3. Penn State Football at Purdue (9/1)
There is one primary reason that I have the Purdue game this high on the list – getting off to a good start is mightily important. If they don’t start strong, all the other games on this list lose some importance.
Granted, the Nittany Lions had a tough road test to open the season last year, and although it first acted as a springboard for them, they ultimately fell apart. However, had they lost at Wisconsin last year, things could have spiraled out of control much sooner, and we could have witnessed a three- or four-win season, as opposed to seven.
The Boilermakers are also a dark horse in the Big Ten West, and are a team that could reach double-digit wins. Plus, a Thursday night conference matchup on national TV adds an extra level of difficulty to this game, especially for some younger players.
Finally, Purdue will lean heavily on their passing attack, led by sixth-year quarterback Aidan O’Connell, so we will get an early indication on whether or not the Penn State secondary could take a step back with the departures of Jaquan Brisker and Tariq Castro-Fields (I tend to think they will be just as good, but that’s beside the point).
A road win against the potential Big Ten West champion would be a tremendous way to begin the 2022 season, but a loss – against a team that they should beat – could really be damaging, making the Nittany Lions’ season opener one of their biggest games of the season.