No matter how many times the Big Ten has had to adjust the schedule this season, the overall goal for the Penn State Nittany Lions has remained the same. Penn State enters the 2020 season feeling confident in its chances of competing for a Big Ten championship. And while Ohio State is the consensus favorite in the conference, the Nittany Lions are widely regarded as one of Ohio State's biggest hurdles in conference play. And Ohio State has to go to (an empty) Beaver Stadium this season. Can Penn State prove they are the team to beat?
Penn State's amended Big Ten schedule begins the weekend of Oct. 24 with a road game at Indiana. The road trip to Bloomington is one of three tricky spots for the Nittany Lions away from Happy Valley, as games at Nebraska and Michigan could also prove to be potential speed bumps on Penn State's journey to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis if they can crack the Buckeyes.
Penn State Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2020
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The Nittany Lions are the top challenger to Ohio State in the Big Ten East this fall. However, passing the Buckeyes and winning the conference title isn't going to be easy with linebacker Micah Parsons opting out. Additionally, the showdown in Happy Valley between these two teams won't have the normal atmosphere with no fans in attendance. The hire of Kirk Ciarrocca was one of the top coordinator moves of the offseason, and the former Minnesota play-caller is tasked with helping quarterback Sean Clifford develop in his second year as the starter. Penn State's offensive line and running back unit are among the best in the nation, but more targets need to emerge at receiver. It's no secret Parsons will be missed on defense. However, there's a good core of proven talent and emerging players to keep this unit near the top of the Big Ten. Outside of the showdown versus Ohio State, the Nittany Lions should be favored in each of its remaining contests.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
Micah Parsons doesn't play quarterback or on offense at all, but the consensus All-American linebacker's absence (he opted out) will have a huge impact on Penn State. The Nittany Lions' defense will be good, but without Parsons, I don't think it will be good enough for Penn State to dethrone Ohio State in the Big Ten East. One loss will be all it takes to remove the Nittany Lions from conference title game consideration and their New Year's Six hopes could come down to how they fare on the road against Michigan.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)
Penn State will be the biggest threat to Ohio State's Big Ten throne, but the lack of game-breakers at receiver will prove to be too much to overcome against the Buckeyes, while it just so happens to be an area Ohio State can thrive. But the biggest obstacle to a return to the New Year's Six bowl lineup may actually come on the road with games against Michigan and Nebraska. Michigan may be better equipped than the Huskers to take down the Nittany Lions, and home-field advantage has been a factor in recent meetings in the series. Still, with a 6-2 record, Penn State will finish in second place in the Big Ten East behind the Buckeyes.