Outback Bowl Predictions!

Matchup: Penn State Nittany Lions (7-5) vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (8-4)

Where: Raymond James Stadium; Tampa, Florida

When: Saturday, January 1, 2022 @ 12 PM

TV: ESPN2

Happy New Year! 2022 brings everyone new opportunities and challenges. It also brings us the Outback Bowl where Penn State (7-5) takes on Arkansas (8-4). It should be an interesting game for the Lions as many of their key players from 2021 including WR Jahan Dotson and DB Jaquan Brisker will be sitting out in preparation for the 2022 NFL Draft.

With that being said, let’s get to the predictions.

Brandon Musso (8-4)

Just like that we are writing our final previews for the season. Things definitely didn’t go as we or Penn State planned this season but the Outback Bowl is still a nice consolation.

After the effort we saw vs Michigan State to close the regular season I don’t really expect much out of Penn State in the Outback Bowl. With quite a few opt outs, especially on the defense side, this game will be an uphill battle. They will face a tough task limiting the Arkansas offense especially without defensive coordinator Brent Pry.

As is has been for much of the season, the offense starts and stops with Sean Clifford. It’s been about a month since the team last played so it’s a pretty good bet Clifford is at or close to 100% healthy. He will need to play a perfect game without the sure handed Jahan Dotson at his disposal. If he can make use of all his other weapons then they could be in a good position to keep up with their short handed defense.

With that being said, I still have no faith in this team to take down the 25th ranked Razorbacks. The cards are stacked in the Razorbacks favor and I don’t feel like we have seen a Penn State team that can overcome bad odds like that.

Penn State 21
Arkansas 31

Kraigen Rasalla (7-5)

Sure the Lions are missing a lot of key pieces. But, I am very excited to watch the pieces that are still there today. I feel this way because it creates new opportunities for guys to step up and fill the voids that were created.

One of those players is WR Parker Washington. He’s been an important player for this team the last two years. But, with Dotson out, Washington becomes the focal point in the passing game. And, with Penn State struggling to run the ball in all of 2021, I think Penn State continues to rely on their playmakers on the outside to make plays. Look for Washington to have 10+ catches including some highlight reel level plays.

I’m also expecting Penn State to open up the playbook, big time. Sure, they are missing a lot of weapons on both offense and defense. But, this is a great chance for the team to throw in some trick plays like reverses and flea flickers. I wouldn’t mind seeing a crazy punt return play like the one that occurred in the Cardinals-Colts game a few weeks back.

I have no expectations for this game. Penn State is missing their best guys but I am glad to see the team is having fun in Tampa and enjoying the bowl experience. I am just hoping to enjoy the game on Saturday, as well. So I’ll predict a Penn State win because like the team enjoying the bowl experience, I enjoy thinking my team is going to win heading into the game.

Penn State 26

Arkansas 24

Opportunity is NOWHERE as Penn State’s ’16 Season Becomes a Distant Memory

Opportunity is NOWHERE

Depending on how you read that word NOWHERE, you probably clicked on this article for two different reasons. You could have read that as “Opportunity is nowhere”, if you believe that the opportunity for Big Ten and even National Championships have come and gone for head coach James Franklin and Penn State. Or you could have read it as “Opportunity is now here”, if you believe Penn State, with COVID-19 recruiting restrictions finally past them, are turning into the well-oiled recruiting machine that it has aspired to be and you believe recruiting is a major factor in college football success (the latter is true by the way). Either way, you could be right.

Regardless of where you believe the program is, there is a subtle but important reminder that Penn State’s 2016 B1G Championship is over five years old. Ohio State has since dominated the Big Ten East and this year even Jim Harbaugh and his Michigan Wolverines have (finally) won the Big Ten Championship. In fact, the Big Ten East now holds the record for the most different teams to make the College Football Playoff (Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan). Penn State is noticeably missing.

There are a lot of reasons or perhaps excuses for why Penn State hasn’t reached the pinnacle of college football. It’s easy to point to a few specific games or even a few specific plays that could have spring-boarded Penn State into the College Football Playoff. Who knows? If Penn State is able to appear in the College Football Playoff perhaps the program by 2022 would have already taken that next step from great to elite that James Franklin will always be remembered for. But maybe it wouldn’t have mattered either. An appearance in the College Football Playoff doesn’t mean eternal glory. Ask Florida State, Washington, and Michigan State. Even winning a national championship doesn’t mean your program is set up for an Alabama-like dynasty, ask LSU.

