Schedule may help get through tough year
While Happy Valley has lived up to its name a bit more in recent weeks with the seemingly continual news of James Franklin’s recruiting success, let us remember these are verbal commitments for 2015. Nobody in this supposedly vaunted group of 16 and 17 year olds signs on any dotted lines for another nine months. Some may choose to go elsewhere in that time, but none will be on the Beaver Stadium turf until September, 2015.
For a moment, then, let us come back to earth and consider 2014. It could be a tough year.
Everyone is learning a new system, for some players, the third in four years. The scholarship sanctions have decimated depth, especially at linebacker and the defensive line, the offensive line is a big question, and while QB Christian Hackenberg is back, the receiver to which he threw most often, at times almost exclusively, is getting ready for NFL camp. Guys who would normally never see the field in any game that is within 30 points will make up the special teams.
So, what’s the good news? Maybe, the schedule.
Penn State travels to Ireland to open against Central Florida, which beat the Lions in Beaver Stadium last year. But that was with the first quarterback taken in the draft, Blake Bortels. UCF likely won’t be as good as last year, and with the travel and hoopla surrounding this game, who knows how 18 to 22 year olds will react. After that, PSU has three winnable games against Akron, Rutgers, and Massachusetts. Northwestern follows at State College, and the Huskies are not figured to be as tough as last year, either.
PSU then has a week off before traveling to Michigan for a big prime time game. That is followed by another bye, before hosting Ohio State in another night contest. Yep, you can hear ‘em in Ann Arbor and Columbus already. Penn State has byes before both Michigan and Ohio State. With the depleted ranks due to scholarship limits, those off weeks probably couldn’t come at a better time. Don’t tell Mark Emerick, he’ll probably say the schedulers were involved in a conspiracy.
But, I digress. After the OSU game, Penn State hosts Randy Edsall and Maryland, the goes to Indiana, then hosts Temple. Even if the Michigan and Ohio State games go badly, Franklin should be able to get his guys together to win these three. At improving Illinois and home to tough Michigan State finish the slate.
Closer analysis of each game will come later. But, as a whole, if anything gives James Franklin a shot at a winning first year, it could be that schedule.
Lion fans may see in this a sliver of justice. Or the fates finally turning at least a half kind eye toward Penn State. Just don’t expect Michigan or Ohio State to agree.