Why They’re Here: Evan Royster is back, Joe Pa is still there and, well, they’re Penn State. All of those things could be either good or a bad. Royster is a stud and should be a first round draft pick next year, but putting too much of the burden on his shoulders could make Penn State one dimensional and against Big (11, maybe 12 next year) Ten defenses, that’s not going to cut it.
The Good: I love Evan Royster. He’s been one of my favorite running backs in college football for the past three years. Now that Jahvid Best and Toby “White Power” Gerhart are playing on Sundays, he’s probably my favorite. He’s got a big, powerful, Big (11, maybe 12 next year) Ten O-line to run behind and should be a force in the conference, and the nation, this year. They lost a lot of talent on defense, but I can’t imagine Linebacker U not reloading on linebackers, can you? Hopefully Joe Pa won’t have to answer questions every week about if and when he’ll retire, which should ease his role as a figurehead/marketing gimmick masquerading as a coach. Reporters should really just accept that Paterno is going to coach until he dies. Literally. His performance over the past few seasons has pretty much earned him a lifetime contract, so don’t be surprised if Paterno dies midseason in 2013.
The Bad: I don’t think Joe Pa has actually done any coaching in about 10 years. In that time they’ve played for a couple conference championships, made the BCS and were even in competition for the national championship game two years ago. So whoever’s actually been coaching the team is doing a pretty solid job. The Nittany Lions’ greatest challenge will be at QB. Judging from their spring game, they don’t have a guy who will make Penn Staters forget Daryll Clark anytime soon. The receiving corps is also a question mark. Last year, Clark would make plays for the offense in spite of his receivers. This year, there’s nobody that’s going to step up and do that for them.
The Last Word: If the Lions have to start giving Royster the ball 35 times a game, they’re in trouble. With Ohio State, Iowa and a resurgent Michigan looming, Penn State cannot afford to be subpar at quarterback. There’s no sign that they’ll be anything but. However, if their defense can bounce back and the running game can open up enough holes in the secondary, this team could be pretty good. I’ve got 50 bucks on them losing to Alabama in the second game of the season. That game will be their measuring stick, in the conference and in the nation. If they get destroyed, they’re basically done – Iowa and Ohio State are too good – but if they can keep it close or even cost me 50 green backs, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
Final Record: 8-5