There's a week and a half before our beloved Nittany Lions start their trek toward a Big Ten title so it's time to take an uneducated look at what lies in their path. First, here is the schedule in its entirety.
Date Opponent / Event 08/30/08 vs. Coastal Carolina 09/06/08 vs. Oregon State 09/13/08 at Syracuse 09/20/08 vs. Temple 09/27/08 vs. Illinois 10/04/08 at Purdue 10/11/08 at Wisconsin 10/18/08 vs. Michigan 10/25/08 at Ohio State 11/08/08 at Iowa 11/15/08 vs. Indiana 11/22/08 vs. Michigan State
Opponent / Event
vs. Coastal Carolina
vs. Oregon State
at Ohio State
vs. Michigan State
Now let's take a look at each game on a game by game basis.
The Chanticleers (don't ask) had a rebuilding year last season finishing 5-6 and are picked to finish second in the Big South Conference this season. Coastal boasts 5 players listed on the 2008 Big South Football Preseason All-Conference team of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (the division formerly known as Division I-AA).
Now that I took the time to look all that up forget it, this is a Division I-AA team and won't have the athletes to match Penn State (and they don't have mythical Spread HD baby). This game will be a glorified scrimmage with lots of second-teamers getting playing time.
Probability of loss: Not Bloody Likely!
Impact of loss: Mass pandemonium, pitchforks and torches, Paterno's head on a platter
When Penn State announced that Oregon State entered the schedule my first reaction was one of trepidation. But after taking a quick look at the Beavers the game doesn't loom as large as I once thought. OSU lost their top rusher and each member of the front seven of a strong defense. It's going to be difficult for them to replace all that talent and finish better than middle of the road in the Pac 10. Chalk this one up to a win.
Probability of loss: very low-OSU will need a LOT of help from Penn State to win
Impact of loss: very shocking, calls for JoePa's retirement at the end of 2008 get much louder
Syracuse was last in the league in total and scoring defense in 2007, is without its two best receivers, and have question marks in the running game. Let's not waste time with this one either – mark it down as a 'W'.
Probability of loss: Not gonna happen!
Impact of loss: Not the Atomic fallout equal to a loss to Coastal Carolina but cataclysmic non the less!
Head coach Al Golden started from scratch when he took over Temple and built the program from the ground up. Should Penn State fans be a bit worried about Temple? Did we forget that the Owls were knocking on Penn State's door several times in the 2007 game but managed to squander away lots of scoring opportunities? Temple lost two lettermen from the team, not starters, lettermen; this team is very experienced and will improve on their 4-8 record of last year.
Probability of loss: not in the 50% range but higher than what most fans think
Impact of loss: Painful especially with the Big Ten coming next
So the optimistic mind will have Penn State coming into the start of Big Ten play sitting at 4-0 and that's probably where they'll be barring any collapses. The Temple game scares me but if Penn State plays to their potential they should beat the Owls at home. That brings us to Illinois. The Zooker has had recruiting success since taking over for the fighting [non-offensive mascots] and has them on the rise after making it to the rose bowl and a 9-4 season. Juice Williams returns at quarterback for the Illini and they also return eleven players that were either mentioned on All-Americans or All Big Ten teams.
While things seem to be in place for a Big Ten conference title run for them I think they won't repeat last year's success. Call me crazy but I think the loss of Rashard Mendenhall will greatly affect Illinois this season. Arrelious Benn gives Illinois a big time playmaker but I still think Williams throwing acumen still leaves much to be desired. And they lost this guy who is now busy saving the world.
Probability of loss: 50% - this one is a true tossup
Impact of loss: depression sets in and ticket prices start plummeting
This is Joe Tiller's last season at the helm for the Boilermakers and he hopes to go out with a bang. Returning to help him is veteran QB Curtis Painter who many believe is the best quarterback prospect for the 2009 NFL Draft. There are health issues on the offensive line and lack of veteran wide receivers but they have plenty of talent and size to put it all together. The defense won't be a brick wall but it won't be a liability either with 6 returning starters and plenty of experience everywhere.
Probability of loss: 50% - another tossup
Impact of loss: The timing of a loss here will be devastating with the upcoming killer schedule
So with half the season covered we're probably looking at Penn State sitting with one loss out of the first 6 games. I think the Nits will lose one to either Purdue or Illinois but not both. So 5-1 is the most likely scenario, any less than that and the fans will be ready to revolt.
Tomorrow we'll cover the back half of the season and let's just say it doesn't get any easier.