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2011 College Football Season Preview: Penn State Nittany Lions

2010 Record: (7-6, 4-4 in Big 10)

Head Coach: Joe Paterno (46th year at PSU, 401-135-3 All-Time)

Last Bowl Game: 2010/2011 Outback Bowl (lost to Florida 37-24)

2010 Preview

CFBZ Penn State Links

5 Players Ready To Break Out In The Big Ten

2010 Penn State Exit Survey

Big Ten Roundtable

Pre-Spring All Big Ten Team

Returning Big Ten Offensive Firepower


9/3: Indiana St

9/10: Alabama (2010 result: lost 24-3)

9/17: at Temple (2010 result: won 22-13)

9/24: Eastern Michigan

10/1: at Indiana (2010 result: won 41-24)

10/8: Iowa (2010 result: lost 24-3)

10/15: Purdue

10/22: at Northwestern (2010 result: won 35-21)

10/29: Illinois (2010 result: lost 33-13)

11/12: Nebraska

11/19: at Ohio State (2010 result: lost 38-14)

11/26: at Wisconsin

2010 Offensive Statistics:

Scoring: 24.5 ppg (9th in Big Ten, 81st in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 142.54 yds/game (9th in Big Ten, 74th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 229.7 yds/game (6th in Big Ten, 52nd in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 372.2 yds/game (9th in Big Ten, 68th in Nation)

2010 Defensive Statistics:

Scoring: 23.7 ppg (6th in Big Ten, 49th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 165.62 yds/game (7th in Big Ten, 74th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 181.2 yds/game (2nd in Big Ten, 17th in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 346.8 yds/game (4th in Big Ten, 35th in Nation) 

2010 Misc Stats:

Turnover Margin: -0.31 per game (8th in Big Ten, 75th in Nation)

Penalties: 30.9 yds/game (2nd in Big Ten, 3rd in Nation)

Returning Starters:

Offense: 7

Defense: 7

Kicker/Punter: 1

Top Returning Statistical Leaders:

Passing: QB Matt McGloin, Jr (118 of 215 for 1548 yds, 14 TD, 9 INT)

Rushing: RB Silas Redd, Soph (77 for 437 yds, 2 TD)

Receiving: WR Derek Moye, Sr (53 rec for 885 yds, 8 TD)

Tackles: CB D'Anton Lynn, Sr (75)

Sacks: DL Devon Still, Sr (4)

Interceptions: FS Nick Sukay, Sr; CB D'Anton Lynn, Sr (3)

Bowl Predictions:

Athlon Sports: Meineke Car Care (vs Missouri)

Phil Steele: Insight Bowl (vs Missouri)

The 2008 and 2009 seasons saw the re-emergence of the Nittany Lions as they posted an 11-2 record in both years and in 2008 took a trip out to the Rose Bowl. 2010 brought Penn State back down to earth as they went 0-4 against ranked opponents and also lost big to Illinois (33-13) in a game that brought their record to 3-3 at that point of the season.

Penn State definitely has some question marks this year as the status of part-time QB Rob Bolden is still up in the air. Another key cog that will need replacing is 1,000 yard rusher Evan Royster. In the first year of Divisional Play in the Big Ten it looks like Penn State drew the short end of the stick. They are in the same division as Ohio State and Wisconsin and then they drew Nebraska, Northwestern and Iowa out of the Legends division. The only probable contender they don't play is Michigan State. Oh yeah, did I mention that they play Alabama again this year? The good news for Penn State is that the first part of their schedule is not that bad and they should be 4-1 heading into their game with Iowa. It's the last three games that are loaded as the Nittany Lions face Nebraska and then go on the road to Ohio State and Wisconsin. Penn State has the ability to be a contender for the Big Ten Championship this year but will they?

To find some answers about Penn State we talked to Devon Edwards of Nittany White Out. Make sure you follow him on Twitter @Devon2012. 

In our 2010 Season Exit Survey you mentioned that the Offensive Line didn't re-load like you expected it to last season. What are your expectations for the OL this year and who needs to step up along the line?

The offensive line really should be much improved, despite the loss of Stefen Wisniewski, who'd been the rock of that unit for the past few years. They'll return three starters from last year's team, including both tackles--and the middle of the line has plenty of depth, and some, admittedly limited, experience. It was a unit that gelled as the season went on--and as the quarterback play got somewhat more settled, so at the very least, it's fair to assume that this won't be such a gaping  question mark as it was at the start of the 2010 season.

Penn State played two QBs last year. What does the QB situation look like this year and who do you see under center to start the first game?