But as we look back five years since the Big Ten Championship it’s easy to see numerous misfires especially in 2017 and 2018 where Penn State may have had the best team in the Big Ten, at least on paper. Since then it has been death by a thousand cuts as it has seen Ohio State among others begin to separate once again. Constant turnover in the offensive coaching room has led to Penn State’s offense looks lost at times. Couple that with the good, but not great recruiting classes sprinkled in with a few misses on some top tier prospects and a failure to develop offensive linemen, and it’s easy to see where things have begun to go downhill. COVID-19 took away Franklin’s best recruiting weapon, on-campus visits where he could pitch the academic accolades to recruits’ parents, the tight-knit community to recruits’ guardians, and the exceptional brand of football to recruits. Couple And some of the best recruits they have brought in over the past couple years haven’t shined as bright as some have hoped.


Take Penn State’s five best prospects in the 2019 recruiting class. Linebacker Brandon Smith has declared early for the NFL Draft after a productive, but not incredible career at Penn State. Running back Devyn Ford has failed to separate himself as a running back or as a returner especially when facing Power Five opposition. Offensive linemen, Caedan Wallace, who was listed as a guard when recruited, has struggled to transition to offensive tackle at times. Defensive end, Adisa Isaac, unfortunately didn’t play this season due to a season-ending injury. Running Back Noah Cain hasn’t looked himself since he took the running back room over in 2019 before being banged up late in the season and suffering a season-ending injury on the first drive of the 2020 season.

The 2020 class has seen perhaps more impact than the 2019 class, with LB Curtis Jacobs, TE Theo Johnson, and WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith being key contributors in 2021, but safety Enzo Jennings, the 135th recruit in the class, has since entered the transfer portal. Although the defensive line prospects have lived up to the billing, the offensive line recruits have been disappointing to say the least.


But things at least appear to be heading towards more favorable waters. In the summer, Penn State jumped out to the No.1 recruiting class in the nation for the 2022 cycle after a fury of commits. Nobody thought they would stay at No.1 when it was all said and done, but the class stayed mostly together all the way to early-signing day. Penn State currently has the 6th best class in the country and the 2nd best in the B1G behind only Ohio State. Perhaps most importantly to some, Penn State has finally signed a top QB prospect in five star QB Drew Allar, from Ohio no less. Additionally, they signed the No.1 RB in Nick Singleton, who also won the National Gatorade Player of the Year.

There is no question that losing defensive coordinator Brent Pry to Virginia Tech is going to leave a hole. Pry was not only Franklin’s No.2, but he was also part of Franklin and Franklin’s family’s support system. That being said, Penn State acted swiftly to scoop up an experienced and vibrant defensive coordinator in Manny Diaz. Diaz inherits one of the best defenses in the country. He also was able to retain potentially a four-time Captain in LB Jonathan Sutherland, two-year starter, corner Joey Porter, Jr., and talented safety, Ji’Ayir Brown, who leads the team in interceptions.

On the offensive side of the ball, for the first time in three years, Penn State will have the same offensive coordinator for a second straight season, with Mike Yurcich coming back. Yurcich didn’t pass the blame on anyone when speaking to the media about the offense’s shortcomings, saying he will fix the offense or “die trying”. Yurcich, will also have his commander of the offense back, QB Sean Clifford, for Clifford’s sixth season. Clifford, who maybe doesn’t have the same ceiling as incoming freshman Allar, but seems excited to lead, mentor, and teach the young QB corps.

And although not impressive in 2021, the running back room will once again be stacked with numerous blue-chip running backs, even if one or two transfer this offseason. Will they find a homerun hitter in Singleton? At receiver, they will have to replace the sensational WR Jahan Dotson, but WR Parker Washington and Lambert-Smith have shown flashes, plus they just secured a transfer from Western Kentucky’s WR Mitch Tinsley, who caught over 80 passes and racked up over 1400 yards. You know where the tight end room stands, and you know where the offensive line room stands. One is promising and exciting yet not to expectation and the other one has been a disappointment.


Yet, the question still remains. It’s been five years since that rollercoaster ride of 2016 and everyone is beginning to wonder if Penn State only had one ticket to ride or if Penn State can get back to that level of play and perhaps stay there. It doesn’t take Penn State beating Ohio State and Michigan every year, but it does take Penn State beating Ohio State and Michigan some years and it does take Penn State handling the Illinois-like teams every year.

Who knows what will happen, but the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day seems as good as any of a beginning to tell that story.

Opportunity is NOWHERE

Penn State – Michigan State Predictions

Matchup: Penn State Nittany Lions (7-4) @ Michigan State Spartans

Where: Spartan Stadium

When: Saturday, November 27th @ 3:30pm EST

TV: ABC

Believe it or not its already the final week of the regular season, with just a matchup with Michigan State and a potential bowl game to go. The Nittany Lions certainly had higher expectations for this year but this week gives them the opportunity to upset a top ranked Michigan State team and grab their 8th win of the season. Can they go on the road and get the job done? The For the Glory team predicts:

Brandon Musso (7-4)

After a tough week battling a non-covid related sickness that made its way through the team, the Nittany Lions were able to grab a win over Rutgers. With Sean Clifford sidelined after just a few series, we got our first good look at Christian Veilleux and he didn’t disappoint. He managed to spark the offense and lead them through a couple of nice drives that resulted in touchdowns. His play was nice positive to pull from the game as we ponder Clifford’s replacement.

