With the Penn State football season less than two weeks away, it seems like a good time to break down the Nittany Lions’ 2011 schedule.
In today’s edition of Morelli OnLion, we’ll break down Penn State’s schedule week by week and predict wins and losses along the way.
Off we go!
Breaking It Down
Sept. 3: Indiana State
Analysis: As usual, the Lions open the season with a cupcake. It will be a good time for coach Joe Paterno to test players at several spots. Most importantly, it will give either Rob Bolden or Matt McGloin an opportunity to fine tune their skills for week two. College football doesn’t have a preseason, but this is as close as it gets.
OnLion prediction: Penn State 44, Indiana State 6.
Sept. 10: Alabama
Analysis: Sure, the Crimson Tide lost a plethora of talent from last year’s squad, which defeated the Lions, 24-3, in Tuscaloosa. The biggest departure for Alabama is Mark Ingram, who left for the riches of the NFL. Still, this will be a tough task for the young Nittany Lions. Sure, it will be a nationally televised “White Out” game. In the end, though, it won’t matter. Bama will win this one easily.
OnLion prediction: Alabama 28, Penn State 13.
Sept. 17: At Temple
Analysis: Al Golden won’t be coaching the Owls, but with the firestorm brewing in Coral Gables, he probably wishes he was. It truly doesn’t matter who is coaching the Owls because Penn State has owned Temple during the series’ history. The Owls were making strides under Golden, so expect the school to return to its losing ways in the coming years. Bill Cosby is not a happy man.
OnLion prediction: Penn State 35, Temple 9.
Oct. 1 At Indiana
Analysis: This will be a good Big Ten opener for the Nittany Lions. Much like Indiana State, the Hoosiers will provide a good tune-up for the rest of the Big Ten schedule. Indiana doesn’t have much coming back, so this should be an easy win for the Lions. Penn State has dominated IU since joining the Big Ten. Expect that domination to continue in 2011.
OnLion prediction: Penn State 33, Indiana 14.
Oct. 8 Iowa
Analysis: Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes have owned JoePa and the Lions. Home or away, the Lions find ways to lose to the Hawkeyes. Even though the game is at Beaver Stadium, this probably isn’t the year the Lions get over the hump. It will be close, but the Iowa hex continues.
OnLion prediction: Iowa 21, Penn State 16.
Oct. 15 Purdue
Analysis: Much like the Hoosiers, Penn State has owned the Boilermakers in recent seasons. The Boilermakers are definitely in a rebuilding year, and this should be an easy W for the Nittany Lions. This game should send the Nittany Lions on a roll. A good roll.
OnLion prediction: Penn State 30, Purdue 14.
Oct. 22 At Northwestern
Analysis: One of Penn State’s biggest wins of the past decade came at Ryan Field in 2005. In that game, the Lions rallied late to edge the Wildcats, 35-29, on a Michael Robinson-to-Derrick Williams TD pass. This game won’t be quite as dramatic as the Lions won’t need late heroics to win this one. McGloin or Bolden? It won’t matter.
OnLion prediction: Penn State 31, Northwestern 13.
Oct. 29 Illinois
Analysis: One of the biggest upsets of 2010 came when Ron Zook and the Fighting Illini came to Beaver Stadium and crushed the Nittany Lions on Homecoming. In a bit of a scheduling quirk, the Lions will get another crack at the Illini at home. Penn State wasn’t ready for a fired up Illini squad last year. This season, there will be no surprises.
OnLion prediction: Penn State 23, Illinois 14.
Nov. 12 Nebraska
Analysis: This game won’t be a repeat of the 2002 showdown at Beaver Stadium, when the Nittany Lions routed the Cornhuskers in front of a national TV audience. It certainly will be interesting, though. Penn State and Nebraska have played some classic games in the series. Now that the squads are conference foes, expect some great battles for years to come. Nebraska, is, quite simply, better than Penn State right now. By November, the Huskers will be rolling.
OnLion prediction: Nebraska 28, Penn State 14.
Nov. 19 at Ohio State
Analysis: This one should be interesting. Without Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor, facing the Buckeyes just won’t be the same. Penn State got the monkey off its backs a few years back by defeating the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe, 13-6. Ohio State is depleted and the Nittany Lions will get another victory at the ‘Shoe.
OnLion prediction: Penn State 20, Ohio State 16.
Nov. 26 at Wisconsin
Analysis: In recent years, the Nittany Lions have dominated the Badgers. This will be a good season-ending game for Penn State, as it could turn into a decent rivalry. It will certainly be better than Penn State-Michigan State, which was a manufactured rivalry at its best. This season, the Badgers will be tough. With a Big Ten title possibly on the line, they’ll be even tougher.
OnLion prediction: Wisconsin 27, Penn State 17.
There you have it – 8-4 with a berth in a New Year’s Day bowl game.
Chris Morelli is an award-winning writer/editor who lives in Centre County and covers Penn State athletics for gantdaily.com. He’s also a regular on “Sports Central,” which airs on ESPN Radio in Altoona and State College. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, be sure to check out Morelli OnLion on Facebook!