An Early Look At Penn State Football’s 2020 Schedule
Although the Nittany Lions won’t take the field for a matter of months, it’s never too early to start dreaming about Penn State football’s upcoming season — especially in times like these.
In a world without sports, plenty of Penn State fans are likely dreaming of heading to Beaver Stadium next fall and taking in a game with 107,000 of their best friends. Whether or not the season starts on time (or even next spring), the Nittany Lions’ upcoming schedule is probably fresh on the minds of many.
James Franklin’s squad will take on the usual suspects like Michigan and Ohio State next season, but it’ll also have an interesting non-conference campaign featuring Virginia Tech. With that in mind, here’s how we see Penn State’s season playing out.
Week One: September 5 vs. Kent State
The Nittany Lions and Golden Flashes have met on six occasions, and Penn State’s won them all. I don’t think that’ll change this time around.
To its credit, Kent State finished with a 5-3 record in the MAC last season, but that obviously doesn’t compare to the Big Ten. Journey Brown should have a big day to open up his highly-anticipated 2020 campaign, Sean Clifford will throw at least one touchdown to his big target Pat Freiermuth, and Micah Parsons will be his usual self and dominate.
Prediction: Penn State 51, Kent State 3
Week Two: September 12 @ Virginia Tech
This is Penn State’s most highly-anticipated non-conference matchup in recent memory, and I think it’ll live up to the hype.
Lane Stadium is already a tough place to play, and if it’s a night game, it’s going to make it even harder for Clifford and the gang offensively. While it may be a bit of a tough night for Kirk Ciarrocca’s unit, I expect Penn State’s defense to step up in a big way against the Hokies.
A couple of timely turnovers and plenty of sacks should be enough to give the Nittany Lions solid field position throughout the night, and Jordan Stout will hit a few clutch long field goals against his old team. A late touchdown run for Clifford will give Penn State a two-possession lead late, allowing the Nittany Lions to leave Blacksburg with a victory.
Prediction: Penn State 27, Virginia Tech 14
Week Three: September 19 vs. San Jose State
After a gritty win on the road against Virginia Tech, the Nittany Lions will get a bit of a break against the Spartans. San Jose State finished with a 5-7 record last season and won’t put up much of a fight against Penn State.
Expect a big win for Franklin’s squad over a pretty lowly team and plenty of reps for backups. I’ll go as far as to say quarterback turned-TikTok star Will Levis will throw and rush for a touchdown.
Prediction: Penn State 69, San Jose State 6
Week Four: September 26 vs. Northwestern
Northwestern was, in a word, bad throughout 2019. After winning the Big Ten West in 2018, Pat Fitzgerald’s squad finished with a 3-9 overall record last year and a brutal 1-8 mark in the Big Ten. While next season likely won’t be as bad, I still don’t see the Wildcats hanging with the Nittany Lions.
Penn State’s offense won’t have a massive day against a gritty Northwestern team, but the trend of dominant defensive play will continue. Expect a strong rushing attack to be enough for the Nittany Lions to shut out the Wildcats, allowing them to open conference play with a victory.
Prediction: Penn State 24, Northwestern 0
Week Five: October 3 @ Michigan
Jim Harbaugh’s squad is going to be hungry for revenge after a 2019 White Out loss in Happy Valley. Penn State has had its fair share of struggles at the Big House, and I don’t think that’s going to change in this one.
Quarterback Dylan McCaffery will get the Wolverines off to a fast start, and they’ll hold the lead for most of the game. However, a perfectly-executed scoring drive by Clifford and Co. is closed out by a Jahan Dotson touchdown in the final seconds of regulation and the game goes to overtime.
The Nittany Lions open up over time with a Jake Pinegar field goal, and Brandon Smith forces and recovers a game-winning fumble on Michigan’s possession. Penn State gets its first win in the Big House since 2009 in dramatic fashion.
Prediction: Penn State 31, Michigan 28
Week Six: October 10 — Bye Week
I’m predicting a lot of couch surfing for Sean Clifford, James Franklin, and the rest of the Nittany Lions. Rest up, fellas!