This week it appears as though Clifford will be a full go and will start on the road vs. Michigan State. With that in mind, he seems poised to have a big game through the air as the Spartans are averaging 339.9 passing yards allowed per game. On paper, this appears to be one of their weaknesses to look out for. The key to the game will be Clifford’s ability to exploit that weakness and put points in the board.

Although I’ve offered a brief look at the numbers, I often go by feel for games and I don’t have a good one about this one. Despite the fact that Michigan St. is coming off an absolute blowout at the hands of Ohio State, there always seems to be a strange aura when Penn State travels to East Lansing. There has been no shortage of weird games that haven’t gone the Nittany Lions way. For that reason, I’m predicting that it is a great back and forth game that turns in the Spartans favor at the end after some weird circumstances.

Penn State 24
Michigan State 27

Kraigen Rasalla (7-4)

I have a good feeling about the Nittany Lions this week. The James Franklin extension news finally came out this week and hopefully the roster is back to full health after over 30 players experienced flu-like symptoms during practice and the game against Rutgers last week. I think with a distraction that has surrounded the program throughout the season being a non-factor and a healthier roster, this team comes out and plays a great game against Michigan State. 

The key for Penn State to go into East Lansing to beat Michigan State is simple, slow down Kenneth Walker III. The Spartan running back is the best back in the country and will make an appearance in NYC for the Heisman presentation. But, when I say slow down, I think the Lions have to use the same approach to this game as they did in the Wisconsin game. Let him get 3 or 4 yards and make him really earn them. But, don’t let Walker escape for the big play that could kill Penn State. The Lions didn’t allow that against Wisconsin and came away with a W. If Penn State can stick to that plan, I think they win the game. 

With Michigan State out of Big Ten Championship and CFP contention, this game loses a bit of its luster nationally. But, I think this game is huge for Penn State heading into bowl and recruiting season. 8-4 looks a whole lot better than 7-5. And, I think Penn State gets there behind the arm of a healthy Sean Clifford against a Spartan secondary that got lit up by Ohio State and the continued dominance of this 2021 Penn State defense.

Penn State 31
Michigan State 17

Cory Lestochi (7-4)

The final regular season game of the year. Both teams have locked in their coaches for the future with both MSU’s Mel Tucker and PSU’s James Franklin signing massive contracts for the dedicated future.
Michigan State is coming off a brutal beating at the hands of Ohio State. A game that showed just how week their pass defense is. Will a healthy Sean Clifford be able to exploit it?
On the flip side can the battered Penn State defense that is still recovering from a flu have enough depth to stop Kenneth Walker, who is one of the best backs in the Big Ten?
I think Penn State comes out firing and has the defense to slow down MSU and make them one dimensional. Again, red zone defense being the difference.

Penn State 27
Michigan State 24

Penn State – Rutgers

Matchup: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-5) @ Penn State Nittany Lions (6-4)

Where: Beaver Stadium

When: Saturday, November 20th @ 12:00pm EST

TV: BTN

Just like that we are already approaching Penn State’s final home game of the season. It will be Senior Day on Saturday and although this season didn’t go how the Nittany Lions and many of us fans planned, it is still nice to send players like Jahan Dotson off with a win. Greg Schiano and Rutgers is what is standing in their way of win. Can they pull it off? The For the Glory team tells us their predictions.

Brandon Musso (6-4)

I was quite optimistic that Penn State could pull off the upset over Michigan last week but they fell just short. Although it was a loss, I don’t believe Penn State played a bad game. As I always say vs. top ranked teams like Michigan on Saturday, Penn State needs to be perfect. The smallest mistakes are something good teams take advantage of. As was the case against Ohio State, Penn State was right in the game with a good chance at winning the entire way. It came down to just a few mistakes that turned the game in the Wolverines’ favor. 

This week Rutgers comes to town with a much better team that we’ve seen in recent years. Sitting at 5-5, the Scarlet Knights are quite hard to assess. They have played some teams tough but have gotten blown out by others. They got blown out 52-3 at the hands of Wisconsin two weeks ago but are now coming off a 38-3 win over Indiana last week.

This is another matchup where Penn State clearly has the better talent on paper but the question is how they will come out and play. This was the same case against Illinois but we saw Illinois play more inspired and leave Beaver Stadium with the upset win. Can Rutgers do the same? I don’t think that will happen but I do think this will be an ugly game where Penn State wins a close one.

Penn State 24
Rutgers 17

Kraigen Rasalla (6-4)

Somehow, Senior Day is already here and the Lions are taking on a much improved Rutgers team. Though the Scarlet Knights are just 2-5 in conference play, they did just beat Indiana 38-3 and are looking for that elusive 6th win to become bowl eligible. This may seem like a matchup of two teams trending the opposite direction. A Rutgers team hungry to become bowl eligible facing a Penn State team disappointed they are out of NY6 Bowl contention after making one in 2016, 2017, and 2019. I think the Nittany Lions have to watch out for some trickery from Rutgers all day on Saturday. When they played Ohio State, Rutgers was running fake punts and fake field goals with no fear as a heavy under dog. I expect more of that against Penn State this weekend. I think Coach Schiano will have them hungry and ready to go. Although this may be Sean Clifford and Jahan Dotson’s final game at Beaver Stadium, I think the attention needs to go away from them and go to RB Keyvone Lee. Lee finished 2020 as Penn State’s best back and after last week’s strong performance, it’s shaping up to be the same way in 2021. Sean Clifford is a good quarterback. But, asking him to do EVERYTHING on offense is a recipe for a loss no matter who Penn State plays. I think Lee gets involved in the offense and handles full time running back duties and propels Penn State to a win. 

Penn State 31
Rutgers 13

Cory Lestochi (6-4)

Ouch. 
Hard to gauge the interest of this team and its fans heading into Rutgers this weekend. On one side of the coin, it’s Senior Day and although it’s a complicated event due to Covid-19 giving seniors another year of eligibility if they choose, it should provide some sort of motivation to come out and play well.
On the flip side, Penn State has lost four of its last five games and all of a sudden 2020 won’t be alone as far as disappointing seasons go. The Nittany Lions have virtually nothing to play for in the CFB Playoff (not even ranked) and the B1G East race. Meanwhile, Rutgers is sitting at five wins; they need one more to earn bowl eligibility.
After seeing QB Sean Clifford endure a heavy barrage against Michigan, it’s hard to put much stock in the offense when they can’t keep Clifford upright. Still, I think Penn State finds a way to get the win because I will be in attendance and I don’t wanna see a loss.

Penn State 30
Rutgers 3

Penn State – Michigan Predictions

Matchup: Michigan Wolverines (8-1) @ Penn State Nittany Lions (6-3)

Where: Beaver Stadium

When: Saturday, November 13th @ 12:00pm EST

TV: ABC

After a slow start, Penn State played a strong second half to leave Maryland with the first win in over month. They are right back into the thick of it this week as they welcome Michigan to Beaver Stadium. The Wolverines are ranked 6th in the country and boast an 8-1 record with their only loss coming from 7th ranked Michigan State. This will be tough game for the Nittany Lions. How tough? Let the For the Glory team tell you.

Brandon Musso (6-3)

Last week we saw a Penn State team that got off to a slow start but used a great record setting performance from Jahan Dotson to get the win over Maryland. After watching the first half, I felt as though they clearly regressed from the motivated team we saw play at Ohio State. However, to their credit they made some adjustments in the second half and finished strong. 

For me, this is still one of the biggest factors when trying to assess this team. What team will we get from week to week? They are a very good team when they play with a sense of urgency and energy. However when they struggle to get up for a game, the struggles are very visible and you get a team that is very lackluster.

Penn State will now welcome a top 10 Michigan team into Beaver Stadium this week. While it’s still a home game, a top ranked Michigan team normally draws a prime time White Out. However, this one will be a noon game and I think this is a huge factor. Can Penn State come out motivated to upset the Wolverines in the early afternoon? Or will we see a team that feels bad for themselves having fallen completely out of the rankings.

Going by the numbers, you will see Michigan is the superior team. On defense, the Wolverines have averaged just 173.4 passing yards allowed per game. For a Nittany Lion team that lives by the pass, I think it will be a struggle to move the ball. They still haven’t found a consistent rushing game and take away the passing game and you have the recipe for a stagnant offense. This will be key to the game, can the Nittany Lions move the ball against the Michigan defense?

Despite the noon start time, I think Penn State will be motivated for the game and play more like we saw against Ohio State. Nittany Lions play well and win a thrilling upset over the Wolverines.

Penn State 24
Michigan 21

Kraigen Rasalla (6-3)

After a nice bounce back win against Maryland, Penn State gets the opportunity to play spoiler when #6 Michigan comes into town. The Wolverines come in at 8-1 with CFP hopes still on the line. However, even with Penn State unranked, the line on this game has been very tight. Both teams have been favored by 1 point at some point this week. So, safe to say Vegas sees this one going down to the wire. For me, I think Penn State wins it outright. I’m all in on the Lions just on gut feeling. I don’t think Michigan is as good as their record is. More importantly, I don’t think Michigan is as good as the CFP Committee thinks they are, when they ranked Michigan ahead of Michigan State this week, even though the Spartans beat them at home just 2 weeks ago. On the other hand, a win gives the Nittany Lions a sigh of relief and allows them to play better than they showed in the month of October. Penn State wins their 3rd straight meeting against Michigan. 

Penn State 24
Michigan 19

Cory Lestochi (6-3)

Michigan week is here. While perhaps anticlimactic given Penn State’s unranked status, the game this weekend is a pivotal one for both programs. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh desperately needs an impressive win for his resume, while Penn State is looking to stay right side up after snapping a three-game losing streak last week.
Michigan’s offense is boasted by two running backs and a relatively decent passing game. They would prefer to run it every play, but have shown the ability to spread the ball around more than previous Michigan teams. 
On defense, they have gotten rid of the strict press man coverage and play a diverse set of zone defenses with multiple looks. Their defensive line is a stout group upfront. 
I think this Penn State offense will benefit from playing this defensive scheme more than previous Michigan defenses because of the outside matchups. If Sean Clifford continues to get healthier and finds his rhythm he could have success against the zone. The question will be whether or not they can find enough rushing attack to keep this defense honest. A defense that has forced more fumbles than interceptions. 
The Penn State defense, although one of the best at preventing red zone scores, has given up a lot of yards this year. The good news is Michigan is one of the worst offenses at converting in the red zone. That will heavily depend on how well the Nittany Lions can stop the run on Saturday. 
Seems like whoever is the home team typically wins in this series (excuse 2020) and I don’t see that changing this week. There is a reason Vegas likes the Lions and I see them getting the job done. 

Penn State 25
Michigan 19

Penn State – Maryland Predictions

Matchup: Penn State Nittany Lions (5-3) @ Maryland Terrapins (5-3)

Where: Maryland Stadium

When: Saturday, November 6th @ 3:30pm EST

TV: FS1

After a tough October that saw the Nittany Lions’ playoff hopes wash down the drain, we finally move into November. Penn State is coming off a loss in Columbus but they played very well and can hopefully take some positives and a little bit of momentum as they start the final stretch of their season. First up in that stretch is a road game in Maryland against the Terrapins. Can they stop their losing skid? The For the Glory team gives their thoughts.

Brandon Musso (5-3)

I have to start by giving Penn State a lot of credit for how they played on the road at Ohio State. If you read my prediction last week, you would know that I was harsh on the Nittany Lions following the horrible loss we saw against Illinois. However, to Penn State’s credit, they looked like a rejuvenated team in Columbus. Against a top team like Ohio State, they played very well and were in the game the entire way with a good shot at winning. In the end, they dropped their third straight game but there was quite a few positives to take from that game.

They now find themselves outside the CFP rankings with a couple big games still on their schedule. First though, they have to get through Maryland which shouldn’t be written off as a win. After three straight losses, Penn State will have to again come out inspired to get back in the win column.

The key to this game is just that. No numbers, no matchups, nothing. Will we see Penn State play as inspired as they did against Ohio State or will we see a repeat of the Illinois game? If we see them play with great energy and inspiration, then they can leave Maryland with a win. I will take a positive approach this week and predict that we will once again see a very good version of this Penn State team. Penn State wins by a touchdown.

Penn State 28
Maryland 21

Kraigen Rasalla (5-3)

Finally, October is over. After a 1-3 month where Penn State went from being legit National Title contenders to out of the CFP Committee’s Top 25, I am sure the Nittany Lions are pleased to flip the calendar to November. However, this week presents a tough matchup in 5-3 Maryland. Last season, the Terps throttled Penn State 35-19 in Happy Valley. This year’s Maryland team brings back QB Taulia Tagovailoa and WR Rakim Jarrett and Dontay Demus. All three had huge games against the Lions this year and after a 38 point outburst last week against Indiana, will be looking to do more of what they did last year against the Lions. 
I think the biggest key this week for Penn State is to start off fast. This could be a 3 and out on defense or a score on offense to start the game. After a tough loss last week against the Buckeyes, making it three losses in a row, I think getting behind early or struggling to find an offensive rhythm would really test this team’s character and make things difficult on Saturday. 
Fortunately for Penn State, Maryland is near the bottom in most defensive categories in the Big Ten, including being dead last in forcing turnovers, something that ailed Penn State against Ohio State. If they avoid the turnovers, I think they take care of business in a bit of a shootout in College Park. 

Penn State 38
Maryland 28

Cory Lestochi (5-3)

The UNRANKED Nittany Lions will head to College Park to face a polarizing Maryland Terrapin squad. Penn State is technically reeling, losing its past three games. But this week looks more promising with a struggling Maryland squad. 
Still, the success of this team heavily weighs on the health of Sean Clifford. And with little run game to support a struggling Clifford the risk of losing is always there. 
Clifford & Co. score enough and the defense plays their best game. 

