiver, a young group returns led by DaeSean Hamilton (6-1, 200). The red shirt sophomore led the Big Ten with 82 receptions as a freshman in 2014 and was 5th in the Big Ten with 899 receiving yards. Hamilton lacks big play potential but is a strong possession receiver and showed up last season against top competition, putting up a 14 catch performance vs Ohio State.
For Penn State, the improvement with explosive plays could from wide receivers Eugene Lewis (6-1, 199) and Chris Godwin (6-2, 210). Lewis was second on the Nittany Lions with 55 receptions for 751 yards but averaged 18.1 yards per catch during the first four games of the season before his numbers significantly dropped the rest of the season, like almost everyone in the offense.
Sophomore Chris Godwin showed some flashes late in the season of being a big play receiver, hauling in 7 catches for 140 yards in the Pinstripe bowl. He will have a bigger role in the offense.
The most exciting player that could add a dynamic Penn State lacked last season is freshman running Saquon Barkley (5-11, 220).
Barkley is electric with the ball in his hands, great elusiveness and vision. The true freshman put up 1,856 yards and 29 touchdowns in his senior year of high school.
Barkley could also make an impact in the return game and has been the buzz of Happy Valley this month.