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Staff Predictions: Penn State Football’s 2019 Record

Are you ready for Penn State football, Happy Valley?

Another offseason that felt like an eternity is finally set to come to a close this weekend when No. 15 Penn State takes on Idaho to officially begin the 2019 season.

The Nittany Lions boast a defense with truly elite potential and talents like Micah Parsons, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Garrett Taylor poised to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. Penn State’s offense, however, doesn’t have as high of expectations, thanks to its relative inexperience. Redshirt sophomore Sean Clifford will take the reins as the team’s starting quarterback while Ricky Slade, Justin Shorter, and Jahan Dotson are among the projected starters who will likely be asked to take on significant roles in spite of their youth.

With that in mind, our staffers decided to take a crack at predicting Penn State’s regular-season record.

Hope Damato: 9-3

I have high hopes for this young team, but it’ll face much more pressure this year after losing Trace McSorley. After heartbreaking losses to Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan in 2018, I think Penn State will fall short again in some of its key games — especially with two of those opponents hosting the Nittany Lions.

This year’s talented defense has to stay on its toes, but it truly does have the potential to be one of college football’s best. This season could be a growing year for the Nittany Lions, but I think there’s an outside chance of Penn State earning a bid to a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Matt DiSanto: 8-4

As much as I’d like to see the Nittany Lions go undefeated, it’s tough to justify such an impressive feat for a team sending an inexperienced quarterback onto the field. I believe in Sean Clifford far more than the average college football fan, but there’s bound to be some growing pains for any young quarterback.

The Nittany Lions’ schedule certainly doesn’t do them any favors. Road match-ups against Iowa and Ohio State will definitely be a challenge, and even the iconic White Out might not be enough to keep Michigan at bay. Throw in another wacky loss to a dark horse team (because there always is one), and you’ve got yourself an 8-4 team.

Rory Pelella: 10-2

Penn State shouldn’t get itself into any problems throughout the first half of the season — especially with a strong defense leading the charge. However, I think Sean Clifford and the Nittany Lion offense will be tested against Michigan, and the young quarterback’s lack of experience will start to show in a loss to the Wolverines.

I also predict the Nittany Lions falling short against Ohio State on the road, playing in a hostile atmosphere in Columbus and battling yet another tough defensive opponent. Overall, expect Penn State to make a statement this season and silence a lot of doubters with its third 10-win campaign in the past four years.

Anthony Colucci: 11-1

Remember the last time an unproven redshirt sophomore took the reins at quarterback? I’m excited to see what this young, scrappy Penn State can accomplish in 2019.

As young as this team is, the talent is certainly there. However, it’s going to be a matter of putting it all together when it counts: i.e. not letting Brian Lewerke look like Peyton Manning and spoiling Josh Gattis’ return to Happy Valley with a firestorm of sacks and TFLs.

I predict Penn State will cruise through the beginning of its schedule, but lose at Iowa in a heartbreaker. After that humbling loss, the Nittany Lions will bounce back and go on a rampage during the last month of the season, including an upset against Ohio State on the road in Week 12. Did someone say “Revenge Tour?”

Also… Sean Clifford for Heisman.

Will Pegler: 10-2

Penn State should expect to have a fairly easy opening to its season, but things will pick up quickly with several away games against ranked opponents throughout the season. I have confidence in redshirt sophomore quarterback Sean Clifford impressing in his first season as the starter. However, hostile environments just might be enough to make the young gunslinger struggle.

With this in mind, I expect the Nittany Lions to fall in their trips to Iowa and Ohio State — two of the toughest places to play in the country. Outside of these hiccups, James Franklin’s squad has a speedy enough offense and a lockdown defense that should win double-digit games in 2019.

Anthony Fiset: 11-1

I know in my heart that this is top to bottom the most talented team to come through Happy Valley in decades, but it’s still a young group. I expect Sean Clifford to light the college football world on fire with all of the weapons he’ll have at his disposal, but at the end of the day, I don’t think he’ll be able to get through the Big Ten East gauntlet unscathed in his first season.

Penn State is going to lose on the road to one of Iowa, Michigan State, or Ohio State. Don’t be surprised when this one-loss team gets kept out of the College Football Playoff due to the same selection committee BS that plagues the Big Ten every year. Still, Clifford and company will smell the roses in Pasadena when all is said and done.

Mikey Mandarino: 8-4

Call me a pessimist, but I think nine wins is the best-case scenario for Penn State this season. The talent this team boasts on defense is incredible, but I foresee the offense leaving a lot to be desired.

Sean Clifford will be this team’s x-factor, and his performance could be the difference between 8-4 and a potential Big Ten title. Everyone at Penn State knows about his big arm, but he added a dual-threat dynamic to his game throughout the offseason. If he has a great season, Penn State will be a contender for the Big Ten and national titles, but I don’t think he will just yet because of his lack of experience.

Aside from seven passes (most of which came in garbage time of blowout wins), Clifford isn’t very experienced. I find it difficult to count on a first-year quarterback to lead a team to double-digit regular-season wins. Trace McSorley obviously did just that, but he’s a once-in-a-generation player who made up for his talent deficiencies with an unrivaled #UNRIVALED flair for the dramatic and “clutch” gene.

Penn State’s defense is obviously great, but there are plenty of other Big Ten squads with great defenses, too. I think the Nittany Lions will lose to the Buckeyes and Wolverines, and I also have them pegged for losses in hostile environments at Michigan State and Iowa.

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