Publish date:

7 Penn State

Author:

OPPOSING COACH'S TAKE

Trace McSorley is a terrific quarterback. The thing that makes him so effective and difficult to defend is his savvy—he makes great decisions. But he's also so tough. You can hit him over and over, and he just keeps getting up. His backup, Tommy Stevens, is terrific, too. Not many teams have one quarterback they should feel this good about, and these guys have two.... They've turned the offensive line from a weakness into a strength. A couple of years ago they had big guys who were stiff, but each year they get more developed.... Obviously running back Saquon Barkley is a big loss, but Miles Sanders would come in games last year and there would be no drop-off. Losing tight end Mike Gesicki is different; it's tough to find another one like him, but JUWAN JOHNSON could emerge as a playmaker.... Defensively, they do a good job of mixing up fronts and pressures and keeping you off balance with their safeties. And if you ask our kids, they'll say they're the most physical team we face. Their D-line is not the most talented, but guys like Kevin Givens and Shareef Miller play harder than anyone else we play. [Coordinator Brent] Pry makes it tough to make big plays.

BY THE NUMBERS

4

Total point differential in Penn State's two losses of 2017 (Michigan State and Ohio State).

137

Points by which the Nittany Lions outscored opponents in the first quarter last season (160--23).

5-YEAR TREND

WINS

James Franklin's recruiting is paying off: The Nittany Lions have as much talent as any team in the conference and will challenge for a playoff berth.

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

15

12

9

6

3

7-6

7-6

11-3

11-2

10-2

YEAR

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018*

*SI PROJECTION

X-FACTOR

The Penn State offense will have a new look to it this season, and not just because Saquon Barkley is gone. Ricky Rahne takes over as offensive coordinator and promises to give more play-calling responsibility to senior QB Trace McSorley. But Rahne's favorite toy this season could be backup QB TOMMY STEVENS, a dual threat who surprisingly decided to sit behind McSorley for one more year rather than transfer and start elsewhere. Rahne could use Stevens as a Wildcat QB in the red zone or even line him up as a receiver. With McSorley a Heisman candidate this season and Stevens locked in for 2019, the Nittany Lions' attack is in good hands.

2018 SCHEDULE

SEPT. 1

APPALACHIAN STATE

SEPT. 8

@ PITTSBURGH

SEPT. 15

KENT STATE

SEPT. 21

@ ILLINOIS

SEPT. 29

OHIO STATE (9) [KEY MATCHUP][SI RANKINGS]

OCT. 13

MICHIGAN STATE (11) [KEY MATCHUP][SI RANKINGS]

OCT. 20

@ INDIANA

OCT. 27

IOWA

NOV. 3

@ MICHIGAN (15) [SI RANKINGS]

NOV. 10

WISCONSIN (3) [BIGGEST GAME][SI RANKINGS]

NOV. 17

@ RUTGERS

NOV. 24

MARYLAND

KEY MATCHUP

BIGGEST GAME

SI RANKINGS