Penn State Football: Next Five Weeks Crucial for Christian Hackenberg


Following the Nittany Lions 27-10 loss to the hands of Temple this past Saturday, the next five weeks for Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg have become crucial. Considered one of the top NFL prospects entering this season, Hackenberg must be nearly perfect over the next five weeks to show the college football world and more importantly pro scouts of what type of quarterback he can be.

Hackenberg tends to be a Jekyll and Hyde type quarterback, one week he can look absolutely brilliant while the next he looks like a deer in the headlights. This past weekend in Philadelphia, Hackenberg looked like the latter only completing 11 of 25 passes for just 103 yards and one interception. Since his true freshman season in which he passed for 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, Hackenberg has thrown 12 touchdowns and 16 interceptions over the course of 14 games. In seven of those 14 games Hackenberg failed to throw for a touchdown while throwing eight interceptions.

With numerous Penn State records within his grasp this season, and potentially being a first round pick in next year’s NFL Draft, Hackenberg must begin to turn around his once promising college career. Luckily for Hackenberg, the next five weeks is against opponents that could give Hackenberg the boost he needs. Another plus for Hackenberg and Penn State is that the next five games against Buffalo, Rutgers, San Diego State, Army, and Indiana are all at home.

This past week the Buffalo Bulls defeated FCS opponent the Albany Great Danes causing two interceptions and allowing just 104-yards of passing yards. However, last season, the Bulls constantly allowed 35+ points a game against FBS opponents including Army, Baylor, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, and Ohio. While their defense may not be as terrible as last season, the Bulls defense is still in the lower tier of FBS defenses and is a defense that a on-point Hackenberg should be able to tear up with ease.

Rutgers will arguably be the toughest of the five opponents for Hackenberg and the Nittany Lions but the Scarlet Knights will be missing five of their top players including Cornerback Dre Boggs, free safety Delon Stephenson, CB Ruhann Peele, fullback Razohnn Gross and defensive back Nadir Barnewell. With the absence of four of  their secondary members, the Scarlet Knights will have trouble with their tougher opponents this season after opening their season with a win over FCS opponent Norfolk State. Without some of their key starters in the secondary, Hackenberg should be able to find success when the Nittany Lions face the Scarlet Knights later this month in the Nittany Lions first primetime game of the season.

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San Diego State presents a very tough secondary that just recorded five interceptions against crosstown opponent, the University of San Diego. This upcoming weekend will allow the nation to find out the Aztecs true identity in the secondary as they take on top junior quarterback Jared Goff and the Cal Bears. Army will present it’s own tests for the Nittany Lions but the Black Knights are coming off a heartbreaking 37-35 loss to the hands of Fordham. Army allowed 322-yards through the air to Fordham while allowing 110-yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Allowing nearly 500-yards to an FCS offense does not give the Black Knights a good look as the season rolls on. While Hackenberg may have early struggles against San Diego State, the junior quarterback should be easily able to pick apart the weak Army secondary.

Indiana should be an easy test for Hackenberg and Penn State but the key phrase in that sentence is “should be”. Indiana always give Penn State a run for their money and this season should be no different. The Hoosiers defense though did not look great at all in week one as they allowed a staggering 659 yards and 47 points to Southern Illinois in a one-point 48-47 win this past Saturday. The Hoosiers secondary allowed over 400-yards passing as SIU’s quarterback Mark Iannotti went 24-for-31 with 411-yards and three touchdowns.

Over the next five weeks, Hackenberg will face defenses that have allowed a combined 1,169 yards passing in the first week of the college football season, an average of 233-yards allowed by each team. If Hackenberg wants to truly show off the talent that he has and help his case for being the next year’s first overall pick or even a first round pick, the next five weeks will be crucial for Hackenberg.

That being said, the next five weeks will also be crucial for the Nittany Lions who would benefit from a 5-game winning streak as they head in to the heart of their schedule that begins with a Saturday night primetime game against the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus.