Prediction Roundtable: How many wins for Penn State in 2017?

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 03: The Penn State Nittany Lions celebrate with the Big Ten Championship Trophy after beating the Wisconsin Badgers 38-31 at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 03: The Penn State Nittany Lions celebrate with the Big Ten Championship Trophy after beating the Wisconsin Badgers 38-31 at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

How many wins will Penn State rack up this year?

After starting the 2016 season with a record of 2-2 in September, Penn State went on a remarkable run and won eight straight games to finish the regular season 10-2. That momentum led to a victory in the Big Ten Championship. The Nittany Lions ultimately lost to USC in the Rose Bowl to finish last season with an overall record of 11-3.

This season, with several key players returning, the expectations are high in Happy Valley, especially with a No. 6 preseason ranking. Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkley, Mike Gesicki, and DaeSean Hamilton will give the Nittany Lions one of the most potent offenses in the nation.

Things certainly won’t be easy though. Penn State will face a difficult schedule in 2017, particularly with road games against Iowa, Northwestern, and Ohio State.

It’s time once again for the fearless predictions from the VBR staff. See how we all think the 2017 season will go for the Nittany Lions.

Barry Leonard Jr., Site Expert

I’m a little leery heading into this season, as I’m not certain how the team will perform with such high expectations. There wasn’t any pressure last season, but now, everyone in the Big Ten will be gunning for the Nittany Lions.

Fortunately, I have a ton of confidence in the coaching staff and the returning veterans to keep everyone focused on the task at hand. It’s been a while since the words “National Championship” have been mentioned around the Penn State program, but that’s a real possibility this year.

Looking at the schedule, the Nittany Lions should end September undefeated. Pitt won’t be an easy out, but the home crowd and the revenge factor will play in Penn State’s favor. The September 23 road game against the Hawkeyes also won’t be easy, but it’s absolutely winnable.

October will be the month that will make or break the 2017 season for the Nittany Lions. A road game against pesky Northwestern, followed by a home battle with Michigan and a road test in Columbus will be the most difficult stretch of the schedule.

November doesn’t appear too tough on paper, but Michigan State could represent a trap game.

As for a season prediction, I’m predicting an 11-1 regular season, with the only loss coming at Ohio State. Games against Michigan, Iowa, and Northwestern will be close, but the Nittany Lions will come out on top.

At 11-1, despite likely not playing for the Big Ten title, Penn State would have an excellent shot at earning a berth in the CFP.

Collin Wieder, Site Expert

Last season’s 11-3 Penn State football season was a pleasant surprise for anyone following the program the last few seasons. After a pair of pedestrian seasons, James Franklin and Co. found the magic formula for success.

The question remains can they do it again? The Nittany Lions have many of the same pieces that helped accomplish last season’s Big Ten Title. A deep offense and defense give Penn State the one of the best rosters in the nation, but it’s the consistent execution that still needs to happen.

In 2016, the offense stumbled out of the gate for a bit. Whether it was new pieces in the puzzle or slow starts, it wasn’t pretty at all times. But, once the offense found its stride, it was one of the best in the country.

With the confidence Trace McSorley gained and Saquon Barkley’s aid in the backfield, I’m betting in favor of a strong 2017 season. Regardless, there’s absolutely brutal schedule ahead of them. Over a three-game span, Penn State will play Northwestern, Michigan and Ohio State. Two of those three are on the road and could prove tough enough to down the Nittany Lions.

In my opinion, I see a 10-2 season with another major bowl game in sight. The team’s difficult schedule is too much to overcome this season. It’s tough to beat the Buckeyes multiple times. Michigan is always a tough out with Jim Harbaugh on campus and Pat Fitzgerald makes the Wildcats a pesky opponent.

Making another run at the Big Ten Title will be tough, but it’s not out of the question either. This team has the explosive offense to do so, but it’s a uneasy road ahead.

Marty Leap, Contributor

2017 has the potential to be a season that has not been seen in Happy Valley since at least 1994. The Nittany Lions return a ton of talent, have young players ready to step in and contribute, and will have one of the 5-10 best offenses in the FBS. James Franklin and his staff have done a fantastic job of recruiting, and now Penn State has all the tools needed to win a National Championship this season.

Before they can begin to think about the College Football Playoff the Nittany Lions must first repeat as Big Ten Champions. Early season trips to Iowa and Northwestern will not be easy, but they are games Penn State should win. The real test will come in October when the Nittany Lions host Michigan and then travel to Ohio State the following Saturday. If Penn State wins both of these games, I believe they will finish the regular season 12-0.

Saquon Barkley is the best running back, and arguably player, in college football. There might not be a team in the FBS with a more talented group of wide receivers than Penn State. Plus, Mike Gesicki gives the Nittany Lions the best pass catching tight end in the FBS. Mix in Trace McSorley who has got the ‘it’ factor at quarterback and this offense will be absolutely potent.

Penn State will also have very strong special teams. Blake Gillikin is one of the best punters in the FBS, and Tyler Davis has never missed a field goal in his career that wasn’t blocked. Miles Sanders, Brandon Polk, Lamont Wade, and DeAndre Thompkins, among others, should also give the Nittany Lions a dangerous return game.

