Penn State visits Madison for a night game that kicks off at 8:00 PM. The Badgers return 18 starters including 10 on defense, dynamic Tight End Travis Beckum and road grader P.J. Hill. The only big loss comes at quarterback where they lose Tyler Donovan but Wisconsin's offense is less pass and flash and more bludgeon so Allan Evridge will probably just be counted on to protect the ball and hand it off. If this game was in Happy Valley I'd feel pretty good about it because Penn State matches up well against the Badgers but the night game looms large.
Probability of loss: 60% - this one just doesn't give me a warm-fuzzy feeling
Impact of loss: meeehhhh. Penn State will not be favored so a loss doesn't mean the end of the world provided they are undefeated up to this point.
Michigan's story is well known by now (hey did you know there's a new coach for the wolverines? I'm serious). They'll have an inexperienced line and quarterback only 3 returning starters on offense and only 10 total. Dick Rod brings in his spread offense and how quickly the team picks it up will go a long way in determining this team's success. Having said all that, until Penn State can prove they can beat Michigan I'll never pick the Nittany Lions. Loss.
Probability of loss: It's Michigan! What are we up to now, like 15,323 in a row?
Impact of loss: Can the psyche of entire fan base really handle a loss to Michigan… again? Me thinks not.
After those two easy ones, Penn State gets to roll into Columbus… for an 8:00 night game… where the Nittany Lions haven't won since joining the Big Ten.
*sound of crickets chirping*
How good is Ohio State going to be? They return 19 starters including RB Chris Wells, QB Todd Boeckman, and some guy named James Laurinaitis at linebacker. Both lines are deep and experienced, all three wideouts return, and let's not forget about the whole Terrelle Pryor thing, who knows where he'll fit in but you can bet Penn State will see him. Yeah, this one is not going to be pretty.
Probability of loss: 99.9997% (we're talking six sigma here people!)
Impact of loss: In many fans' minds this one is already a loss so not that big of an impact
Penn State then gets a much deserved break before traveling to Iowa. Is there a more beleaguered team in the Big Ten then the Iowa Hawkeyes? No fewer than 14 players have gotten picked up and/or charged with a crime in the last year and there's the investigation into a cover-up by administration officials involving an alleged rape involving two former players. Let's just say the season can't get here soon enough for head coach Kirk Ferentz. For good and bad, just about all the key parts are back on offense and the defensive line should be among the best in the Big Ten. Iowa suffered through an insane number of injuries last season which gave a lot of young players experience. Ferentz can keep this team from imploding on itself they should have a decent year with no Ohio State or Michigan on the schedule.
Probability of loss: 40% I just don't know what to think of this team right now
Impact of loss: pretty devastating after coming off a most certain loss at Columbus
Penn State returns home for the remaining two games and welcomes Indiana first. The good news for Indiana fans is that dual-threat quarterback Kellen Lewis is back, the bad news is mega-star receiver James Hardy is now with the Buffalo Bills. There is no true #1 target for Lewis to throw to but the defensive front seven will be solid even if the secondary won't. Indiana's goal last year was to make it to a bowl game, this year they will look to go a step further.
Probability of loss: 30% - Indiana could have 4 or 5 losses already at this point of the schedule.
Impact of loss: Huge - Penn State will be favored and fans will want to see a win here
That brings us to the annual "rivalry" game with Michigan State and the fight for this piece of shit.
Sparty will be solid if not spectacular this season with RB Javon Ringer and QB Brian Hoyer back on offense but the loss of WR Devin Thomas will hurt. On defense DE Trevor Anderson, LB Greg Jones, and SS Otis Wiley give Michigan State something to build around although they only return 5 starters. Like every year I'm sure this game will be as wacky as ones in the past.
Probability of loss: 50% - another true toss-up
Impact of loss: Heartbreaking – a loss here for a second year in a row would be pretty devastating especially to Penn State's bowl outlook.
So there's my uneducated look at what Penn State has cooking, if you include the 2 or 3 losses here that puts Penn State at 8-4 and headed to a crap bowl. Honestly I believe the three games of Wisconsin/Michigan/and Ohio State are going to be brutal. Penn State should beat Michigan but they should have beaten them last year as well, so I'm adopting the "show me you can beat them" attitude before I'll pick PSU.