Staff Predictions: Penn State Football’s 2016 Record
We’re so close to being back in Beaver Stadium it almost feels too good to be true, but thankfully Kent State is finally coming to town this Saturday. Though fans and students alike will now be subjected to the metal detector wand treatment at each gate, the Nittany Lions’ new offense shouldn’t keep them waiting very long to basket toss our lovely ladies airborne with Joe Moorhead on the headset and Saquon Barkley in the backfield. Our sports staffers took their best shot at predicting Penn State’s regular-season record and here’s what we came up with.
Steve Connelly: 8-4
It’s James Franklin’s third season and he knows it’s a make-or-break year. He needs to show some improvement, but bringing in a brand new offense (and an inexperienced quarterback) need to make expectations modest. With the thought process that they lose to Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State, the Nittany Lions play the rest of the schedule against teams they’re on par with if not better than. If they can’t go 8-1 against that portion of the schedule, it would be a pretty successful year for Franklin and Co.
Elissa Hill: 9-3
What can I say? I’m an optimist here. James Franklin seems confident in his roster this season with a completed scholarship squad, and I’m looking forward to seeing what McSorley’s mobile offensive style can accomplish. Major B1G matchups against Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State could prove challenging, but the Nittany Lions show promise for an upset in the ranks this season. The Pitt game is my biggest wildcard at this point, but a stadium full of blue and white should help the cause.
Tim Reams: 9-3
The Nittany Lions have been steadily improving in every facet of their game both in terms of actual play and in recruiting, and I feel as though this year they’ll start to see that work by James Franklin and Co. pay off. The chances of them beating Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan State, and Michigan are not in the team’s favor, but I feel as though this year the Nittany Lions can pull off a memorable upset against the Buckeyes in the Whiteout, similar to their double overtime effort back in 2014. That game has the same potential this year as it did back then. The Hawkeyes are another Big Ten foe I feel is heavily underestimating the talent this Nittany Lions team has with such a young defense, paired with the difficulty of playing in a packed Beaver Stadium. My boldest prediction for this year is that Penn State will crack the Top-15 and finish the year out with bad losses only coming at the hands of Michigan and Michigan State.
Ethan Kasales: 8-4
I see the Nittany Lions heading into their first Big Ten clash at Michigan undefeated, but the Pitt game is effectively a toss up in my mind, so we’ll see what happens on the road in week two. This year, I feel like losses to the Wolverines, Ohio State, and Michigan State are par for the course, but I think James Franklin’s squad will take two out of its three home showdowns with Minnesota, Maryland, and Iowa. The new offense should allow for relatively stress-free wins in the other five matchups.
David Abruzzese: 9-3
I’m an optimist who for the past two years has shot high and ended up being off by two games. I think this team, after two years of warming up, finally boasts the depth necessary to make a run of sorts. Like Ethan mentioned before, I do believe this program takes care of its first three opponents — Pitt being nervewrackingly close — leading up to Michigan. I do feel like the Lions will be able to muster up some magic behind Barkley’s legs and the linebacking corps’ consistency to overcome a Wolverines team many believe is ranked too high. Such luck will not be found against Ohio State, Iowa, or Minnesota, which might come as a bit of a shocker (but really shouldn’t given the high spirits surrounding the Golden Gophers). But I don’t see why this team can’t compete. It’s about time.
Mike Reisman: 8-4
I see this season ending one of two ways: 8-4 with no impressive wins save for Pitt, or 7-5 with a win against Michigan, Michigan State, or Ohio State, and a few disappointing losses. This Penn State team seems to make almost no sense, as people have been extremely pessimistic about it seemingly since January 3rd. Yet, for some reason, advanced metrics from sites like SB Nation and ESPN have the Nittany Lions doing very well, even favoring them against Michigan State and Iowa, and giving them a very good shot against Ohio State. I am a person, and people are generally not good at predicting sports, and while stats aren’t great either, they seem to be better so I’m going to go with the prediction that’s closer to the stats than the humans. One prediction I can be sure of: I will lose my voice at every single game I attend, home or away, plus one or two I don’t.
Dana Lipshutz: a number-a slightly lesser number
Some of my fellow staff members will pick their season record predictions based off logic as well as knowledge of the other teams. That is not the strategy I have deployed here. We will win more games than we will lose, but we definitely will not win the games against Ohio State and both Michigan’s. I’m not going to pretend like I know anything about our football record and make an absolutely random guess on numbers. We will probably lose a game we should of won, and everyone will talk about it like it was the end of the world. Saquon will leap. Of that we can all be sure. There will be a new football sweetheart (RIP Hack and Nassib). Girls will wear XXL shirts as dresses and boys will paint their bodies in an attempt to impress said girls. Pom Poms will be pommed and chicken baskets will be eaten. Your friend will get drunk and you wont be able to find them before going in. Someone you know will lose their PSU id. These are the predictions we can be absolutely sure of. Or at least I can be sure of.
James Turchick: 8-4
-Kent State- Win
-Ohio State- Win
-Michigan State- Loss
New faces in key depth chart spots could make or break the team, especially at the quarterback position. Leading the team down the field this year McSorley will have to be the quarterback we need. An abundance of talent in our receiver spots with DaeSean Hamilton and Chris Godwin will hopefully give him the space he needs to make smart passes. Not to forget about Saeed Blacknall though, who last year helped the Lions with some big catches to set up a touchdown against Maryland and a field goal for Joey Julius against San Diego State. Blacknall has also scored all of his touchdowns during white-out games so pay attention to him when we play Ohio State because there seems to be a correlation. Blacknall may sneak his way into some nice plays this year as all eyes are on Hamilton streaking down the sideline.
The most important part of any football team has a chance to prove themselves as well. The offensive line has a new starter, Ryan Bates. Side Note: I played in a Catholic Youth Organization football league with Ryan Bates and he forgot his helmet to practice one time and had to run laps. Bates is a redshirt freshman so he’s not new to Penn State football but like McSorley, we haven’t seen him play much, if at all. With four other linemen with more experience, Bates may be able to play up to them, but the Big Ten is a big league and it takes a lot to be a competitor with some of the heaviest humans in the country.
The line is what I’m looking most forward to this year. It struggled so much last season that Hackenberg was affectionately called Sackenberg for a while. Another issue for the line will be depth as there aren’t many horses in the stable to put in when the game gets hot. Saquon Barkley should be looking forward to improvements in the line as well because no running back has scored a touchdown in history without an O-Line to get them there. Expect big things from the starting running back this year. Just ask Kirk.
Defensively, I don’t have much to say. The team has new defensive linemen and if you haven’t guessed I think the O and D lines are the building blocks of every team. With that being said, the faces on the D-Line which include Torrence Brown, Parker Cothren, Antoine White and Garrett Sickles will earn their keep on a week by week by week basis. The senior outside linebacker Brandon Bell, who has proven himself to be dependable over the years, will join with other defensive-back seniors Nyeem Wartman-White and Malik Golden to inspire the younger guys. There’s a chance that a strong defesnsive-back unit can compensate for a learning defensive line so no matter what numbers the D-Line puts up there’s still a chance.
Despite all of this, I still haven’t given a hot take. For this year and my first Staff-Pick I’m going to give you the most Penn State thing you’ve ever heard, I’m going to tell all of you non-believers that were going to beat Ohio State in Beaver Stadium this fall. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but something is making me believe that we will. Blame it on my eternal optimism in the face of pessimistic by-standers, but I believe it and my grandfather would be proud of it.
For the first time this season, we will get to see a Franklin offense with a Franklin quarterback, which I have been looking forward to for a long time.