Penn State Football: Road games will be key to success this season

PISCATAWAY, NJ - NOVEMBER 19: Trace McSorley /

Penn State football will need to take care of business in some very tough games away from Beaver Stadium this season. 

Fresh off an 11-3 season in 2016, Penn State has some extremely high expectations heading into the 2017 season. The return of several key starters, including some of the best at their respective positions in the Big Ten, make the Nittany Lions one of a handful of teams capable of advancing to the College Football Playoff.

However, it won’t be easy on the Nittany Lions thanks to a tricky road schedule.

Penn State went undefeated at Beaver Stadium last year, including an upset of then-No. 2 Ohio State. It’s completely possible that the Nittany Lions once again defend their home turf this season. Games against Pitt and Michigan won’t be easy, but the home crowd will certainly help.

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Getting through the road schedule unscathed will be a much more difficult task.

After three consecutive games in Happy Valley to begin the season Big Ten play will start in Iowa City, a place that hasn’t been good on the Nittany Lions. In their last five trips to Kinnick Stadium they have just one win. Penn State fans likely remember the 2008 team that was undefeated and ranked No. 3 before being upset in Iowa City.

When the calendar turns to October things will get even tougher on James Franklin and his Nittany Lions, as two of the month’s three games will take place away from Beaver Stadium.

First up on October 7 will be a trap game against a pesky Northwestern team. The Nittany Lions could get caught looking ahead a bit to their bye week and an upcoming home game with Michigan. The Wildcats have been improving over the years and should have a tough team this season. Penn State has just two losses all-time in Evanston, but the most recent trip in 2015 didn’t go so well.

Perhaps the most anticipated game of the year for Penn State will be the rematch with Ohio State.  The winner of the October 28 contest will likely have the inside track to the Big Ten East division title. Nobody associated with Penn State needs to be told how tough the game at Ohio Stadium will be.

Penn State has just two wins at Ohio Stadium since 2000. The Nittany Lions have lost the last two games in Columbus, including a 63-14 shellacking in 2013.

After the contest with Ohio State the Nittany Lions will remain on the road at Michigan State. The Spartans appear to be down heading into this season, but they shouldn’t be considered an easy out for the Nittany Lions.

The final road game of the year will be the last regular season game for the Nittany Lions. It will be a short trip to College Park, Maryland to take on the Terrapins. Penn State should be favored heavily, but conference championship implications could be on the line, making the pressure a little greater for the Nittany Lions.

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Nothing in college football is ever easy, especially winning away from home. The games at Beaver Stadium this year will certainly be important, but if Penn State wants to have a truly special season, they it’s going to have to come up big during the tough road schedule.