Penn State 28
Maryland 7

Penn State’s 33-24, Fifth Consecutive Loss to OSU Teaches Valuable Lesson

Another close loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Not something anyone will care about in twenty years when they see Ohio State won (at least) five-straight against Penn State for the first time in the series history. In the past five matchups, the Nittany Lions have found ways to play the Buckeyes better than anyone else in the conference, but haven’t found ways to come up on top.

And while nobody gave them a chance heading into Saturday, it’s hard to feel good about a moral victory in the midst of a three-game losing streak. However, this loss, like its predecessors stamps an important lesson for head coach James Franklin & Co.: losing to Ohio State shouldn’t be your measuring stick for success and beating Ohio State is not the only way to achieve your goals.

The truth is even if Penn State continues to recruit well they are never going to recruit at the same level as Ohio State, but they can put a product on the field that will always give them a chance. In seasons where Penn State hosts Ohio State, or a season where Ohio State’s team is in a valley for whatever reason, maybe the Nittany Lions will even be favored. But it’s unfair and unlikely to expect Penn State to beat Ohio State more than once every three years.

But the loss on Saturday tells us losing to Ohio State is OK, if and only if Penn State takes care of business everywhere else.

Penn State would not be riding a three-game losing streak if they had been able to hold on against Iowa and not flop against Illinois. It’s a story I continue to sear into the hearts of Penn State fans, but the program needs to realize it too.

Should we chase the Buckeyes and try to compete with them on and off the field? Absolutely.

But the reason Ohio State is the best team in the conference isn’t because they just beat Penn State; it’s because they also beat everyone else and that’s something Penn State hasn’t been able to do consistently. With the College Football Playoff most likely to expand in the next couple years, one loss to Ohio State isn’t going to keep Penn State out of the Playoff, but acting like Ohio State is the only team on our schedule worth giving our best effort to, will.

There is no excuse for the Illinois debacle after seeing the way this team played against the Buckeyes on the road. In fact it makes the entire month of October even more frustrating. You don’t get a Big Ten Trophy or an invitation to the Playoff for playing Ohio State more consistently than everyone else, but you do have a better shot if you begin treating everyone else like they are Ohio State.

The good news for the Nittany Lions is they can begin to learn this crucial lesson with the remaining games on their schedule. Prove to us that Ohio State isn’t the only team you care about by winning the remainder of your games, all of which you can win based on your performance last night.

Penn State – Ohio State Predictions

Matchup: Penn State Nittany Lions (5-2) @ Ohio State Buckeyes

Where: Ohio Stadium

When: Saturday, October 30th @ 7:30pm EST

TV: ABC

Penn State is coming off yet another heartbreaking loss. In a major upset, Penn State lost a 9OT thriller against Illinois at Beaver Stadium. Since their BYE week occurred the week before the Illinois loss, the Nittany Lions don’t have much time clear their heads as they are headed out to the Horseshoe for a primetime matchup with the Buckeyes this Saturday. In one of their toughest matchups of the year, can the Nittany Lions turn it around? Find out what the For the Glory team thinks.

Brandon Musso (4-3)

Penn State is coming off one of their worst losses in a long time having capped off a rainy miserable afternoon with a 9 OT loss to a then 2-5 Illinois. It was a sloppy game almost every where you looked. From the stagnant offense with a clearly limited Sean Clifford, to a rushing defense that gave up more than 350 yards. There wasn’t really any positives to pull from that game which appeared to be team playing uninspired football, a common theme for Franklin coached teams following an emotional loss to a top ranked team. 

After a loss like that, Penn State is thrown right back into the thick of it with a road matchup in Columbus against Ohio State. The Buckeyes do have one loss this year, having dropped a game to Oregon early in the season. However, they have since worked their way back to their current No. 5 ranking. This is a tough game as it is every year but Penn States loss last week has kind of rendered it less important than it has been in previous years. 

As much as I want to do my normal preview/prediction where break down some numbers between the two teams, I don’t think this game is going to be close. Last week, Penn State was clearly uninspired and vastly under prepared. If the game taught me anything, it’s that you can run all the numbers and matchups you want, but if you have a team that played like Penn State did on Saturday, then you can throw all those numbers out the window. Illinois 350+ rushing yards is a clear indication of that. 

With Penn State’s playoff hopes now washed down the drain, I really don’t see them playing inspired against Ohio State. Against an elite team like theirs, you need to not only play inspired but you need to be perfect. Is Penn State up for that challenge? …. I say no.

Penn State 10
Ohio State 41

Kraigen Rasalla (4-3)

It’s hard to go into an Ohio State matchup without any excitement but that’s exactly how I am feeling after Penn State lost one of the most embarrassing games in program history to Illinois last week. It wasn’t necessarily the result, teams get upset all the time in college football. But, watching two teams trade failed attempts from the 3 yard line, the ineptitude from the Penn State offense for the entire afternoon, and the inability to stop the run when you know it’s coming made last Saturday much more painful.

