Penn State Nittany Lions
– The offense needs to be more consistent and it has to do even more. It scored more points than the 2018 version, but 79 of them came in the opener against Idaho, 59 came against a Maryland team that struggled to do anything right in the loss, and 53 came against a Memphis D that was a mere rumor. The team scored fewer than 30 points in seven of the last 11 games.
It starts with the return of senior Sean Clifford, who pulled off a little bit of a shocker before last season by rising up and taking the starting quarterback gig, and then came up with a nice season throwing for 2,654 yards and 23 touchdowns with just seven picks.
Where are the wide receivers? There’s talent, there’s just not a lot of experience. The offensive line should be a big plus for a ground game that finished fourth in the Big Ten, but has the potential to be stronger.
– The defense that allowed 347 yards per game only gave up 16 points per outing and led the Big Ten against the run. The pass rush was suffocating, it was one of the best defenses in the country at coming up with tackles for loss, it allowed fewer than 14 points eight times, and it got the job done with a veteran group that dominated at times. And now there’s a bit of a problem.
Almost all of the top tacklers are gone, including future top ten overall draft pick Micah Parsons. The secondary has talent, and it’s going to be better than 13th in the Big Ten in pass defense, but the rest of the D will be under trial by fire.
– The offense was just fine, but it was hammered by injuries and the inconsistencies followed. The quarterback situation never seemed quite settled with three players getting a turn, the running game didn’t exist, and losing superstar receiver Rondale Moore in the first month wasn’t a plus.
Even so, the Boilermakers led the Big Ten and was 12th in the nation in passing, averaging 310 yards per game. The receiving corps is going to be amazing with Moore opting back in, and the O line is experienced.
– With all of the injuries and issues on offense last season, it was the time for the defense to step up and help the cause – it didn’t happen. The Boilermakers finished second-to-last in the Big Ten in total defense and allowed 31 points per game – the team went 0-6 when the D allowed 34 points or more.
The pass rush should be terrific with 265-pound hybrid Derrick Barnes on one side and freshman sensation George Karlaftis on the other after the two combined for 15 sacks. The tackles have enough bulk and options to hold up around 300-pound sophomore Lawrence Johnson.