Staff Predictions: Penn State Football’s 2020 Record

As if you weren’t already counting, No. 8 Penn State football is set to kick off its 2020 campaign in just three days.

The Nittany Lions will hit the road to start their season against Indiana at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 24. Despite a strange offseason and an even weirder conference-only season, expectations remain high for this Penn State squad.

While most of our staff expects at least one or two bumps in the road, we’re ready for another successful and heartbreaking entertaining season of Penn State football.

Connor Donohue: 8-1

So close yet so far…again.

I hate saying it, but the Nittany Lions’ only loss will come against Ohio State on Halloween. With the news coming out about Journey Brown Monday and Penn State’s inexperience in some key areas, the team doesn’t match up to the Buckeyes favorably. I don’t see many other issues on the schedule outside of possibly a dangerous trip to the Big House in late November.

I have full confidence that Penn State will defeat whomever it needs to face out of the Big Ten West come Week Nine. 8-1 won’t get Penn State in the College Football Playoff, but another New Year’s Six bowl should be in the cards.

Frankie Marzano: 7-2

There’s been a general trend among Penn State football over the last few years, and it goes as follows: build the hype up for the Buckeyes as an undefeated team and lose a heart breaker to THE Ohio State and somehow let it snowball into another critical loss.

I see that happening this year as well. The game I have circled on my calendar is November 21 vs. Iowa. Iowa has played the Nittany Lions tough almost every year in the last five contests, and I can see the Hawkeyes take advantage of an empty Beaver Stadium and escaping Happy Valley with a win.

At the end of the season, I believe the Nittany Lions will win the ninth game against a Big Ten West team. The last part of the trend is that Penn State always recover at the end.

7-2…book it!

Jackson Buchenauer: 7-2

Penn State will be fighting for a Big Ten Championship all year but find itself just short yet. With a lack of experienced pass-catchers on offense and trouble in limiting big plays on defense, Penn State will have a tough time countering Big Ten stars such as Justin Fields.

Despite that, the Nittany Lions will come out of the first five weeks squeaky clean, but December football is a whole different ball game. We’ve seen Penn State struggle in cold weather situations, and the final couple of weeks against Michigan and Michigan State will prove no different.

The Nittany Lions will drop one of those games but still find a way to the Big Ten Championship. Penn State will fall to Wisconsin there, as a well-oiled and experienced offense with big-play capabilities will cut apart the secondary.

Richard Smeltzer: 7-2

Due to the shortened season, this record looks worse than it truly is. The only losses I see Penn State taking this season are against Ohio State and Michigan — two very good teams. Ohio State simply looks like one of the most talented squads in the country right now, and the Nittany Lions will have a tough time prying a win away from the Buckeyes.

On top of this, despite being a more talented team, Penn State hasn’t played Michigan very well in recent history at the Big House, and I see that trend continuing this season. This leaves the Nittany Lions with a record of 6-2 and a second or third-place finish in the Big Ten East.

In its Big Ten Championship weekend matchup, I could see Penn State matching up against Minnesota. The Nittany Lions will get revenge for their loss last year and pull off a comfortable win.

Owen Abbey: 6-3

My expectations for this Penn State team are low, and I have many questions. What if Journey Brown ends up missing the season? Will Devyn Ford and Noah Cain be able to step up? What happens at wide receiver this year? Jahan Dotson is poised for a breakout year, but I’m still concerned that Sean Clifford won’t have enough weapons for the offense to be a real threat.

And what about the defense? The front seven is poised to be huge factors in games, but can the secondary improve? Cornerback is a spot I’m worried about, especially as it was the weak spot of the defense last year. I don’t know if the coaching staff has found an answer to that issue yet.

I think this Penn State team has potential to do well, but too many weak spots against a lot of good teams does them in. I think the Nittany Lions lose to both Ohio State and Michigan and then their ninth game of the season. I hope these questions get answered early on, but if they don’t, Nittany Lion fans are in for a long season.

Connor Krause: 9-0

Call me bold, but Penn State has all of the tools in the shed to make national noise in 2020. With Sean Clifford returning with an array of offensive weapons at his dispense, the new Kirk Ciarocca offense should provide a mix of fireworks coupled with a heavier reliance on the run game.

Despite losing Micah Parsons and potentially Journey Brown, the linebacker and running back rooms are still loaded with talent. With an array of hungry blue-chip talent at Ja’Juan Seider and Brent Pry’s disposal, each group will not skip a beat. The Nittany Lions also have two experienced safeties headlining the secondary in Lamont Wade and Jaquan Brisker, who will both be pivotal in paving the way for improvement in the team’s pass defense from a year ago.

Although the Nittany Lions do not have the luxury of playing Ohio State in the best atmosphere in sports, the team should be able to bring their own juice after suffering from three straight losses by a combined 13 points over the same number of seasons.

