Hoegher's 2013 Previews: PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS

Completely off topic, but I've hung out with a girl recently and she seems awesome. Smart, personable, athletic, pretty, etc, etc, etc. It's enough to make me put down my beer and get in my long runs (well, most of the time)! All I'm asking is that y'all wish me luck with this endeavor :)

On a more football related note, a comparison:

2012 Penn State (8-4, Big Ten losses to Ohio State, Nebraska)

2012 Michigan (8-5, Big Ten losses to Ohio State, Nebraska)



NOTE: all historical data is taken from James Howell's excellent resource and/or Sports-Reference (college football edition)

Penn State Overall Ratings

Penn State Adj Off/Def

Penn State Win Pct/Luck

Winning percentage and "Luck" are plotted on a win-pct basis (mind-blowing, I know). Adj Off/Def/Eff/Marg and Resume rankings are plotted on a percentile-ranking basis. Thus, a team rating out in the 99th percentile would be awesome, a team rating out in the 1st percentile would be not-so-awesome.

Well, I'm sure most of you are aware of Joe Paterno. It's not like I'd be breaking any new ground there by talking about Penn State's most successful coach (even given the regression later in his tenure). So instead, let's go on about 1994 the last time Penn State has gone undefeated.

1994 isn't the best Nittany Lion team I have in my database. Actually, it lands as the third best (I'll give you a chance to guess the other two. Keep in mind that the W/L record doesn't matter as much as you might think.). But that team still went undefeated and had arguably the best offense in modern college football history (47.0 pts/game against a defensive schedule I have as 10th in Div I-A that year).

Could their defense have been a bit better? Sure, 21.0 pts/game isn't going to win any beauty pageants compared to modern day Alabama. But despite a defense I have ranked 29th for 1994, Penn State still rates out the best squad for that season. (I'm not the only rating system that leans that way, either).

This isn't to take too much away from what Nebraska did that year. Going undefeated is tough against any schedule, so props for Tom Osbourne finally figuring it out after two decades of Orange Bowl losses. But Nebraska only ranked 3rd in the Hoegher Ratings for 1994 (and 4th in SRS, if you think my methodology is flawed), and their undefeated run came against a 37th ranked SOS (using my numbers) vs 14th for Penn State (40th vs 8th, respectively, using the SRS). To get trounced in the AP Poll (10.5 FPV to Nebraska's 51.5) is far from what that team earned. Just my two cents.


1) 1981 Penn State (10-2, Fiesta Bowl win over USC)

2) 1982 Penn State (11-1, Sugar Bowl win over Georgia, national title)

THE FUTURE and are used for reference here. I highly recommend both sites.

Projected Rating: 0.531 (19th)

Conf Proj Rec Conf Rec Adj Off rk Adj Def rk Adj Eff rk Adj Marg rk
B10 9-3 6-2 1.114 43 0.621 6 0.642 18 0.493 21
Schedule SOS rk Conf SOS rk n-con SOS rk
Rating/Rk 0.070 41 0.186 47 -0.161 41
Week 1 (N) Week 2 (H) Week 3 (H) Week 4 (H) Week 5 Week 6 (V) Week 7 (H) Week 8
59 - ORANGE 84% 122 - EaMich 99% 48 - CentFlo 75% 75 - KentSt 91% 0 - BYE 0% 90 - India 95% 27 - FuMich 62% 0 - BYE 0%
Week 9 (V) Week 10 (H) Week 11 (V) Week 12 (H) Week 13 (H) Week 14 (V) Week 15 Week 16
14 - OhioSt 43% 84 - LOLinois 93% 78 - Minny 92% 70 - ????? 89% 18 - CORN 50% 22 - Wiscy 54% 0 - BYE 0% 0 - BYE 0%

The number next to each opponent represents the projected ranking for that team. The percentages represent projected likelihood of winning a particular game, helpfully color-coded for your benefit (no regard for home/away, though that status is noted). The team names have been adjusted to better fit your screen, I hope they are obvious enough. You are free to ignore everything and tell me why I'm wrong, you're probably right.

Penn State 2013 Profile

This is an attempt to quickly illustrate a team's outlook for the coming season. These aren't unique (my personal experience was a Pokemon Yellow Guide from my youth): maxing out the pentagon is better. Winning percentage should be obvious, but other than that: the numbers here represent percentile rankings. 99th percentile is good, 1st percentile is less so.


QB: Tyler Ferguson (JC, 3-star), Christian Hackenberg (4-star).

Austin Whipple, Jake Seymour, and D.J. Crook are also apparently options for the Nittany Lions at quarterback, but I'm going to say that - unless a Maryland type situation develops - it's either Ferguson or Hackenberg. Most likely Ferguson, given the Lions desire to red-shirt Hackenberg and Ferguson's solid play in the spring game.

I may get some flack for this, but I think Bill O'Brien's magic on Matt McGloin (and for that matter, Penn State in general) has been a bit over-stated. Don't get me wrong, there was definitely improvement, 2011 Penn State was a pretty bad at passing. But using Passing S&P+ as our guide, Penn State went from ranking 82nd in 2011... to 53rd in 2012. Undeniable improvement, but 53rd is not exactly brilliance incarnate in your passing scheme. Big Ten football!

At any rate, my point is that I'm not going to see the quarterbacks as too much of a liability with the graduation of McGloin. I'm not expecting All-Conference performance out of Ferguson, but a Top 50 level of quarterbacking should be reasonable.