Prediction: Nittany Lions 100, Bad Vibes 0
Week Seven: October 17 vs. Iowa
The Hawkeyes always seem to hang with Penn State, and I expect Kirk Ferentz’s team to do that for most of this matchup.
Iowa’s stingy defense won’t allow much for Ciarrocca’s offense, while the Hawkeyes find a way to put some points on the board and make it a tie game at halftime. Despite that, I think Penn State’s offense will manage to pick up some momentum in the third quarter. A steady dose of Journey Brown will help the Nittany Lions keep the ball away from Iowa and stay undefeated on the season.
Prediction: Penn State 21, Iowa 13
Week Eight: October 24 vs. Ohio State
There is no getting around the fact that Ohio State is very good at football, folks.
With a star in returning quarterback Justin Fields and an endless pool of talent on defense, the Buckeyes seem to be Penn State’s toughest opponent every single year, and likely will be for years to come. But anything can happen at the White Out.
With this in mind, I don’t see Penn State getting blown out by the perennial force of the Big Ten. That isn’t going to change the fact, however, that Fields is going to have a big game, and it’s going to be a struggle for the Nittany Lion offense to put up points. I see both teams going back and forth for most of the game, but a late score for the Buckeyes will be too much to overcome for Penn State.
The Nittany Lions will pick up their first loss of the season under White Out conditions.
Prediction: Ohio State 38, Penn State 31
Week Nine: October 31 @ Indiana
The Hoosiers battled the Nittany Lions all the way to the end of last season’s game in Happy Valley, but I don’t see another close game this year. Penn State’s defense won’t struggle to slow down Indiana, and a more experienced Clifford should have himself a day in Bloomington.
Penn State will bounce back from its first defeat with a two-possession victory on the road.
Prediction: Penn State 21, Indiana 7
Week 10: November 7 @ Nebraska
Scott Frost and the Cornhuskers have improved slightly over the past few seasons, but they’re still nowhere near Penn State’s level. Despite the road atmosphere, I don’t see the Nittany Lions having too much trouble with Nebraska.
I’m expecting Penn State’s offense to explode in Lincoln while the defense has a quiet day. This will be a good ol’ fashioned late-season blowout for the Nittany Lions.
Prediction: Penn State 45, Nebraska 14
Week 11: November 14 vs. Michigan State
The Spartans have been fairly inconsistent over the past few seasons, but they still manage to play Penn State pretty tough in most cases.
Sparty will hang around during a cold game at Beaver Stadium, but I don’t see a scenario in which they beat Penn State. The Clifford-Freiermuth connection will remain strong while Michigan State struggles to slow down Journey Brown. That’ll result in a few big-time touchdowns, providing the Nittany Lions with their ninth win of the season.
Prediction: Penn State 28, Michigan State 17
Week 12: November 21 vs. Maryland
In case you forgot, Penn State absolutely rolled the Terps 59-0 last season. While this game may not feature another massacre to that level, there’s no way Maryland beats the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley. I think this might be when we finally see some snaps for young quarterback Michael Johnson Jr.
Prediction: Penn State 48, Maryland 10
Week 13: November 28 @ Rutgers
A season finale against Rutgers is always pretty lame.
The Scarlet Knights made some noise with the hiring of Greg Schiano this offseason, but Rutgers is still…well, Rutgers. Penn State’s offense won’t need to do much as its counterpart shuts out Rutgers on its home turf.
Prediction: Penn State 17, Rutgers 0
Postseason: Orange Bowl vs. Florida
Penn State clearly has an unbelievable season in these predictions, but the loss to Ohio State keeps the Nittany Lions out of the Big Ten Championship. This, in turn, leaves Penn State just out of the nation’s top four and the College Football Playoff, so the Nittany Lions face a talented Florida team in Miami.
I expect Sean Clifford to step up big time in his second New Years Six Bowl start and lead a dominant offensive performance. Parsons and the defense do enough to stop the Gators, helping Penn State finish with a 12-1 record on the season.
Prediction: Penn State 42, Florida 24
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