After making a statement win against Ohio State, the Nittany Lions should ride their newfound confidence straight to Indianapolis for a December 19 date against the most likely candidate from the West: the Wisconsin Badgers.  In a rematch of 2016’s epic showdown, the Nittany Lions will cap off an undefeated season with their first-ever berth in the College Football Playoff. It is 2020 after all, folks.

Gabe Angieri: 8-1

Penn State football enters the 2020 season fresh off an 11-win season in 2019, including a high-scoring win in the Cotton Bowl Classic against Memphis.

This season, James Franklin’s squad will play an eight-game regular season against Big Ten opponents, which raises the competition level and leaves little room for error. Despite the huge loss of Micah Parsons and potentially Journey Brown, the Nittany Lions should finish toward the top of the Big Ten for a second consecutive season.

The toughest game on the schedule is a Halloween showdown against Ohio State, which is the only game I think Penn State will lose. The Ohio State roster is filled with potential NFL talent, and I think it’ll be too much for the Nittany Lions to handle.

Despite some other tough games on the schedule, such as Iowa, Michigan, and even Indiana, Penn State has a mix of experienced veterans and young talent to overcome some of these tougher games. Quarterback Sean Clifford now has a year under his belt as the starter, and should be ready to take the next step in developing his game. Additionally, the defense has plenty of talent to make up for some key offseason departures.

In the end, I think Penn State will finish second in the Big Ten East and take on Minnesota in the ninth game of the season. After losing to the Golden Gophers last season, the Nittany Lions will seek revenge and finish the season with a win, giving them an 8-1 record.

Will Pegler: 8-1

Despite some key losses and unanswered questions at certain positions, this is a very good Penn State football team. An already-talented Sean Clifford has experience under his belt, as does the offensive line and multiple running backs.

As for the defense, there’s never any question besides the secondary. This group is one of the best Penn State has had in multiple seasons in my opinion, though, and I expect them to improve greatly upon a tough 2019 campaign. Lamont Wade and Jaquan Brisker are both incredible athletes at safety, while Tariq Castro-Fields will serve as a leader for an otherwise young group of corners.

Even with all of this talent, I still don’t see a scenario in which the Nittany Lions beat Ohio State. Penn State will lose in a heartbreaker to the Buckeyes early and play angry the rest of the way to rip off eight consecutive wins that include a victory over Wisconsin during Big Ten Championship weekend.

This won’t be enough for the College Football Playoff, but the Nittany Lions are headed for another New Year’s Six bowl.

Sam Brungo: 7-2

I see a lot of promise for this group. While I predict a strong outing against all of Penn State’s opponents, including a few beat downs, I just can’t see the Nittany Lions beating Ohio State given the loss of Micah Parsons and potentially Journey Brown.

I think Indiana, Nebraska, Iowa, and Michigan State will put up a good fight but won’t come within seven points of the Nittany Lions. Penn State will blow out Maryland and Rutgers — no competition there.

Where I am stumped is Michigan in Ann Arbor. I’ve been watching the Nittany Lions for long enough to know that they just don’t perform in the “Big House,” and I don’t see that changing this year.

As far as a ninth game, I would love to see Penn State match up against Wisconsin. That’s a contest that I believe would favor the Nittany Lions. Hell, even a rematch with last year’s season implosion in Minnesota would be fun.

No matter who Penn State plays, I see it winning a ninth game, finishing with a 7-2 record in what will be a wonky year for sure. None the less, I am extremely stoked to watch my team play and to have real college football back.

Ryan Parsons: 8-1

With such an odd offseason and big question marks, it’s hard to tell how the Big Ten will shake up this year. But despite losing star players, I believe Penn State still has a solid football team on its hands.

The offense will be led by what seems to be a more accurate, poised Sean Clifford. Although Clifford’s wide receivers are certainly still a question mark, all signs point to the group having a solid year. Jahan Dotson will have more space to shine in KJ Hamler’s absence and young players like Parker Washington and Keandre Lambert-Smith will try to make big impacts right away. Although potentially losing Journey Brown would be a blow to the offense, the running back room is deep enough to fill in for him.

On the defensive side of the ball, this group of guys will likely be the bright spot for the team. Although they’ll be missing Micah Parsons, there are plenty of other young, talented guys to be excited about. The secondary was a glaring issue towards the end of last season, but all signs point to improvement in that department.

I think Penn State is a very solid team but will succumb to Ohio State on Halloween. Without the White Out environment, the Buckeyes will most likely show that they’re the better team. If Penn State plays extremely well in all other games but is only narrowly defeated by Ohio State, it’s possible they can sneak into the College Football Playoffs. But otherwise, the Nittany Lions are looking at another New Year’s Six bid.

Matt DiSanto: 7-2

Penn State will lose to Michigan and Ohio State, beat the snot out of Maryland and Rutgers for a cheap morale boost, and underwhelmingly wind up in a decent bowl game. Go State and smash the over.

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