Apr 12, 2014; State College, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin looks on during a warmup prior to the Blue White spring game at Beaver Stadium. The Blue team defeated the White team 37-0. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren- USA TODAY Sports

Penn State Football: There's No Place Like...The Road!

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Look around the college football landscape, what seems to stick out among the nation’s elite teams?  Do they all have an all-conference caliber quarterback?  Yep!  Perhaps each team has a stud running back, or a game-changing wide receiver.  Of course!  Does each team possess a swarming defense or a coaching staff that is able to game plan for any situation?  Most definitely!

What may get lost though is how well each of the nation’s top teams perform away from their friendly confines.

The 2013 National Champion Florida State Seminoles were a perfect 4-0 on the road last year and over the past five years have gone 14-6 in road conference games. Alabama, another one of the nation’s premier teams, was 3-1 on the road in 2013.  Even going back over the past five years the Crimson Tide have been an astounding 17-3 in conference road games. Perennial Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks have a played exceptionally well on the road.  In 2013 they only posted a 2-2 conference road mark, but dating back to 2009 the Ducks are a mind-numbing 19-3 (.864) away from Autzen Stadium.

Here are the conference road marks for a handful of some of the nation’s elite teams including new Big Ten opponents Rutgers and Maryland.

Team 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 Road Record Road Winning %
Alabama 4-0 2-2 4-0 4-0 3-1 17-3 0.850
Oklahoma 1-2 2-2 2-2 4-0 3-1 12-7 0.632
Florida State 2-2 3-1 2-2 3-1 4-0 14-6 0.700
Notre Dame 1-3 2-1 3-2 4-0 2-3 12-9 0.571
USC 2-2 2-3 3-1 2-3 3-1 12-10 0.545
Texas 4-0 2-1 2-2 3-1 3-1 14-5 0.737
Pitt 2-1 3-1 1-2 1-3 2-2 9-9 0.500
LSU 2-2 2-2 4-0 3-1 1-3 12-8 0.600
Oregon 3-1 5-0 4-0 5-0 2-2 19-3 0.864
Rutgers 2-1 0-4 1-2 3-1 1-3 7-11 0.389
Maryland 0-4 2-2 0-4 1-3 2-2 5-15 0.250

 

If we delve into the Big Ten’s elite teams over the previous two seasons, Ohio State has paced the conference, going a perfect 8-0 in conference road games.  Right behind the Buckeyes are the Spartans from Michigan State going 7-1.  Even Nebraska has been very good away from Lincoln, posting a solid 6-2 road conference mark.

Then comes Penn State. The 2013 Nittany Lions were an anomaly.  They were 5-2 in the cozy confines of Beaver Stadium, but they were an anemic 1-3 in Big Ten road contests.  The inability of the Nittany Lions to stay focused, avoid turnovers, and maintain composure on the road was a troubling and all-to-constant theme last year.

It’s one that was atypical of Nittany Lion squads over the past five seasons.  From 2009-2013 Penn State has posted a conference road mark of 12-7 (.632), good for fourth best in the Big Ten over that period.

2009-2013 Big Ten Conference Road Records
Team 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 Road Record Road Winning %
Illinois 1-3 2-2 1-3 0-4 1-3 5-15 0.250
Indiana 0-4 1-3 0-4 1-3 0-4 2-18 0.100
Iowa 3-1 2-2 1-3 1-3 3-1 10-10 0.500
Michigan 0-4 2-2 2-2 2-2 1-3 7-13 0.350
Michigan State 2-2 3-1 3-1 3-1 4-0 15-5 0.750
Minnesota 1-3 1-3 0-4 1-3 2-2 5-15 0.250
*Nebraska (4-0) (3-1) 2-2 3-1 3-1 8-4 (15-5) 0.667 (0.750)
Northwestern 3-1 2-2 2-2 2-2 1-3 10-10 0.500
Ohio State 3-1 3-1 1-3 4-0 4-0 15-5 0.750
^Penn State 4-0 1-2 3-1 3-1 1-3 12-7 0.632
Purdue 2-2 1-3 1-3 2-2 0-4 6-14 0.300
Wisconsin 2-2 3-1 2-2 2-2 3-1 12-8 0.600
* Nebraska did not begin Big Ten conference play until 2011. The 2009 and 2010 road records are from Big 12 play
^ Played 3 Big Ten road games in 2010

 

It’s not a stretch to see why new head coach James Franklin focuses on getting his young Nittany Lions ready to play road contests. Penn State begins the 21014 campaign undertaking their longest road trip of the season – a 3,327 mile jaunt to Dublin, Ireland.  With how important road games are to the success of a team, it’s no wonder Franklin is treating the game against Central Florida as a “business trip” rather than a vacation to the Emerald Isle.

After the long trip across the pond, Penn State has four remaining away games – Rutgers, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.  Each team possesses its own unique threats and challenges for the Nittany Lions.  Prior to 2013, Penn State was a road juggernaut, going a solid 11-4 in conference road games from 2009-12. Now it’s your turn, who do you think will be the toughest road opponent for the Nittany Lions this year?

Who Do You Think Will Be Penn State's Toughest Road Opponent in 2014?

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“Home is where the heart is,” but a winning team in college football today needs to bask in the glow of the opponents limelight.  Let’s hope the 2014 Penn State Nittany Lions don’t wilt from the challenge but rise up to meet it!

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