Penn State Football: revisiting some preseason bold predictions for the offense

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 01: Nicholas Singleton #10 of the Penn State Nittany Lions celebrates with Sean Clifford #14 after scoring a touchdown against the Northwestern Wildcats during the first half at Beaver Stadium on October 1, 2022 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 01: Nicholas Singleton #10 of the Penn State Nittany Lions celebrates with Sean Clifford #14 after scoring a touchdown against the Northwestern Wildcats during the first half at Beaver Stadium on October 1, 2022 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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Coming into the season, we were not sure what to expect out of the Penn State Football offense as they looked to turn things around; but so far through five games, they certainly look to be much improved from a year ago.

Despite the fact that there were so many unknowns about this unit, I did my best back in August to make some bold predictions. Click here to read that preseason article.

Please keep in mind the difference between bold predictions and just regular old predictions. Bold predictions are supposed to be a bit of a stretch. If they’re not, you’re just not being bold enough–and where’s the fun in that?

Today, we’ll reevaluate each of those four preseason predictions for the offense and decide what the current likelihood is that each one comes true. To do that, we’ll use a basic 1-10 scale: 1 being that it’s pretty much a guarantee at this point that it won’t happen, and 10 being that it’s essentially a lock that the prediction comes true.

After reevaluating the preseason bold predictions, I’ll make two more bold predictions for the Penn State Football offense for the remainder of the season.

Let’s dive right in.

Preseason bold prediction #1 – Parker Washington and Mitchell Tinsley combine for at least 2,000 receiving yards

This one may end up being a swing and a miss.

So far, Washington and Tinsley have combined for just 510 yards. It’s not that either of them has played poorly, they just haven’t needed to shoulder a heavy workload to this point, so their production is low. The running game has gotten going this year, and Mike Yurcich has started utilizing the tight ends more than he did last year, so the entire receiving corps has not had to do a whole lot to this point.

The Nittany Lions have trailed in the second half in just one of their first five games, so they haven’t had to push the ball downfield much. That’ll likely change in the coming weeks, so Washington and Tinsley’s workload should increase.

However at this point, a combined 1,490 yards between the two throughout the remainder of the season seems unlikely. Assuming both play in a bowl game, which would mean they have eight games remaining, they would need to average a combined 186.3 yards per game, which is doable; but that’s only if they both remain healthy and play in the bowl game.

Mitchell Tinsley is in his final year of eligibility, so he will be off to the NFL next year. For him, it’s just a matter of an opt out or not. For Washington, he could come back; and if he decides to, it would help this prediction immensely. At this point, it seems like he could benefit from another year in college to boost his draft stock, so we’ll assume he stays and plays in a bowl game to give this prediction a glimmer of hope.

Likelihood: 3

Preseason bold prediction #2 – Penn State Football has at least six 100-yard rushers

Now we’re talking.

This one is looking much better than the last, as we’re already halfway there with more than half the schedule yet to be played.

I said when I made this bold prediction that in most cases and for a lot of teams, it wouldn’t be all that bold; but seeing as though at the time, Penn State Football hadn’t had a 100-yard rusher since November of 2020, I felt it was still relatively bold.

The running game got off to a slow start in week one at Purdue, but they’ve since hit their stride. Nick Singleton comfortably surpassed the century-mark in weeks two and three, and Kaytron Allen followed it up with a 111-yard performance in week four. Nobody reached the 100-yard threshold against Northwestern, but we were close to having both of them do it as they rushed for 87 and 86 yards respectively; and Allen got all 86 of his yards despite only playing in the second half, which is quite impressive.

I have no doubts that I hit the nail on the head with this prediction, as I anticipate the running game will continue to be effective and be the focal point of the offense.

Likelihood: 10

Preseason bold prediction #3 – Sean Clifford has his best season statistically

When I was sitting down to reevaluate this bold prediction, I thought there was almost no chance this one would hold up; but there’s actually a little more hope than I thought.

To put some objectivity behind an otherwise subjective prediction, I said that Sean Clifford would have career bests in each of four major passing categories: completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown passes, and interceptions.

Coming into this season, his bests for each was a 61% completion percentage (2021), 8.3 yards per attempt (2019), 23 touchdowns (2019), and seven interceptions (2019). Right now, he’s on pace to have career-bests in three of those four categories with yards per attempt being the lone exception.

He is completing 62% of his passes so far in 2022, has nine touchdowns, and thrown just two interceptions. However, Clifford is averaging just 7.5 yards per attempt this season. For that number to get north of 8.3, he would really have to push the ball down the field in the second half, and do it successfully without sacrificing interceptions and completion percentage.

Not impossible, but not likely; and hopefully they’re not in too many situations where they have to take shots down the field, as that would likely mean they’re playing from behind. I of course would rather see wins than some lousy preseason bold prediction come true.

Likelihood: 2

Preseason bold prediction #4 – Penn State Football has a first team All-Big Ten offensive lineman

This one is tough to gauge, as there is no concrete number that has to be reached. However, it definitely seems like we’re on the right track, and there are a couple offensive linemen on Penn State’s roster that could be legitimate contenders for a first team All-Big Ten selection with a strong second half.

To me, Olu Fashanu currently has the best chance at a first team selection, as he has arguably been the team’s best lineman to this point. To my knowledge, he has yet to allow a sack and has only been penalized once. Plus, he’s been great as a run blocker.

Juice Scruggs is the other candidate who I feel has a chance to earn himself first team honors, as he has also played well in his move from guard back to his natural position which is center. He’s been the anchor of a much-improved interior of the offensive line.

All in all, we have not had much of any reason to talk about Fashanu and Scruggs to this point, which for an offensive lineman is a good thing; it means they’re doing their job.

This entire offensive line is greatly improved for Penn State Football, and Fashanu and Scruggs are two of the big reasons why.

At this point, I still feel like there is a decent chance that the Nittany Lions have a first team all-conference selection along the offensive line.

Likelihood: 6