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Staff Predictions: Penn State Football’s Record

We’re just over a week away from Penn State football’s opener at Temple, and while the players and coaches insist that they’re taking the season one game at a time, that doesn’t mean that we have to. Our staff predicted the team’s record before the bowl game, and we generally agree — a mostly returning roster playing an easy schedule should result in a huge improvement over last year’s 6-6 squad.

Jacob Abrams: 10-2

Like many Penn State fans, I have high hopes coming into the 2015 campaign. There is a lot to look forward to this season. The turn-around season for Christian Hackenberg, James Franklin’s second year at the helm of Penn State Football, the (not so) strength of schedule, and a collection of other things are what make this year one to be excited about.

This year’s squad features a reinvigorated offense with the number of weapons it possesses. 2015 will be the first year fans get to see Akeel Lynch as the bellcow out of the backfield. Along with Lynch, the team adds offensive firepower with the corps of receivers at Christian Hackenberg’s disposal. Receivers like DaeSean Hamilton, Chris Godwin, and DeAndre Thompkins are just some of the names that will create an exciting atmosphere on offense. The defensive side of the ball remains sturdy heading into 2015. With defensive coordinator Bob Shoop returning to Happy Valley, the same expectations for last year’s regime should carry over.

With key contributors such as Anthony Zettel, Austin Johnson, and Jordan Lucas, this defensive powerhouse should once again prove to its opponents why “We Dem Boyz.”

Overall, I see a good showing coming out of the Nittany Lions this season. Another year in James Franklin’s system can only mean good things for a team that struggled at times last year.

The two biggest tests I see on their schedule this season are against Ohio State and Michigan State, but I believe the team can end the season undefeated in Beaver Stadium.

With the collective talent returning and brought onto the squad, I see Penn State being one of the top teams in the Big Ten, with the possibility of being a top-15 team in the country at a record of 10-2.

 Ben Berkman: 8-4

I’ve never been much of an optimist, and I don’t plan to change now.

Penn State will finish the season 8-4, with large losses at Michigan State and Ohio State, and narrow, heartbreaking, “only at Penn State” defeats to Maryland in Baltimore and a slip-up to either Rutgers or Michigan.

Penn State’s certainly a better team than it was last year, and its improved record will demonstrate that. But there are still large areas for concern. The offensive line, the Nittany Lions’ most woeful unit last year, carries much of the same personnel, which, though a year more experienced, still is somewhat undersized. The Lions’ special teams also have question marks throughout, from punter to placekicker.

Penn State is also set to face two of the top five teams in the nation, both on the road. And I don’t think the Lions will be able to bounce back that easily from a likely whopping at the Horseshoe in time to defeat Maryland on rival grounds.

Both Rutgers and Michigan will enter Beaver Stadium with plenty to play for, and their fair shares of pride. If last season’s debacle against Maryland is any indication, it’s unlikely Penn State will sweep the table at home.

I hope I’m wrong.

Doug Leeson: 9-3

A three-win improvement from a team that, last year, looked so bad at times may be a little lofty, but step back and ask yourself who on this schedule can beat Penn State?

Preseason No. 1 Ohio State? Duh. No. 5 Michigan State? Certainly. But beyond that, nothing looks like a clear loss, and more than a few games look like probable wins. Yes, Maryland, Illinois, Northwestern, and Michigan won last year, but which of those teams improved as much as the Nittany Lions?

Everyone else has lovingly highlighted Penn State’s improvements (another year of Hackenberg, returning four starters on the offensive line, Bob Shoop is an artist, etc.) so I don’t have to. I think Penn State starts 6-0, loses badly in Columbus, puts up 35+ points against not-rival Maryland the next week, but two weeks later loses at Northwestern because a 10-2 season is too good to be true. Michigan State won’t be a fun game to end the season with, but the week before, Penn State and Michigan will play a vastly different game than last year’s matchup. Michigan’s 18-13 win came from two bad teams playing at their worst and someone, unfortunately, had to win. This year will be a showdown between a motivated Hackenberg and a great pickup in head coach Jim Harbaugh (also known as “not Brady Hoke”).

In summation: Penn State loses badly to Ohio State, Michigan State, and Northwestern. There could be some other nailbiters (Temple, San Diego State, Michigan), but 9-3 just makes sense to me.

And despite Michigan State and Connor Cook’s win, Hackenberg will leave school to be the first quarterback taken in the NFL Draft. The experts agree:

David Abruzzese: 10-2

Let me make myself clear. I am extremely optimistic in many aspects of life. Football happens to sit quite high on this list of optimism, which is why I’m predicting Penn State to finish the season 10-2.

My prediction holds some merit, due mostly to the fact that five of the team’s first six games are at home against lesser opponents. Temple and Rutgers should pose a respectable threat, but I fully expect the Nittany Lions to take care of business against Buffalo, Army, San Diego State, and Indiana. San Diego State is weaker than their 2014 record should suggest. While they did go 7-6 (5-3 in the MWC), the Aztecs lost to North Carolina, Oregon State, and Boise State — all while defeating lesser MWC opponents.
With a 6-0 record headed into the primetime showdown in Columbus, magic will be in the air. After last season’s near-upset, I believe Penn State is capable of taking down the unanimous preseason No. 1 team in its own stadium, in what could very well be the greatest upset in recent memory. With that in mind, Penn State is bound to leave wins on the table. Games at home against Illinois and on the road at Northwestern scare me, as both teams could pose a serious threat — especially the Illini with Wes Lunt at the helm.
Realistically, I predict Penn State takes down Illinois, but falters on the road at Northwestern. While I think the team’s regular season finale against Michigan State at home is winnable, I predict Penn State to lose in a shootout.
Christian Hackenberg is an integral piece of the puzzle to Penn State’s offense, and I truly believe that 2015 is his bounce back year. Will it be enough to secure a berth in the Big Ten Championship? 10-2 says it might just be possible.

Sara Civian: 8-4

Generally, I advocate for conservative predictions. The 2015 Nittany Lions could certainly beat San Diego State and Michigan, but I’ll err on the side of caution. The SDSU game is contingent on whether or not Penn State’s offense will have a solid start this season. Although Michigan’s struggles were pretty evident last season, it still managed to beat Penn State 18-13. Michigan is going to enter this season motivated and I’d bet that motivation will last throughout the season (but yes, Michigan still sucks). Although I don’t see a win against Ohio State or Michigan State in the cards at all, I would be elated with a 10-2 season and content with an 8-4 season.

Ben Rappaport: 10-2

We are going to be good. After talking with multiple football players during Penn State’s Media Day I can’t help but be overly optimistic this year. The Nittany Lions are deeper than they have been since the sanctions hit and they are just about at full strength. Their offensive firepower has potential to be one of the best in country. Of course, this all depends on the offensive line and the right arm of a certain quarterback. We have all read enough about how Hackenberg has to take his game to the next level, and the doubters are just waiting to say, “I told you so.”

Really though, with another year in Coach James Franklin’s system and some raw new talents on offense, it’s basically now or never for Hackenberg, and I’m feeling now. With a favorable schedule this year, there is no reason Penn State can’t achieve my prediction. Honestly, if anything, I feel closer to saying my prediction is wrong because it isn’t out of the question yet for us to beat Michigan State in the last game of the regular season. This is going to be a fun year and I am very excited. Of course, when it’s all said and done and Penn State finishes 8-4, I’m going to pretend this post never existed.

And if you want even more hot schedule takes, check out our podcast breaking down the schedule from July.

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Posts from the all-student staff of Onward State.

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