Penn State repeating as Big Ten Champions and potentially reaching the College Football Playoff will most likely hinge on Brent Pry’s defense in 2017. Penn State must replace both defensive ends, as well as their best defensive player in cornerback John Reid who will miss the season with a knee injury. Cornerback is not a concern as Penn State is insanely deep and talented there. This puts a lot emphasis on defensive end.

The Nittany Lions have a ton of talent at defensive end and it is up to someone to step up at defensive end and grab the bull by the horns. If some combination of Torrence Brown, Shareef Miller, Shane Simmons, Ryan Buchholz, and Shaka Toney can emerge as pass rushing terrors, then this defense should be even better than last year.

Ultimately, going undefeated is too difficult to do for me to predict that. However, I do think the Nittany Lions will get back to Indianapolis this season. Unlike 2016, at 11-1, I believe that a win in Indy would send them to the College Football Playoff.

Joe Ciminera, Contributor

A crushing blow from Ohio State at The Shoe, and revenge exacting wins over Pitt and Michigan have me predicting an excellent 11-1 record for Penn State this season.

The Nittany Lions are simply too talented to slip up on the road against the likes to Maryland, Iowa or Michigan State. Their non-conference schedule features beatable opponents.

Despite eking out a few wins last season, I don’t anticipate fans needing their defibrillators much this year. Penn State will roll in most contests. Pitt and Michigan both lost a bevy of starters, which will make things easier for Penn State this time around. Ohio State is loaded and they will get their revenge in Penn States only loss.

Shane Lunnen, Contributor

Penn State enters the 2017 season as the reigning Big Ten champions, something most would not have imagined a year ago. As a result the expectations are through the roof for this season, as evidenced by season tickets selling out and the media buzz surrounding the team. The Big Ten East race will be close again, with Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State all expected to be near the top.

The offense could be better than last year. With most of the weapons back at Trace McSorley’s disposal and an improved offensive line, the Lions will be fun to watch again. Opposing defenses will again pick their poison against either McSorley’s arm, his legs, or one of the best running backs in the country Saquon Barkley. The defense is replacing more, but there is a lot of good talent that they shouldn’t have a huge drop off.

The schedule is tougher than last year. I think the Lions go undefeated in non-conference play, with a soul-crushing defeat of Pitt to the tune of 48-14.  Conference play will be tricky. Road trips to Columbus, Iowa City and Evanston will not be cakewalks. Playing Michigan and Ohio State in back to back weeks is brutal and if Michigan State has a comeback year, that game is in East Lansing following the game in Columbus.

As much as I would love to say Penn State makes the playoff this year, I’m not ready to say that in a prediction. They need to develop into a consistent power again, not just a one off. Last year was great and I’m confident the team is trending up. The Lions will lose to Ohio State and lose another game on the road, either to Iowa or Northwestern.  10 wins is nothing to sneeze at and still could net the Lions one of the non-playoff New Year’s six bowl games. As I say for most of my conservative predictions.  Prove me wrong, Lions!

Final record prediction: 10-2

Corey Hunter, Contributor

The Nittany Lions enter 2017 coming off a breakout season that saw them defeat rival Ohio State and capture not only the Big Ten East division, but also the overall Big Ten title by defeating Wisconsin. Penn State may be ahead of schedule according to many pundits, but not in fourth-year head coach James Franklin’s mind.

Penn State will break camp with one its best teams in the past decade; a team that, on paper, has a chance to compete for not only another Big Ten title, but also legitimate national championship aspirations.

For my yearly prediction, let’s break the season into three parts: non-conference, Big Ten play pre-bye week, and Big Ten play post-bye week.

The non-conference slate leaves much to be desired. Akron and Georgia State are two less than stellar contests in the early going, but a late afternoon clash with rival Pitt in week 2 will see the Nittany Lions looking for revenge following last year’s 42-39 heartbreaker. I don’t see any reason why Penn State shouldn’t emerge from the non-conference portion of their schedule unblemished at 3-0.

Bottom Line: Nittany Lions begin the year 3-0 after their non-conference slate.

Prior to Penn State’s bye week on October 14, the Nittany Lions will play three Big Ten games with two of them being on the road. A possible night game at Iowa and an early morning showdown at Northwestern could be potential trap games for the Lions. It won’t surprise me to see the Lions lose one of those games.

Bottom Line: Penn State goes 2-1 in games prior to the bye week.

After the bye week, Penn State plays perhaps one of the toughest three-game stretches in the country: Michigan (H), Ohio State (A), Michigan State (A). Given the bye week to prepare, I see the Lions exploiting the inexperienced Wolverines, especially seeing as it will be the annual “whiteout” game. The following week at Ohio State will undoubtedly be Penn State’s biggest of the year. The Buckeyes will be out for revenge. This game could go either way. The fact it is a 3:30 kick due to FOX airing the World Series may help Penn State. If the Lions can prevail in the Horseshoe, a date in East Lansing the following week awaits. The Lions embarrassed the Spartans in Beaver Stadium last year and no doubt Coach Dantonio will want to exact some payback.

The final three games of the season see Penn State hosting Rutgers, Nebraska, before heading south to square off with Maryland. Nebraska and Maryland will be tricky games, especially if the Lions already have a loss or two on their record. Penn State has the ability and personnel to win all three but will they have the desire if they are not playing for a conference or national title?

Bottom Line: Penn State goes 5-1 in the post-bye week portion

Overall: Penn State finishes the year 10-2