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Penn State Nittany Lions Football Preview: Predicting the 2016 season

We’ve hit the home stretch of our Penn State football preview and that can mean only one thing for the entire staff here at talking10 — game-by-game picks for the entire 2016 Nittany Lions season.

Can PSU become a spoiler in the mighty Big Ten East division, or will they continue to sit just below the threesome of Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State? Let’s see how our staff believes the season will play out (with my personal thoughts about each game too).

2016 Penn State Nittany Lions Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time/TV Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 3
Golden Flashes Kent State Golden Flashes
Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
3:30pm ET
BTN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 10
Panthers at Pittsburgh Panthers
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Noon ET
ABC/ESPN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 17
Owls Temple Owls
Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
Noon ET
BTN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 24
Wolverines at Michigan Wolverines
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 1
Gophers Minnesota Golden Gophers
Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 8
Terrapins Maryland Terrapins (HC)
Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
Noon ET
TV TBA
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 15
OFF
Saturday
Oct. 22
Buckeyes Ohio State Buckeyes
Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
8:00pm ET
ABC/ESPN/2
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 29
Boilermakers at Purdue Boilermakers
Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 5
Hawkeyes Iowa Hawkeyes
Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
7:30pm ET
BTN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 12
Hoosiers at Indiana Hoosiers
Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 19
Scarlet Knights at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ
8:00pm ET
BTN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 26
Spartans Michigan State Spartans
Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
TBA Buy
Tickets

*courtesy FBSchedules.com.

vs. Kent State Golden Flashes
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

The days of Kent State playing at or near the top of the MAC heap are over, and that should make for a nice easy transition for Trace McSorely at quarterback and Joe Moorhead’s overall offense. Not much should be a challenge in this contest. If it is, then there are going to be major issues for Penn State all season long.

at Pittsburgh Panthers
Andy: Win
Dave: Loss
Kevin: Loss
Zach: Win

A 50/50 split shows just how tough this in-state battle is going to be. Returning to playing this game is amazing for the world of college football in general and should be on the list of games to watch in the second week of action in CFB. Personally, I see this as a win because Penn State’s defense is simply better than Pitt’s and all things being relatively equal on the offensive side of the ball that is going to be the difference maker in a memorable return to this once heated rivalry.

vs. Temple Owls
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

Revenge? You can bet that is going to be on the minds of Penn State. You can also bet they aren’t going to take the Owls lightly. The bigger question is if Matt Rhule has more in the tank after a spectacular season last year. If Temple can sustain that level of play it won’t be an easy out. Still, Saquon Barkley and all those pass catching weapons eventually overpower the Owls’ defense for the victory.

at Michigan Wolverines
Andy: Win
Dave: Loss
Kevin: Loss
Zach: Loss

Call me crazy, but Michigan playing against Penn State is a bit like looking in the mirror. Both are expected to be great on defense, improved on offense and have headline-snatching head coaches. The difference here is the simple fact that I believe Penn State has the better run game and will exploit that advantage in a hard-fought win. This easily could be flipped on its head, but of the two teams PSU has at least shown it can consistently run the football with one back.

vs. Minnesota Gophers
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

I don’t know about the rest of the staff, but this game scares me because I’m not so sure that Minnesota isn’t the better football team here. Crazy to think, but while the names aren’t as big, the Gophers arguably have the better team depth. Why call for a Penn State win then? Home field advantage matters a lot in the Big Ten and that will play itself out with an extra turnover that breaks the Gophers 4th quarter comeback hopes.

vs. Maryland Terrapins
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

Personally, I like the direction that D.J. Durkin has this team going in off the field and on the recruiting trail. However, I don’t like what he’s bringing to the table on the field nearly as much. Unless Perry Hills has finally found an accurate arm to go with a good rushing ability, Penn State’s defense will eat the Terps alive. Let’s just hope for no pre-game shenanigans between these two programs.

vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
Andy: Loss
Dave: Loss
Kevin: Loss
Zach: Loss

As much as I like the Penn State defense, it is questionable up front and that is a strong-suit of the Buckeyes. Plus, J.T. Barrett is healthy and not looking over his shoulder at someone ready to take his job after just one mistake. A confident OSU program in the Horseshoe? Give me that team seven ways to Saturday. Sorry Penn Staters, this one is a bad matchup on all fronts.

at Purdue Boilermakers
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

Poor one half of the famed #Putgers — it’s likely a lost season by the time this game rolls around and Ross-Ade stadium is going to feel an awful lot like Happy Valley West with all the tickets likely available. On the field, the gulf is just so wide it is hard to see a way that Purdue wins without playing a perfect game.

vs. Iowa Hawkeyes
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

Remember that whole home field advantage thing? It is going to be a huge player in this matchup, even if Iowa is coming off a bye week and a loss to Wisconsin too. While I like what the Hawkeyes are bringing to the table overall, this just has the feeling of a team ready to not go 12-0 in the regular season and that means at least one or two road losses. Penn State exploits some issues up front for the Hawkeyes and wins it on the ground for a change.

at Indiana Hoosiers
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Loss

A surprising disagreement amongst the staff, as Zach believes #TeamChaos will strike again in the Hoosiers. While that has seemed plausible in the past, this seems to be the season Penn State will put a decent offense to go with a stellar defense together. That makes it hard for me to see how one of the consistently worst defenses in the Big Ten can pull out the win. For that reason I’m going PSU in this one, but don’t be surprised to see something strange happen in this game.

at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Andy: Loss
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

While the first half of the #Putgers games this season will go the Nittany Lions’ way, something funky seems to always happen when these two get together as Big Ten teams. It is hard to forget the crap that was the 2014 13-10 PSU win in Piscataway, even if most would like to eliminate it from the memory all together. Call this one a hunch pick, but I believe Rutgers will finally figure out a formula that works after some tough games in the weeks leading up to this one. Penn State seems to find a way to drop a game it shouldn’t and this will be that game in 2016.

vs. Michigan State Spartans
Andy: Loss
Dave: Win
Kevin: Loss
Zach: Loss

Bold prediction from Dave? Not totally, especially considering the battle for the Land-Grant Trophy is in Happy Valley. I personally see this as winner needs it to put pressure on Ohio State at the top of the Big Ten East division. That pressure gets to a younger and less big game experienced Nittany Lions and they turn it over in the fourth quarter. Call it a toss-up game if you want, because I could easily see Penn State up for senior day and pull out a crazy win thanks to a late turnover too.

Season Record

Andy: 9-3 (6-3 B1G)
Dave: 9-3 (7-2 B1G)
Kevin: 8-4 (6-3 B1G)
Zach: (8-4 (5-4 B1G)

Our Projected Big Ten Standings

Andy Dave Zach Kevin
Big Ten East
1
2 Michigan State Michigan Michigan
3 Penn State Penn State Michigan State Michigan State
4 Michigan State Penn State Penn State
5 Indiana Indiana Indiana  Indiana
6 Maryland Maryland Maryland
7 Maryland
Big Ten West
1 Wisconsin Iowa Wisconsin Wisconsin
2 Iowa Wisconsin Iowa Nebraska
3 Nebraska Nebraska Nebraska Iowa
4 Minnesota Minnesota
5 Minnesota
6 Purdue  Minnesota
7 Purdue Purdue  Purdue

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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