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Enemy Dispatch #12: Black Shoe Diaries Previews Penn State

The folks over at BSD tell us what they think we should know about the Nittany Lions.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl Classic-Memphis vs Penn State Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In preparation of the Big Ten’s return to the field, the B1G blogs got together and previewed our own teams. Each blog answered the same questions with the goal of informing the other B1G communities about what to watch for on the field.

My plan for these enemy previews is to share them in order of who Minnesota plays, with a summary of the remaining Big Ten teams at the end (since we don’t know who among the remaining East division teams we might see on Championship Saturday during the #BigTenBonusRound).


Which enemy are we learning about this time?

One of the toughest potential Week 9 opponents, the Penn State Nittany Lions. Jared Slanina of Black Shoe Diaries breaks them down for us.

List your team’s key departures (name, position, role)

  • KJ Hamler- WR
  • Yetur Gross-Matos-DE
  • Micah Parsons- LB
  • Ricky Rahne-OC

List your team’s key returnees (name, position, role)

  • Journey Brown-RB
  • Sean Clifford-QB
  • Shaka Toney-DE
  • Pat Freiermuth-TE

List a few true freshmen or transfers that will make an instant impact (name, position, role)

  • KeAndre Lambert Smith-WR
  • Parker Washington-WR
  • Curtis Jacobs-LB Lance Dixon

Brief overview of 2020 team (a couple paragraphs about expectations, how you think they’ll perform):

Penn State returns its starting quarterback, 4 of 5 offensive lineman (with the new starter with extensive playing time under his belt), a stable of talented backs led by Journey Brown...and only one wide receiver with any practical experience. It will be crucial for at least two young wideouts to emerge early in the season and for Sean Clifford to quickly build a rapport with them as KJ Hamler is no longer around to bail out the offense like he did so often the last two seasons.

The strength of the defense will be the linebackers, even with the departure of Micah Parsons. The defensive line returns plenty of talent and should be deeper than in recent years, but will need to get after the quarterback with more consistency throughout the season. The secondary was exposed toward the end of the season and could again be a liability against opponents with a quality quarterback.

What’s your team’s biggest strength?

A stable of talented running backs guided by a veteran offensive line.

What’s your team’s biggest weakness?

A lack of experience at wide receiver.

How does your fanbase feel about your coach and his staff?

The fanbase is largely happy with what James Franklin has done in Happy Valley, especially getting the program consistently in the top 10 and winning a Big Ten championship well ahead of schedule. The biggest questions are if he can ever get past Ohio State on a regular basis (tall order) and if those disturbing fourth quarter collapses in big games are behind him. With that being said, there is a vocal minority who think that he should be fired, every player cut, and the stadium torn down every time they lose a game - or heck, don’t win by 40+ points.

Who is your team’s MVP this season and why?

I’ll go with tight end Pat Freiermuth, who has an excellent shot at being a first-team All-American and winner of the Mackey Award. He will play an even more essential role as Penn State works to break in several inexperienced wide receivers.

Predict your team’s record, its best win, and a potential surprise loss

7-1, win them all but Ohio State. However, I wouldn’t be shocked if they lose at Indiana, where they always seem to be stuck in slow motion, or drop one against Iowa or Michigan, who they play in back-to-back weeks.

What else should we know about your team this year?

Penn State is set up for success more so than the last two seasons, but it will be a moot point if they cannot get past Ohio State for the first time since 2016.


Thanks to Jared for helping out!


Assuming they play Minnesota in Week 9, how much does Penn State worry you?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Time to make PSU the best B1G win in back to back seasons!
    (19 votes)
  • 2%
    A little.
    (1 vote)
  • 13%
    Moderate amounts of concern.
    (6 votes)
  • 42%
    A lot, Penn State is good.
    (19 votes)
45 votes total Vote Now