Yes, we are predicting that Penn State will win the Big Ten this year. Yes, I will probably be beat up in the alley by my house in Columbus, OH. Yes, Joe Pasquali wrote this piece. Yes, Joe Paterno is still the coach. I agree with Joe, Penn State are going to be good and the conference will be close, but the game against Ohio State will decide the Big Ten Championship. Enjoy the finale of the Big Ten Preview.
Finishing #1 in the Big Ten
Penn State Nittany Lions (Predicted Finish 11-1)
Summary– The Lions from Happy Valley will be repeating as Big Ten Champions this year. Too many things are looking in Penn State’s favor to think otherwise. Nine offensive and nine defensive starters return, a schedule that is very kind, and off years for other Big Ten Powers. The stars have all aligned for Penn State to repeat and be playing in Pasadena once more.
Offense (A-)– Evan Royster and Daryll Clark return to lead an offense that lead the Big Ten in scoring last season. It was a unit that was not only balanced but very explosive for the Nittany Lions. For a mobile quarterback such as Clark and running back with the potential as Royster, a key component is the offensive line. Penn State only returns two of their big uglies up front; if there is any question mark on the offense the line would be it. The only thing I foresee hurting them from putting the ball in the end zone is conservative play calling. (See Ohio State game 2008)
Defense (B)– It will be a cold day in you know what when Linebacker U has an off year on the defensive side of the ball. No other school has reloaded like Penn State at the linebacker position over the last ten years, and this year poses to be no different. Sean Lee is returning from an injury that kept him sidelined last year and will prove to be a difference maker. Look for fellow LB Navarro Bowman to have a big year as well. The one weakness of the Penn State defense will be against the pass. Maybin and Gaines were great pass rushing defensive ends that harassed opposing quarterbacks often. Lydell Sergeant and Tony Davis were two solid CB’s with big play potential. These losses will hurt PSU more than anything else in 2009.
Special Teams (B)– A lot of kickers competing for the starting job including three freshmen. Junior Collin Wagner will most likely get the nod as the man knocking it through the uprights, at least to start. Jeremy Boone is one of the better punters in the Big Ten (42 yard net average) and should be once again this year.
Coaching (A)– Who really knows if Joe Pa is still calling the plays for Penn State, but who cares? This team keeps popping out winning seasons. Yeah, USC smoked ‘em last year in the Rose Bowl, but when did a Big Ten team NOT get smoked by USC.