When Penn State Comes to Town
Seemingly all of the talk surrounding Penn State over the past week or two has been focused in one way or another on the crimes of Jerry Sandusky and how they were enabled. Many have called for a death penalty from the NCAA for their football team. There's no particularly satisfying path forward. The current players and pretty much of the entirety of the fan base were not involved. Sandusky is going to jail as might at least three others who have been accused of concealing his activities. And Joe Paterno has died. There's some thought that a stiff NCAA penalty might make this kind of thing less likely to happen again. Prison terms for those involved will pretty much take care of that. So putting aside that elephant in the room, what should Husker fans expect from the Nittany Lions on the field this season?
PSU brings back a quarterback that didn't give Nebraska any problems in Matt McGloin. He'll be playing behind four new starters on the offensive line. Silas Redd is a nice tailback. Otherwise, there's just not much about the offense to be worried about. Similarly, Penn State hasn't gotten much pop out of their return game. So their defense will need to do its part to provide opportunities for the offense.
Defensively, the Nittany Lions must replace the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Devon Still and pass-rushing end Jack Crawford. The other defensive tackle, Jordan Hill, returns however. They also bring back a good set of linebackers. There will be four new starters in the secondary. Expect to see a unit that's very sound against the run and can create pressure in passing situations.
Given all of the controversy, a new coaching staff, and generally unspectacular offensive personnel, it's not hard to see why expectations have diminished for Penn State this year. Still, their defense should keep them in every game. The Huskers should grind out a win by a touchdown and the over/under might be somewhere around 41. Very much what Big Ten football is supposed to look like in November. Despite their troubles, the Nittany Lions are probably the main challenger to Wisconsin for a division title (Ohio State is ineligible). So we'll see two teams with a lot on the line slugging it out. It might not go down as the most memorable game of the year, but it's not one that NU can afford to overlook either.