Predicting Penn State Football’s Updated Nine-Game Schedule
In what was a massive few days for college football, the Big Ten reinstated the football season this past Wednesday.
The nine-game schedule that begins on October 24 was released during FOX’s “Big Noon Kickoff” Saturday morning. All teams will play a conference-only schedule that will conclude with a Championship Weekend on December 19. Seeds from the East and West division will match up and play for the ninth and final games of the season over the course of that weekend.
James Franklin’s squad already has a few marquee games on the slate that stand out, including a Halloween matchup with Ohio State and a late-November trip to the Big House.
With some strict coronavirus precautions in place and a schedule we’ve never seen before, it’s going to be an odd season. With that in mind, we tried our best to predict how Penn State football will fare during its 2020 campaign.
Week One: October 24 @ Indiana
With this now being the third installment of Penn State football’s 2020 schedule, we’ve seen Indiana pop up on multiple different parts of the schedule. No matter when and where these two teams meet, though, the Nittany Lions are beating the Hoosiers.
Indiana hung with Penn State during last year’s contest at Beaver Stadium and only lost by a touchdown, but I don’t see that happening this time around. Expect Kirk Ciarrocca’s offense to come out firing in his Penn State debut, which will make it impossible for Indiana to keep up.
The Nittany Lions come home 1-0 and prepared for a spooky match up with the Buckeyes.
Prediction: Penn State 35, Indiana 10
Week Two: October 31 vs. Ohio State
There are going to be a lot of changes during this strange college football season. One thing that won’t waver? Ohio State is really, really good at football.
The Buckeyes have had several players opt back in from the NFL Draft after the Big Ten reinstated its season, so they won’t be short of any firepower on either side of the ball.
Brent Pry’s defense is going to struggle to stop Justin Fields and the rest of Ohio State’s weapons, and it’s going to be difficult for Penn State to hold that pace. Journey Brown had a productive day in Columbus last season, and I see that as a strong possibility once again. But without a rocking Beaver Stadium on their side, I simply don’t know how the Nittany Lions can get enough stops to win this one.
Prediction: Ohio State 37, Penn State 21
Week Three: November 7 vs. Maryland
The only good thing about the Nittany Lions’ week two matchup against Ohio State? They get to play Maryland right after.
Penn State hasn’t struggled against the Terps over the past few seasons, and that’s not going to change in 2020. Expect the defense to get its swagger back after a brutal match up against a top-tier Ohio State offense, and Sean Clifford to have a nice day.
The backups will get plenty of reps in this week three victory.
Prediction: Penn State 51, Maryland 7
Week Four: November 14 @ Nebraska
Nebraska has slowly tried to battle its way back to national prominence these past few years, but its still not quite there yet.
After finishing 5-7 in 2019, Scott Frost’s squad now has a brutal Big Ten schedule ahead. After starting their season against Ohio State and Wisconsin, the Cornhuskers have a date with this talented Penn State team just two weeks later.
I expect Nebraska to be gassed after a brutal start to season, and James Franklin’s team will take advantage. The #LawnBoyz should have a big day with multiple scores, and Penn State’s vaunted defense won’t have much issue protecting a big lead.
Prediction: Penn State 45, Nebraska 14
Week Five: November 21 vs. Iowa
Only one word comes to mind whenever these two teams meet: grit
A late-November contest with Kirk Ferentz’s team is almost certainly going to result in a defensive stalemate. The Hawkeyes always seem to keep it close with Penn State, so I’m ready for a bit of a nail-biter to open the second half of the Nittany Lions’ season.
While I see Sean Clifford and the offense struggling a bit, Penn State’s defense will make one final stop in this one and lead the Nittany Lions to a 4-1 record.
Prediction: Penn State 23, Iowa 16
Week Six: November 28 @ Michigan
This is going to be a fun one.
While late-season trips to the Big House have resulted in a couple blowout losses for the Nittany Lions, I expect a tight battle between these two squads this time around. With a new quarterback under center, be prepared for multiple forced turnovers from Penn State’s defense that will result in clutch scores for the Nittany Lions.
Journey Brown and the #LawnBoyz may not have the day many expect against a seemingly always solid Michigan defense, but Clifford will do enough for Penn State to squeeze out a win in Ann Arbor.
Prediction: Penn State 31, Michigan 24
Week Seven: December 5 @ Rutgers
Come on, guys.
Prediction: Penn State 69, Rutgers 0
Week Eight: December 12 vs. Michigan State
There’s truly no better way to close out the regular season than a battle for the gorgeous Land-Grant Trophy.
The Spartans have managed to give Penn State fits over the past few years, but last season, the Nittany Lions managed a comfortable 28-7 victory in East Lansing. Mainly because it’s the last week of the season and we don’t know what can happen in December football, I think this one will be closer.
Penn State will finish out the regular season with a victory, but be ready for Michigan State to keep it tighter than many expect. The Spartans will throw together a couple of clutch drives to tighten things up in the fourth quarter, but a solid field goal from Jake Pinegar (and hold from Jordan Stout) will help the Nittany Lions win this one by two possessions.
Prediction: Penn State 34, Michigan State 24
Big Ten Championship Week: Penn State Earns Big Ten East No. 2 Seed, Plays Minnesota
With a strong 7-1 record, Penn State will finish second in the Big Ten East behind undefeated Ohio State and match up with the Big Ten West’s second-place Minnesota.
The Big Ten hasn’t officially announced where these games will be played, but something tells me no one wants to play in Minneapolis less than a week before Christmas. Wherever these squads meet, Penn State is going to come out hungry for revenge against the team that played spoiler to it last fall.
Kirk Ciarrocca is going to draw up a fun set of plays against his old squad, and Sean Clifford will benefit by throwing multiple touchdowns against the Golden Gophers. I expect at least two of those scores to include star tight end Pat Freiermuth, as he’ll close out his dominant junior campaign with a bang.
Minnesota’s offense will likely hold their own throughout the game, but don’t expect them to keep it close down the stretch. The Nittany Lions will be crowned the ~one of the best~ teams in the conference after this revenge game.
Prediction: Penn State 40, Minnesota 28
Following the Big Ten’s nine-game schedule, the conference should be eligible to compete in the College Football Playoff. However, it’s anyone’s guess which lucky teams will punch their ticket.
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