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Penn State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2022

James Franklin

James Franklin and the Nittany Lions are looking to bounce back in 2022 after a couple of subpar seasons. 

Coming into the 2022 season, you may not find a more difficult team to forecast than the Penn State Nittany Lions. After reaching a New Year's Six bowl game in three out of four seasons, the Nittany Lions are now a program coming off two seasons with a combined .500 record. Has Penn State reverted to a middle-of-the-pack program or have they simply fallen short of their potential the past two years?

Related: Penn State Football 2022 Season Preview and Prediction

That is one of the big questions facing Penn State head coach James Franklin heading into the 2022 season. This fall should see a program in Happy Valley with a chip on its shoulder and renewed motivation to prove to the college football world they are worthy of Big Ten championship contender status, if not more. That respect will have to be earned, and the roster has the potential once again to string together some good wins along the way. But doing so will be challenging with some tricky road trips in September (Purdue and Auburn) and playing in a division that saw three teams play in a New Year's Six bowl game last season (Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State).

What should you expect out of Penn State in 2022? Here is a look at the Nittany Lions' schedule and game-by-game predictions from the experts at Athlon Sports.

Penn State Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2022

Steven LassanMark RossKevin McGuire

at Purdue

Penn State

Penn State

Penn State

Ohio

Penn State

Penn State

Penn State

at Auburn

Auburn

Penn State

Auburn

Central Michigan

Penn State

Penn State

Penn State

Northwestern

Penn State

Penn State

Penn State

at Michigan

Michigan

Michigan

Michigan

Minnesota

Penn State

Minnesota

Penn State

Ohio State

Ohio State

Ohio State

Ohio State

at Indiana

Penn State

Penn State

Penn State

Maryland

Penn State

Penn State

Penn State

at Rutgers

Penn State

Penn State

Penn State

Michigan State

Penn State

Penn State

Penn State

Final Record

9-3

9-3

9-3

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
With an 11-11 mark over the last two years, the 2022 season will tell us a lot about the direction of Penn State’s program under coach James Franklin. After a 5-0 start last season, the Nittany Lions suffered a few key injuries in a loss at Iowa and won just two out of their last five matchups. Although last year’s 7-6 record was a disappointment, five of the six losses came by nine points or less, so the overall team outlook isn’t dire or in bad shape for Franklin’s team.

Penn State’s win total and place in the Big Ten hinges on two things: Sean Clifford and the offensive line. Clifford is back for his third year as the starter in Happy Valley, and while he threw for 20-plus touchdowns in two of those seasons (2019 and ’21), he ranked eighth in the Big Ten in yards per attempt and seventh in quarterback rating last fall. The Nittany Lions need Clifford to play with more overall consistency in the second year under coordinator Mike Yurcich. However, winning more games doesn’t solely hinge on Clifford. A shaky offensive line cleared the way for rushers to average only 3.2 yards per carry last season and more balance would help the offense overall. New defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has some holes to fill up front, but with six starters back, the defense should be solid once again. A 9-3 finish might be a little optimistic, but I’ll take Penn State to rebound in ’22.

Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
Penn State barely finished with a winning record last season but there were several close losses, especially in Big Ten play. Quarterback Sean Clifford gets a lot of heat and while he does need to play more consistently, I think his return will be critical to the Nittany Lions bouncing back. I'm also eager to see how improved the running game will be especially if true freshman Nick Singleton is as good as advertised. The defense also should be in better shape with some key pieces returning from injury and new coordinator Manny Diaz calling the shots. Other than a rough three-game stretch in October, the schedule appears manageable, and that includes a trip to Auburn in mid-September. Even though there are some "ifs' when it comes to this team, I have faith in James Franklin and his staff to get the most out of this roster to make the Nittany Lions a factor in the Big Ten once again.

Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)
Don't call it a comeback, but Penn State is shaping up to have a much better season than it's had the past couple of years. But winning the biggest games on the schedule will ultimately be what holds the Nittany Lions back from being a serious contender for any big goals at the end of the season. Penn State heading into SEC country with a Week 3 matchup at Auburn should be a favorable matchup for the Nittany Lions, but getting out of that environment with a win is not something I have great expectations for. And matchups with Michigan and Ohio State will show Penn State is still missing a key ingredient or depth to get back to the top of the conference.

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