2015 College Football Preview: Penn State Nittany Lions

Coming out of the Big Ten conference is a team that is trying to return back to their former glory, the Penn State Nittany Lions. Last season was an excellent year for the Lions as they went to their first bowl game since the end of their post-season ban. They also had a respectable 7-6 season but a disappointing 2-6 conference record. Let’s take a look at the outlook for their 2015 season: 2015 Schedule:
  1. Sept. 5th—at Temple
  2. Sept. 12th—Buffalo
  3. Sept. 19th—Rutgers
  4. Sept. 26th—San Diego State
  5. Oct. 3rd—Army
  6. Oct. 10th—Indiana
  7. Oct. 17th—at Ohio State
  8. Oct. 24th—Maryland (played in Baltimore)
  9. Oct. 31st—Illinois
  10. Nov. 7th—at Northwestern
  11. BYE
  12. Nov. 21st—Michigan
  13. Nov. 28th—at Michigan State
Offense: The offense for the Nittany Lions last season was hard to watch to say the least. First, let’s look at their rushing game. Last season, only one running back was able to rush for over 100 yards in a game, and that was junior back, Akeel Lynch. The number one spot is unquestionably his, but the number two spot is still up for grabs between sophomores Mark Allen, Nick Scott, and Jonathan Thomas. The passing game has a rising star in its midst, a junior QB named Christian Hackenburg. Hackenburg is NFL material. He just has to be more of a consistent passer and make better decisions. Last season was rough for him as he threw for just under 3,000 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. The main target for Hackenburg will be DaeSean Hamilton. Thankfully, they have a deep WR staff this year to take the pressure off of Hamilton and reduce heavy coverage. The offensive line will also look to improve from an underwhelming season seeing as they gave up, on average, three sacks per game. The O-line does have a lot more experience and should be much better than last season. Defense: On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions did an excellent job. Their run defense was one of the best at slowing down the rushing attack by allowing on average only 100.5 rushing yards per game (3rd in the nation) and 2.95 yards per carry (2nd in the nation). Senior Defensive Tackle and top draft prospect Anthony Zettel hopes to remain the anchor for this defense and keep those low run totals down. He will have some help on the interior from junior lineman Austin Johnson. Both of these guys are great inside and will be important to the pass rush and run defense for the Lions. The hardest part of heading into this new season will be replacing LB Mike Hull and his 140 tackles from last season. When you have a player that productive, he is hard to replace. The pass defense for Penn State was, likewise, great last season. They allowed on average only 178.2 passing yards per game. Their secondary is stacked, led by senior safety Jordan Lucas. Also, their corners have great depth and are tough for receivers to deal with. Expect the defense for the Lions to be suffocating once again this year. 2015 Outlook: Strength of Schedule: 5 out of 10 Penn State has a fairly soft schedule this season. They play a lot of low par teams this season at home (Buffalo, Rutgers, San Diego State, Army, and Indiana). Also, they avoid top conference foes such as Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Iowa. The only reason I don’t give them a 4 out of 10 is because they do face Ohio State and Michigan State, both on the road. While both should be great games, the odds are not in their favor, and the Lions will likely lose those two matchups. On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions are set to have a suffocating defense, but with not knowing what to expect from the offense, this season is up in the air. I do expect Penn State to best last year’s 7 wins and go to a decent bowl game this year, but there is no chance of them winning the Big 10. Three 2016 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch: #14 QB, Christian Hackenberg, Junior—6’4”, 234 lbs #98 DL, Anthony Zettel, Senior—6’4”, 274 lbs #9 SS, Jordan Lucas, Senior—6’0”, 198 lbs Austin Morris is the creator of The Scouting Lab. He is a graduate of National Football Post's Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. He can be reached at amorris3585@scc.stanly.edu

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