Share This Post With Others
While the calendar says later March - many in the PSU community are already moving their eyes towards a pair of important dates – April 21 and Sept. 1. So I don' think it is too early to start talking about Nittany Lion Football?
For those that may be living under a rock, Saturday, April 21 is the date for the annual Blue-White game at Beaver Stadium. Fast forward to Sept. 1 and you will find the Nittany Lions opening the season under new head coach Bill O’Brien in State College against Ohio University.
Besides the shock this coming season of someone named Paterno not on the coaching staff, walking the sidelines and/or sitting in the press box, there are many questions that remain for a program that at one time last season was sporting an 8-1 record.
Yes, the team will not look entirely like the one that ended last season with a thud in a loss to Houston in the Ticket City Bowl, but there will be many elements sprinkled in here and there that will need to step up this fall.
While there is plenty of time to preview the team itself in the coming months, fans are always curious as to those opponents that show up yearly on the schedule and which games may be must-see contests.
Trust me; if everything falls into place for O’Brien and Co., there is a very good chance that a season-ending visit from Wisconsin Thanksgiving Day weekend could be for all the marbles in the Big 10.
In the meantime, here’s a quick take on PSU’s opponents for 2012:
Sept. 1 – Ohio University – The Bobcats return their second, third and fourth top running backs from 2011, with the trio having combined for more than 1,500 yards on the ground last season. Ohio went 10-4 a season ago, with three of its losses by a combined seven points. This should be good early season test for O'Brien and Co.
Sept. 8 – at Virginia – There was a time when playing an ACC team other than Florida State, Miami, Clemson or Va. Tech pretty much meant an automatic win. Truth be known, PSU would likely do pretty well in the ACC, especially with its size and skill players. The Cavaliers were 8-5 a season ago, doubling their win output from the previous year, and signs point to what could be another strong season at least on the offensive side of the ball. Most of the offense that averaged nearly 400 yards a game is in place from a year ago. The defense, however, took some major hits and likely will need to replace at least half-a-dozen starters.
Sept. 15 – Navy – It isn’t often that you see the Midshipmen surface in State College, so take in the opportunity. Navy went 5-7 a year ago, its first campaign below the .500 mark in nearly a decade. The Middies, however, lost five of those games by a combined 11 points, so blowouts were few and far between. How quickly the new pieces on the offensive line and in the backfield mesh this fall could determine whether the Middies sink or swim.
Sept. 22 – Temple – Remember the days when PSU just basically had to show up against the Owls to get a victory? Well, those times are a thing of the past if recent history is any indication. Finishing 9-4 a season ago, Temple is back in The Big East conference for football this fall, having been punted out in 2004. The Owls gave PSU everything it wanted and then some last fall in Philly, falling 14-10.
Sept. 29 – at Illinois – PSU kicks off its Big 10 schedule in the Land of Lincoln the last Saturday of the month. With former Toldeo boss Tim Beckman now the man in charge of the Illini; will Illinois be a threat to make it to Pasadena come January? Illinois went a meager 7-6 last fall, with one of those losses being Joe Paterno’s final victory (10-7) of his remarkable coaching career.
Oct. 6 – Northwestern (Homecoming) – Another team that had plenty of ups and downs in 2011, the Wildcats finished with a 6-7 mark. Northwestern’s loss last season in the Meineke Car Care Bowl marked its ninth straight bowl loss, with its last post-season victory coming in the 1949 Rose Bowl.
Oct. 20 – at Iowa – With Iowa City always a tough venue to visit, the Nittany Lions could be carrying a 6-0 record into this game. The Hawkeyes had an uncharacteristic 7-6 mark a season ago for head coach Kirk Ferentz. While there have been changes with both the coaching staff (coordinators) and on the roster, senior QB James Vandenberg should be one of the steadying influences for a program that has had back-to-back .500 Big Ten seasons.
Oct. 27 – Ohio State – Other than perhaps Michigan, PSU fans look most forward to seeing the Bucks come to town every other year. This season’s visit is even more special due to the fact OSU (6-7 last season) is on probation and ineligible for the conference title. Under new head coach Urban Meyer, OSU installs a new offense and looks to escape the ugly scandal shadow that hit one of the country’s elite programs.
Nov. 3 – at Purdue – The Nittany Lions kick off November with a trip to West Lafayette, Ind. Purdue was if nothing less consistent in 2011, outscoring its opponents by a mere 350-349. In the end, the Boilermakers finished up at 7-6, losing by five points in a visit to State College in mid-October.
Nov. 10 – at Nebraska – Lincoln is easily one of the great venues in all of college football to visit and play in. The Cornhuskers (9-4) made their first trip to State College last November as a member of the Big 10, scoring a 17-14 victory. The Huskers return two of their top studs in junior QB Taylor Martinez and senior RB Rex Burkhead.
Nov. 17 – Indiana – The Hoosiers have seen about as much success in Big 10 football over the years as politicians have had in trying to trim Social Security benefits. IU finished a disastrous 1-11 a season ago, yet gave PSU all it wanted in a 16-10 loss in Bloomington.
Nov. 24 – Wisconsin – If the Nittany Lions play their cards right, this could be a battle for their side of the Big 10 crown come Thanksgiving weekend. While the Badgers (11-3) lose superstar QB Russell Wilson entering this season, Heisman candidate Montee Ball is back at running back. Unlike last season when PSU went to Madison and got taken out behind the woodshed, things could be different in Happy Valley this time around.
So there you have it, a little teaser to the 2012 season.
While one of the greatest college football coaches to ever walk the sidelines is gone, there is still much to be happy about in Happy Valley when it comes to what could unfold this fall. --- Dave
Dave Thomas, who writes on items such as starting a small business and obtaining workers compensation insurance, writes extensively for online resource destination Business.com. He is also a freelance sportswriter in his spare time.
Enjoy this post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed and never miss another! Or sign up to get exclusive PennStateCentral.com Sports Analysis straight to your inbox!