 
Now, this week presents the annual biggest challenge of the year, Ohio State. The Buckeyes looked like they were going to take a step back in 2021 after losing QB Justin Fields and struggling with Minnesota, losing to Oregon at home, and having some more struggles with weaker non-conference opponents. But, the Buckeyes are hitting their stride heading into November after beating up on the weaker teams in the Big Ten. 


The Buckeyes lead the country in points per game (49.3) and total yards per game (559.3). CJ Stroud is proving he is having no problems replacing Justin Fields, boasting a 22:3 TD to INT ratio. The receivers are still ridiculously good as Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson are perhaps the best WR duo in the country, yet again. But, the best part of the Buckeyes offense is what could be the banged up Penn State defense’s worst nightmare, TreVeyon Henderson. The true freshman running back is averaging 8.8 yards per rush, which is the best in the country, and is putting himself in the conversation of other great Ohio State running backs already. 


If Ohio State isn’t foolish, they will watch the Illinois game tape and see PJ Mustipher’s injury is leaving a huge hole in the Penn State line and just attack that part of the defense all day long. I think Ryan Day is smart enough to do just that and Ohio State takes care of Penn State at home for their 5th straight victory against the Nittany Lions. 

Penn State 14
Ohio State 37

Cory Lestochi (4-3)

As if these past couple weeks couldn’t get any worse, the Penn State Nittany Lions travel to Columbus, Ohio to play arguably the best team in the conference, the Ohio State Buckeyes. It’s been a tough and dramatic month for Penn State on and off the field. There are questions regarding HC James Franklin potentially leaving (I don’t think it’s gonna happen), the health of QB Sean Clifford, among other distractions.


Yet, we still have a football game on Saturday and Ryan Day & Co. will not be feeling bad for our beloved Nittany Lions. It’s hard to imagine Penn State sleepwalking more than they did in the Illinois game. The effort this Saturday has to be better than the one they displayed last weekend. Right?


Still, effort can only get you so far in a hostile environment against a powerhouse team. The Buckeyes bolster one of the best offenses in the country led by true freshman running back TreyVeone Henderson and a plethora of five star receivers. Although Penn State’s bend but don’t break defense has continued to bail out this team, it’s hard to imagine the wear and tear of a physical season hasn’t finally caught up to them. They almost have to force a couple mistakes from redshirt freshman quarterback, CJ Stroud.


On the other side of the ball, Franklin claims that Clifford is close to 100%, but it’s hard to imagine that’s true when the three-year starter looked closer to 50% last week. If Clifford isn’t able to threaten a mediocre OSU defense with his feet, then I don’t see this off-beat offense keeping pace with their well-oiled machine counterpart.
Penn State is one of the better teams that Ohio State will have played in the past month, as the two teams’ last month couldn’t be more of a juxtaposition. The Buckeyes have been on a tear while the Nittany Lions feel held together by duct tape. I think offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich will find ways to score on this Buckeye defense, but I don’t see a way Penn State wins this game.

Penn State 20
Ohio State 34

Penn State’s Hangover Habit Strikes Again; Nittany Lions Lose 18-20 (9OT)

Head coach James Franklin’s Penn State teams are now 3-5 following their first loss of the season.

What makes this disheartening statistic even worse are the three wins Franklin does have coming off a loss are against Buffalo, Temple, and Indiana. The latter Penn State barely won, 34-27.

It’s a habit that has cost some of Franklin’s best teams even greater riches than the ones they eventually settled for. Everyone remembers the grueling losses to Michigan State in back-to-back years in ’17 & ’18. Nobody really cares about the loss that was buried in the 0-5 start last year, but it was still there.

And there there was today. Nobody could have imagined today.

Even with a battered and bruised football team, we all thought they had enough horses to handle a 2-5 Illinois squad with a first-year head coach, at home. We were wrong.

Credit the Illinois team for sticking to the game plan of wearing down an already depleted defense and keeping a inconsistent, but potentially lethal Penn State offense off the field.

But this loss feels deeper than the obvious X’s and O’s you could point to for why the Nittany Lions fell short in what seemed like 9 rounds of purgatory hell.

Perhaps it is the fact that Penn State fans, mostly, were pleading with their athletic administration, Board of Trustees, and anyone else who would listen that James Franklin is the right man for the job for perhaps the remainder of his coaching career. While that still is my belief, a loss to a far-less talented football team feels like a sucker punch to the stomach. It also provides at least a little doubt, if not a lot of doubt, in the back of your mind.

Sure Franklin will continue to recruit his tail off and bring in some of the best players in the country. Sure he will surround himself with all of the analytics and coaches to be able to make the right decisions. Sure he won’t always get so unfortunate with injuries and penalties at the most crucial of moments.

But what if his teams can’t break this hangover habit? Even after a BYE, why does a loss appear to hangover them for another week? In a college football season where one-loss was not a death sentence for the Playoff, but two surely was, why did they come out flat?

