The Nittany Lions are a mystery to many entering the 2011 season. Al Dannity looks to solve this puzzle before Penn State get the year under way.
The schedule With one notable exception, the Nittany Lions should find plenty to smile about with the front end of their schedule. That exception is quite a big one however as Alabama will come to Happy Valley. No doubt there will be a white out, no doubt the crowd will be a factor, but there is also no doubt that the Tide will be big favorites.
The conference slate is favorable for the most part, with Iowa the toughest opponent in the early part. The Hawkeyes will be no pushovers but home advantage will be a big plus for PSU. The tail end of the season looks far more daunting, with the trip to Camp Randall against Wisconsin the most significant challenge. The road game at Northwestern can’t be ignored, not least because of the Wildcats’ tendency to record at least one upset every year at home. There’s also a tough test at home to Nebraska to contend with.
The players First the good news, this team is deep. With 16 returning starters from 2010, Penn State will have veteran talent at almost every position. There is however a lack of elite talent, with none of the returning starters having earned All-Big Ten honors last season.
Then we come to the biggest question mark of all. College Football betting fans are all too aware of the problems PSU endured at quarterback in 2010. Joe Paterno will need to prove his team has a proven signal caller on hand if they are to make a run at the Big Ten title game.
The forecast Texas, Florida, and Virginia Tech all have quarterback problems but have more accomplished talent than the Nittany Lions. So why have I chosen to rank Penn State above these teams? In a word, schedule. The Hokies, Longhorns, and Gators have more tough games ahead of them in 2011 than PSU and that will probably mean more defeats for those lower-ranked sides. The Nittany Lions can be pencilled in for a certain win in at least seven of their games. Likewise they can be pencilled in for certain defeat in two, the Alabama and Wisconsin games. That leaves them needing to win two of the remaining three to have a 9-3 record and possibly challenge for a divisional crown. I like their chances of reaching 9-3 but not of making the Big Ten title game.