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2016 Preview and Predictions: Penn State Nittany Lions Football

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It’s a whole new season with a brand new attitude, but you still gotta fight on, State.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Love it or hate it, Penn State football is back for another season, and this year’s roster is as deep as it’s been since the start of the decade. With nine conference games on the schedule for the first time as well as a highly anticipated clash with Pittsburgh, 2016 could be one of the most exciting Penn State campaigns in a while. Townie and I are going to get you psyched as only we know how.

I. Case History and Opening Statement

A. Case History

Being a Penn Stater is usually a lot of fun. I mean, we play our home games in the best college town in the nation, and that town now has a glorious Sheetz smack dab in the middle of it. I can’t begin to tell you how much better future students have it now that they can go to "Wawa ajace" instead of Canyon Pizza after going hard on a Friday night.

By the way, is "going hard" still a thing? I’m almost as old as Townie now, so I’m honestly asking. If so, that’s what I wanted to do after watching Penn State drop its opening game to Temple in 2015. The only good that came from that was... Wait, nothing good came from that. It was quite embarrassing. However, the Lions did win their next five games to save face during a season that lacked a signature win.

The closest Penn State got to one of those was at Northwestern in November, but a late lead fell apart after failed 3rd-and-1 conversion. This season, with a more experienced offensive line and another season of Saquon Barkley, the hope is for that play and others like it to go in Penn State’s favor. Can the returning skill players as well as new quarterback Trace McSorley make enough of a difference for the Lions to improve on their 7-5 record?

B. Opening Statement

Townie:

Like always happens this time of year, I begin to drink the blue and white kool aide. I watch a few practices, see a few highlights…and BANG! Penn State is back!

This clip in particular, gets me all kinds of fired up:

Saquon Barkley doing his best Barry Sanders impression! He’s so shifty! Look at those moves...oh yeah! He’s got DC’s shaking in their boots from that clip...

"But wait," that little rational voice in my head says. "Did you see that fucking awful attempt at blocking?"

"Nope." I lie.

"Here we go again..." Says the voice. "See number 72? The dude with his hands up? He just whiffed on his block so badly that the defensive tackle has Barkley dead to rights.

That block was awful. It was so bad I’m having flashbacks to the Temple game."

"Dammit, can’t you leave me some optimism?" I slouch lower in my chair.

"Fuck your optimism," it yells. "We did that last year, remember? You taught your 8 year-old three new curse words. You drank your weight in shitty beer. Your liver nearly quit. Remember? Who the fuck do you think you are…a Wisconsin fan?

But this isn’t just a bad look for the offensive line. Nope.

Look at #41. Form is good. he’s up and ready to make the tackle. And then he inexplicably can’t finish. What the fuck was that pitiful attempt? Did his hands stop working? Is Brent Pry going back to the fucking ‘Thud’ technique?

Finish the play goddammit.

That was a horrible attempt at a tackle and it gets worse. Look at #90, the defensive end. How the fuck do you lose contain in a 10 foot wide area? He bites inside and boom...running back is free.

Crap on toast, that sucked on both sides of the ball."

"It’s just one drill," I whine. "They’ll get the fixed. It won’t be that bad during the season…"

"Oh yeah?" the voice won’t let me off that easy. "The smartest Penn State blogger you know just quit writing about football. Not because he’s too busy, but because he’s so depressed. He was just one more jet sweep play on third and long away from becoming a Maryland Laxbro.

He thinks this team will be shit, yet again. And his football IQ makes yours look like Trump’s actual IQ.

So don’t YOU go getting all juiced up over one drill, either. I can’t live with you through another pathetically sad off-season like last year. I got sick of you listening to The Smiths all of the time. Jeez, that band died in the 1980’s. Quit feeling sorry for yourself and let them go already. "

The voice slinks back into the dark recesses, to mutter about refs, the 1994 championship, and Sanctions.

The worst part about arguing with yourself is that all the truth comes out. I DID get fired up over that play. And I did see the crappy line play on both sides and chose to ignore it.

Briefly.

The truth is, Saquon is probably good for one or two unexpected wins. If he gets a crease, he’s gone. But without drastic improvement, that offensive line is probably good for one inexcusable loss.

And if the defensive line can’t reload, it could lose us one too. So, rationally, we should win the ones we’re supposed to, lose the ones we’re supposed to, and end up middle of the pack.

Which sucks.

Then I look at our schedule. I look at the other teams we have to play...and I take a big gulp of the blue stuff.

Damn, that kool-aide is tasty.

I’m willing to give the nod to our new OC. John Donovan couldn’t get his offensive scheme to work with the personnel he had. Which is why we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on several occasions.

Joe Moorehead’s history says that he has the right scheme. I think he can put our offense in situations where they can succeed. From what I’ve seen in practice, we have all kinds of speed to go with his uptempo style. Hustle will wear out lesser defenses. Execution will do the rest.

The offensive line has no where to go but up. And blocking for Saquon Barkley is different than blocking for Bill Belton. Barkley doesn’t fall at the first touch. He doesn’t need road graders. Give him a crease and he’s going to bust it wide open. Like Allen Robinson did for our quarterbacks, Barkley will do for our line.

