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Well we are on the eve of the Penn State football season of 2012, and while this will be a season like no other in the school's history (for many reasons I don't want to discuss), there are games to be played and thus prognostications to be made.
Prognosticating Penn State football in 2012 is also more challenging than ever, given the free reign on transfers and defections, plus the added dimensions of new coaches and things that come with that like new schemes. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.
So in this post I plan to look at the games one by one and do a quick tally on which are winnable and which aren't.
The 2012 Penn State Football Schedule can be broken down into two clean components: A) the first 4 non-conference games, and b) the Big 10 Conference Schedule. Let's look at each component.
The Non-Conference Games
So normally the non-conference schedule is the "warm up" portion which includes all easy wins with possibly 1 difficult game versus another BCS conference school (aka Alabama in 2011). But again, nothing in 2012 can be taken for granted so the non-conference games will be a bumpy ride this year:
- Ohio (home) - the Bobcats are one of the better MAC teams (played in the championship game last year) and won a bowl game. But this game will be filled with emotion and crazy press coverage which will dominate the atmosphere. Ohio can give PSU a scare and keep it close but doubt they have the players to win.
- Virginia (away) - this is an interesting one. UVa over-achieved in the ACC last year and played in the Chik-fil-A Bowl. They have the guns to beat Penn State and might be favored.
- Navy (home) - don't sleep on Navy. They run an option offense that sucks to prepare for, but really don't think they are a good match up for PSU.
- Temple (home) - Temple is on the rise as they play conference hop-scotch back to the Big East this year. But with only 10 returning starters, last year's success will be hard to duplicate.
Bottom Line: If the Nittany Lions can go 3-1 in this first 4 games, I would take it. I think there is a loss in there, with the Virginia game the most dangerous. But Navy, Ohio, and Temple could all be a depleted, emotionally spent football team with new coaches. 4-0 would be fantastic and 2-2 is not out of the question.
Big 10 Conference Games
We have what have become our 'traditional' rivals in the Big 10 Conference schedule and these games have history and tendencies to draw on. 2012 will be the same, and different all at the same time.
- Illinois (away) - The Illini started fast last year, and ended horribly despite a bowl win over UCLA. Its hard to find positives with this squad in 2012. Penn State has some bitter losses to Illinois in memory, but its hard to see in 2012.
- Northwestern (home) - This is homecoming. Northwestern is not the doormat anymore, they can beat anyone in the conference on any Saturday.
- Iowa (away) - Another opponent where history plays a role. Penn State struggles with Iowa, and playing on the road in 2012, will be a tough win.
- Ohio State (home) - This is the signature game on the home schedule. A 6 pm TV setting on ESPN, despite both teams being ineligible for any type of Big 10 championship. However Ohio State is a talented bunch with a high flying new coach. Again, a tough win.
- Purdue (away) - You'll find Purdue picked to be a .500 team in the Big Ten this year, but I don't buy it. I think they'll struggle and lose toss up games like this to Penn State, even at home.
- Nebraska (away) - I've got the opposite opinion of Nebraska. Last year they were 9-4, and Taylor Martinez is coming back and the defense should be better. Lincoln is a tough place to win, and I see Penn State coming home with an L.
- Indiana (home) - The Hoosiers are awful.
- Wisconsin (home) - Great end of season game against the Big Ten favorites. Wisconsin will be favored big and this will be PSU's 'Bowl Game' and chance to pull off an upset.
Bottom Line: I believe Penn State will get wins against Illinois, Purdue, and Indiana. Losses are likely against Ohio State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. The toss up games are Northwestern and Iowa. So a 5-3 Big Ten record would be tremendous, and 3-5 is very possible. Get your adult beverages and koozies ready.
So what is Penn State's overall record going to be? Well do my math and they'll be somewhere between 8-4 and 5-7. Force me to give you an answer today and I'd predict 7-5.
But 2012 will be a year like no other.
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