RB: Zach Zwinack (JR, 4.9 yds/car), Bill Belton (JR, 4.3 yds/car)

Also of note: Akeel Lynch (3-star)

If I recall, Zach Zwinack was the guy I got extremely angry at last year when I was watching the Penn State vs Wisconsin game (along with BERT). Regardless, it looks like he and Bill Belton should provide a adequate level of rushing ability. It does seem a bit concerning that there doesn't seem to be a "home-run threat" at running back for Penn State, but maybe that's something that supposed 4.4 sec 40 yd dash Akeel Lynch can bring (NOTE: that 40 time is definitely fake).

WR/TE: Allen Robinson (JR WR, 13.2 yds/rec, 11 TD), Brandon Moseby-Felder (SR WR, 14.1 yds/rec), Kyle Carter (SO TE, 12.6 yds/rec), Matt Lehman (SR TE, 12.33 yds/rec)

Also of note: Adam Breneman (TE, 4-star), DeaSean Hamilton (WR, 4-star)

WEEEEE ALL THE RECEIVERS! From the looks of CFB Stats, all your seniors transferred (Oklahoma says thanks!), so Penn State is left with a lot of youth that was played last year. Given the new quarterbacks that you'll have to break in this year, that's a huge blessing as there is plenty of experience to go around.

As with the running backs, I'd like to see more of a "home-run threat" in there (though 14.1 yds/rec for Brandon Moseby-Felder isn't terrible). At least, in my limited knowledge, that means a guy that gets 15+ yds/rec as a deep runner. Jesse James (SO TE, 18.1 yds/rec) fills that role, but as a tight end with 15 receptions last year, I'm more skeptical of that continuing.


DL: Deion Barnes (SO, 10.0 TFL, 27 tackles), Anthony Zettel (SO, 4.0 TFL, 15 tackles), Garrett Sickels (DE, 4-star).

I'll keep this relatively brief, as I try due to my lack of defensive knowledge. I was wondering why Black Shoe Diaries wasn't concerned with the defensive line, as losing Sean Stanely (9.5 TFL) and Jordan Hill (8.5 TFL) from the 2012 roster (yay graduation!) would seem to be worrisome. Upon looking into this further, I gather that it's not not a concern, just less of one than other areas (like linebacker).

LB: Glenn Carson (SR, 85 tackles), Mike Hull (JR, 58 tackles),

Also of note: Ben Kline (SO, 18 tackles), Brandon Bell (OLB, 3-star).

Well, if Gerald Hodges and Mike Mauti are all Ted has been hyping them up to be, I'll be a happy camper. It does mean that Penn State will be scrambling to fill in for their production this next year and on less scholarships. Black Shoe Diaries is definitely concerned, and seeing the large drop off in production from Mauti and Hodges, I can understand why. When you're grasping at guys with 18 tackles on the year as a positive, that's an area of worry.

DB: Adrian Amos (JR, 3 PBU, 44 tackles), Malcolm Willis (2 PBU, 45 tackles), DaQuan Davis (3 PBU, 5 tackles).

Also of note: Anthony Smith (CB, 2-star), Jordan Smith (CB, 3-star)

Woof, that's a lot of raw-ity at cornerback. I understand why Black Shoe Diaries is all a-flutter with regards to that position. Fortunately, this is the Big Ten, where passing the ball is a tertiary skill at best (behind rushing and punting).


7-5. I was one of those riding the Penn State train (to a certain extent) last year. Their schedule was too easy, Penn State had too much recent success, for them to completely fall apart. I thought they had no business going worse than 9-3 (they went 8-4, but we can reasonably blame that on a shaky kicker), even with the sanctions. The doom-and-gloom predictions were way too harsh for 2012.

And here's where we come to a bit of a course correction. By not succumbing to the fever dreams of columnists predicting the end of Penn State football, Bill O'Brien has built himself a reputation that is going to be very difficult to live up to. Here's what I see:

Penn State is going to be breaking in a new quarterback. That's always a tough transition, especially with freshman (if that happens).

Penn State went 8-4 against the 56th ranked SOS. Their 2013 schedule is currently 41st (by my projections). Safe to say, Syracuse should be a tougher test than Ohio and Virginia offered (and they still lost those games).

Ted Roof didn't destroy their defense, but it did drop from 2011 (3rd in 2011, 14th in 2012). And Penn State loses Hodges, Mauti, and Hill from that defense. Also, Ted Roof.

The biggest impact of the sanctions: DEPTH. If you read those BSD links, that was a major concern for a wide variety of position groups, and there were a bit too many mentions of "run-ons." Wide receiver and running back should be okay, but other than that Penn State has to be hoping for some injury luck.

If I had to actually pick the five losses? Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, Syracuse. Central Florida is also tricky, and Indiana will be a road game. But... I'm wrong plenty :)


Adj Off - analogous to scoring offense, adjusted for opponent strength.

Adj Def - analogous to scoring defense, adjusted for opponent strength.

Adj Eff - analogous to scoring ratio, adjusted for opponent strength.

Adj Marg - analogous to scoring margin, adjusted for opponent strength.

Luck - difference between actual winning percentage and expected winning percentage.

Resume - analogous to win/loss record, adjusted for opponent strength.

For for information see here: HOEGHER'S PRIMER.

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