I wish I could answer this question, but as of June, the situation is no more settled than it was in January. Rob Bolden, who started 7 games as a true freshman last year, had expressed a desire to transfer after the Outback Bowl, where his replacement, Matt McGloin, threw 5 interceptions in a loss to Florida. Joe Paterno refused to grant him the release, asking him to stick around, and it seems he's likely to return for his sophomore season. Though Kevin Newsome and Paul Jones are both solid talents, the QB battle will once again be between Bolden and McGloin--and though McGloin, a former walk-on, played fantastic football against the terrible defenses of Northwestern and Michigan, most Penn State fans are hoping Bolden gets the nod, because he's simply far more talented, and his mistakes were those of youth and inexperience while McGloin showed a lack of maturity and athleticism. Either way, the hope is that the announcement will come earlier than it did last year--just a week before the opener--so whoever is pegged to start gets plenty of first-team reps.

Penn State losses leading tackler LB Chris Colasanti (led the team with 112 tackles). Who does Penn State have to fill his spot?

Don't let the numbers fool you. Chris Colasanti was a bad linebacker. He'll make a fine doctor someday, but he--and Bani Gbadyu--were gaping holes on a subpar Nittany Lion defense. It's funny, those two players might've dulled the luster of Linebacker U, but the position will be much improved as a result of their departure. Depth was an issue last year--three of the four players who will make up the bulk of the rotation this year missed significant playing time with injuries in 2010. But if they're healthy, Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges, Khairi Fortt, and Nate Stupar will make up as good a linebacking corps as there is in the country--with Mauti a potential All-American and Hodges a solid contender for the all-conference team.

Who are some under-the-radar guys to keep an eye on this year for Penn State?

Evan Royster graduated Penn State as the Nittany Lions' alltime leading rusher, but even he acknowledged that it wouldn't be a surprise if that record didn't last too long. Silas Redd burst on to the scene as a true freshman last year, and displayed unbelievable talent, speed, and open-field moves. He'll be a household name if Penn State has a solid year. So too will wide receiver Derek Moye, who Penn State fans have grown to love over the past few years. A big, fast wide receiver with a knack for finding soft spots in the defense, Moye shold benefit from steadier quarterback play. Defensively, Mike Mauti has battled through injuries for a few years, but when he's been healthy, he's been nothing short of outstanding--his play in the second half against Northwestern almost singlehandedly stopped Dan Persa and the Wildcats offense.

Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games this year?

The schedule isn't a particularly easy one, with four huge games on the docket. Early on, the Nittany Lions host Alabama, and after losing 24-3 in Tuscaloosa a year ago, they'll try and defend the Big Ten's honor. Though less important in the scheme of things--it won't affect Penn State's Big Ten title hopes--that would be a big win for the conference. The rest of the schedule is backloaded, with a final three games of Nebraska, @Ohio State and @Wisconsin to close it out. That'll be Nebraska's first huge Big Ten road game, and we're somewhat excited to gain a new rival. Of course, Ohio State has been the chief rival the last few years, and without Jim Tressel, this presents an interesting opportunity for Penn State, who should be battling with the Buckeyes for the Leaders division.

What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?

It's difficult to gauge how good Penn State will be this year, especially without a quarterback--and we won't know for a while whether Rob Bolden will even be on the team come September. That said, this is a very veteran, experienced team, and one that will be much improved on the defense. Last year's unit was as bad a defense as Joe Paterno's had, maybe, in his tenure, but they could rarely suit up a healthy 11 guys. I wouldn't be surprised if Penn State won 7 games, and it wouldn't shock me if they won 11. Looking at the schedule, game-by-game, I think 10 wins is a fair projection--though I can't say where the two losses will come from. With such a senior-laden team, though, winning, rather than development, is going to make this season a successful one.  Injuries hit the Lions hard last year, as they limped to a 7-6 record, so health might be the key. If this Lions team can avoid the injury bug, I think they can reach the inaugural Big Ten title game.

Coming In August: Big Ten Preview

Next Preview: North Carolina State

2011 Team Previews

ACC- Boston College, Clemson, Miami

Big 12- Baylor, Texas Tech

Big East- Louisville

Big Ten- Minnesota

C-USA- East Carolina, Houston, Marshall, SMU, Southern Mississippi, UAB, UCF

Independent- Army

MAC- Ball St, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Temple, Toledo

MWC- New Mexico, UNLV, Wyoming

Sun Belt- FAU, FIU, Louisiana, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Troy, ULM, Western Kentucky

WAC- Idaho, San Jose St


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