And our receiving corps...oh damn. I can’t wait to see the "Twin Towers" on the field together. And Chris Godwin, DaeSean Hamilton, and Saeed Blacknall are going to OWN some defenses this year.

This kool-aide is fine. Fill ‘er up again...

The defense is reloading. DC Bob Shoop leaves? No problem, bump Brent Pry up.

Lose three of the four defensive linemen to the NFL? That’s not a problem, because it’s the one place we have depth. If the buzz from camp holds any truth at all Parker Cothren is a 6’5" 290 pound terror. And Evan Schwan is the next incarnation of run stuffing trouble on the interior line.

Nyeem Wartman-White is back from the knee injury he suffered in the Temple game last year. We are better with him on the field. He’s the quintessential Penn State linebacker...intelligent, a leader, and a beastly hitter. Getting him back on the field makes us better.

Damn. Looks like I drank all my kool-aide.

Here’s my prediction: Nine wins. One big upset. We roll some cupcakes early and head to a better bowl this year. Franklin’s staff makes him look good. And they make some other teams look down right silly. Our offense breaks 50 points against someone this year.

"But what about the voice and its truth?" You might say...

Well, the voice can go fuck itself. We Are!

Your friend,

Townie

II. Discovery

A. What was written about the Nittany Lions in the offseason

  1. The Penn State Cocktail Party Preview
  2. A Brief History of Penn State Football
  3. Penn State Potluck: Pasta, Meat with Gravy, Green Stuff, Ice Cream
  4. Hope for Basketball?
  5. Penn State Hate
  6. Bill Connelly’s preview

B. What can we learn from pop culture?

III. Emotional Plea

My name is Aaron Yorke and I AM a certified dork and a bona fide "writer" and YOU CAN’T TEACH THAT. And this right here? This is 87Townie. He grew up in the shadow of Mount Nittany, and YOU CAN’T TEACH THAT.

Fight on State! Realest fans in the room! How you doin’?

The Voice? Who’s this freaking "Voice"? The Voice is an American Idol ripoff starring Miley freaking Cyrus. The Voice ain’t no Phil Steele. The Voice probably thinks Penn State will take a step back in 2016 like the rest of these Midwestern goons. Has The Voice ever heard of a small sample size? Sounds like what we got here is a cuppa haters.

All we’ve had to listen to all summer long is how James Franklin isn’t a good coach and how the Penn State offense is nothing without Christian Hackenberg. Well, I’ll tell you what. Those are some bold predictions, but none of you know what’s gonna happen this year to Penn State football. Star ratings are for star gazers. Just because you’re a five-star quarterback, it doesn’t guarantee you a shot at the Rose Bowl. Just because you’re a two-star, no-name scrub, it doesn’t guarantee you a spot on the sideline with a clipboard in your hand. Trace McSorley, you are more than just a clipboard quarterback.

Just look at the best Penn State teams of the last decade. Look at who the quarterback were.

Michael Robinson: Played wide receiver through his junior season. How you doin’?

Darryl Clark: Unheard of out of Youngstown, Ohio. How you doin’?

Matt McGloin: Walked onto the freaking team! How you doin’?

During his first real game action, McSorley threw for for 142 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against an SEC defense. In the spring game, he was almost perfect. This fall, your boy is going to put the entire Big Ten East Division on notice.

Schedule of Events

Date Opponent
September 3 Kent State
September 10 at Pittsburgh
September 17 Temple
September 24 at Michigan
October 1 Minnesota
October 8 Maryland
October 15 BYE
October 22 Ohio State
October 29 at Purdue
November 5 Iowa
November 12 at Indiana
November 19 at Rutgers
November 26 Michigan State

Soft? You think Penn State’s schedule is soft? Look around, Big Ten. At least Penn State is playing a major-conference opponent on the road this season, and if I had a dime for every time the Lions play an FCS school this year, I WOULD HAVE ZERO DIMES.

So if you’re one of those schools who’s playing Indiana State or Murray State or Furman or some guy named Howard, then there is only ONE WORD to describe your schedule, and I’m gonna spell it out for you.

S-A-W-F-T Saaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwft!

IV. The Verdict

"Writer" Record
Aaron Yorke 9-3 (6-3)
Andrew Kraszewski 6-6 (4-5)
StewMonkey13 6-6 (4-5)
WhiteSpeedReceiver 7-5 (4-5)
Brian Gillis 7-5 (5-4)
MNWildcat 6-6 (4-5)
Creighton M 5-7 (3-6)
DJ Carver 5-7 (3-6)
MrAlnamiasIV 6-6 (4-5)
Candystripes for Breakfast 5-7 (3-6)
Graham Filler 6-6 (4-5)
babaoreally 7-5 (4-5)
Jesse Collins 6-6 (4-5)
Zuzu 6-6 (3-6)
87Townie 9-3 (6-3)
Thumpasaurus 7-5 (5-4)
Thomas Speth 7-5 (4-5)
GoForThree 8-4 (6-3)
OTE Staff Average 6.6-5.4 (4.2-4.8)