Those are the questions you have to ask yourself when you can’t find a way to get three yards for a 2 point conversion more times than a unequivocally worse opponent.

Penn State – Illinois Predictions

Matchup: Illinois Fighting Illini @ Penn State Nittany Lions (5-1)

Where: Beaver Stadium

When: Saturday, October 23rd @ 12:00pm EST

TV: ABC

Penn State is coming off a heartbreaking loss in Iowa where they lost their quarterback for an unknown amount of time and their bid for a unbeaten season. With the quarterback situation up in the air, Penn State rolls out of their BYE and are back home for a matchup with Illinois. Find out what the For the Glory team has to say about this one.

Brandon Musso (4-2)

After a timely BYE week to hopefully get Sean Clifford as healthy as possible, Penn State returns to the field this week. They’ll take on the Fighting Illini at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. Illinois comes in with a 2-5 record, having struggled most of the season thus far.

On paper, this is a lopsided matchup. Penn State has superior talent but the quarterback situation will play a big part in how this game goes. As seen at Iowa two Saturdays ago, the Penn State offense is entirely different without Sean Clifford. When I first wrote this, the injury situation was quiet as per usual with James Franklin and Ta’Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux were splitting first team reps at practice. That all changed on Wednesday night when Clifford was spotted practicing, taking a third of the first team reps. This does suggest that while he may not be out an extended period of time, the fact that he’s taking a third of the reps might mean he may not be ready to play this Saturday.

Looking at the numbers, the Illinois offense and defense are one of the worst in the B1G. They rank last in total yards allowed allowed per game in the B1G. Now like I said, the Penn State quarterback situation will determine how this game goes. With a backup QB, this game will be closer but Penn State will win. With the Clifford starting, this game will be a blowout in Penn State’s favor.

Penn State 34
Illinois 10

Kraigen Rasalla (4-2)

Coming off the much-needed bye week, Penn State will see Illinois come to town for a homecoming matchup. The big question this week is: will Sean Clifford play, and if he does, in what kind of role? We saw him take snaps on Wednesday at practice. He has also been in full pads at practice with a knee brace on, as well. Per usual, Penn State and James Franklin do not discuss injuries too often so I think this is a wait and see until kickoff at noon on Saturday. 
But, even with this huge question mark, I think two weeks of prep will help backup options Ta’Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux in a major way. In addition, it helps that Illinois is perhaps the weakest team in the Big Ten. The Illini average the least amount of points per game (17.7 PPG) in the Big Ten and placing them 120th nationally. They are second to last in yards per game (313.6 YPG) in the Big Ten, just barely ahead of the vaunted, no-huddle Iowa offense (ok, that was a jab I felt I had to make). 
Illinois has struggled so much that first year coach Bret Bielema essentially called out the roster construction of this team because of the previous staff. He noted that there isn’t an offensive lineman in the 2-deep depth chart that was recruited to Illinois in the last three years doing anything of note for the Illini. Also, he mentioned the QB room is full of transfers, showing the lack of development at the position by the previous staff.


Major questions at those key positions for Illinois make for an easy Penn State victory, even with questions surrounding who will be the starter under center for Penn State on Saturday.

Penn State 31
Illinois 7

Cory Lestochi (4-2)

QB1 Sean Clifford was throwing the ball during Wednesday’s practice and according to head coach James Franklin this wasn’t the first day he had been participating in throwing drills. Even more encouraging is the fact the reps between the three quarterbacks were split into thirds this week, giving me a hunch that we might see Clifford after all. My prediction? Clifford plays until PSU has a 2 touchdown lead, which might happen sooner than later against a mediocre Illinois football team.
Illinois’ defense is allowing 164 rushing yards per game, which is good for 13th in the Big Ten. It shoots up to 180 rushing yards per game allowed against conference opponents. Their passing defense is also 13th in the Big Ten allowing over 250 passing yards per game. It’s safe to say their defense is porous. I am not too worried about the offense getting started whether it is Clifford under center or one of the backups, yes even if it is QB Ta’Quan Roberson.
The reason I am not worried is because Penn State’s defense is going to suffocate Illinois’ offense. Their run game is middle of the road in the Big Ten, but what really has been the problem for them is quarterback play. They are dead last in passing yards per game in the Big Ten. It doesn’t matter if it’s former Rutgers QB, Artur Sitkowski (51.2% completion percentage) or former Michigan QB, Brandon Peters (48.8% completion percentage), the Illinois offense has struggled.
The only weapon the Nittany Lion defense needs to focus on is Isaiah Williams. The former quarterback is the best athlete for Illinois and he can run, catch, and even pass. Don’t be surprised if he has one or two special plays that make you go “who the hell is this guy?”
Still, Penn State rolls

Penn State 31
Illinois 7

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