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Firsthand Look: Black Shoe Diaries previews Penn State

Here’s what SB Nation’s Penn State site had to say about the Buckeyes’ second opponent

Penn State v Indiana Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In preparation of the (super weird) 2020 college football season, the Big Ten blogs of SB Nation joined forces, providing each other with previews of our respective teams. We all answered the same questions with the goal of informing our opponents what they’re up against this season.

Here’s what Black Shoe Diaries’ Jared Slanina had to say about Ohio State’s second 2020 opponent, the Penn State Nittany Lions.

(Disclaimer: This was written before the season began, so some things— such as the mentioning of Journey Brown— no longer apply)


Overview of 2020 Nittany Lions

“Penn State returns its starting quarterback, 4 of 5 offensive linemen (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.”

Team’s key departures

KJ Hamler (WR)

Yetur Gross-Matos (DE)

Micah Parsons (LB)

Ricky Rahne (O)

Team’s key returnees

Journey Brown (RB) — has not played due to a medical condition discovered during the offseason, return is unknown but he could potentially miss the entire 2020 season

Sean Clifford (QB)

Shaka Toney (DE)

Pat Freiermuth (TE)

True freshmen or transfers that will make an instant impact

KeAndre Lambert Smith (WR)

Parker Washington (WR)

Curtis Jacobs (LB)

Lance Dixon (LB)

Biggest strength

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

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 is 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.”

Team’s MVP

“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

(Again, this was written before Game 1, aka before Penn State’s loss to Indiana. I’m impressed.)

“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 of Black Shoe Diaries for giving great insight on Penn State ahead of the season opener. You can follow them on Twitter here.