Penn State faces two road challenges in the month of September and will make its longest trip of the season at the beginning of November. Throw in a home game against Ohio State and Penn State has a good number of hurdles sitting in front of them in the 2020 college football season.
The Nittany Lions have the ingredients for a very good season with a returning starting quarterback, a solid stable of running backs, and solid defensive threats. As far as talent goes, Penn State should have the advantage in all but one game (Ohio State), if not two (Michigan). But James Franklin has his work cut out for him in preparing his program for some challenging spots on the schedule. Road trips to Virginia Tech, Michigan, and Nebraska are scattered throughout the season, and back-to-back home games against Iowa and Ohio State in the middle of the season could be a make-or-break point of the campaign.
Does Penn State have what it takes to navigate its way through the 2020 schedule?
Bye: Week 6
Week 1 – Sept. 5 vs. Kent State (University Park, Pa.)
Penn State opens the new season at home with what should be one of its easiest games of the season. While the Golden Flashes are coming off its first winning season since 2012, it would be a shock to see Penn State have too much trouble in the opener.
Week 2 – Sept. 12 at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Va.)
Penn State heads to Blacksburg for the first-ever meeting with Virginia Tech. The Hokies return plenty of starters from a team that improved as the 2019 season continued. Lane Stadium should be rocking for this matchup.
Week 3 – Sept. 19 vs. San Jose State (University Park, Pa.)
Regardless of what happens in Week 2, Penn State should easily be thinking about picking up a win at home against San Jose State. That should send Penn State into Big Ten play with a winning record.
Week 4 – Sept. 26 vs. Northwestern (University Park, Pa.)
Penn State opens Big Ten play at home against Northwestern. Although the Wildcats had a rough 2019 season, Pat Fitzgerald's program will always be known to put up a solid contest even if out-manned. Penn State should prevail at home before a key stretch in the middle of the season.
Week 5 – Oct. 3 at Michigan (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Penn State's road schedule certainly gets off to a wild start. Just weeks after playing at Virginia Tech, Penn State heads to Michigan Stadium for another round with the Wolverines. This spot could be trouble for the Nittany Lions because the home team has had a pretty decisive upper hand in the recent meetings in the series. This could be the first time Penn State plays the underdog role in a game in 2020. The Nittany Lions will hope to head into the bye week with a win to celebrate, otherwise, they'll have plenty of time to think about what might have gone wrong in a key Big Ten East showdown.
Week 7 – Oct. 17 vs. Iowa (University Park, Pa.)
After a bye week, Penn State returns home for a big game against Iowa. The Hawkeyes are a bit of a wild card, but Penn State should manage to take care of business at home against the Hawkeyes. The danger is this being a bit of a trap situation with a monster game coming up the following week.
Week 8 – Oct. 24 vs. Ohio State (University Park, Pa.)
And the big one is Ohio State coming to town. The Buckeyes have dominated Penn State in the win column lately but the Nittany Lions have put up a consistently good fight. And Penn State tends to play even better against Ohio State in front of their fans in raucous Beaver Stadium. This game could potentially determine the division champion and could carry possible College Football Playoff implications, but a path to a Big Ten title likely can not be traveled by Penn State without a win here.
Week 9 – Oct. 31 at Indiana (Bloomington, Ind.)
Penn State is back on the road for Halloween with a trip to Bloomington. Indiana has a knack for keeping things dicey against anyone in the Big Ten, so the Nittany Lions will have to avoid any hangover from what figures to be a mental and physical grind against Ohio State the previous week.
Week 10 – Nov. 7 at Nebraska (Lincoln, Neb.)
Penn State makes its longest road trip of the season at the beginning of November to play at Nebraska. The Huskers should be a program that continues to improve this season, but Nebraska will be coming off a road trip to Ohio State. This one should be a tough trip for Penn State.
Week 11 – Nov. 14 vs. Michigan State (University Park, Pa.)
The Land-Grant Trophy is on the line once again, and Penn state hopes to keep possession of it for another year. Michigan State is a program in transition in 2020 with a new head coach and some ground to make up. Regardless, the Spartans are rarely an easy out for Penn State.
Week 12 – Nov. 21 vs. Maryland (University Park, Pa.)
Penn State closes out its home schedule with a game against Maryland. The Terrapins could be improving this season but there should still be a big enough gap in talent and skill to give Penn State a decisive advantage in their final home game of the season.
Week 13 – Nov. 28 at Rutgers (Piscataway, N.J.)
Penn State will spend the final week of the season looking to finish on a high note against Rutgers. Rutgers is coached once again by Greg Schiano and nothing would please the Scarlet Knights more than by ending the season with a win against Penn State. After Rutgers gave Penn State a tough battle in last season's regular-season finale, Penn State knows not to overlook Rutgers this year.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Patreon, on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.