Penn State Nittany Lions: PSU early look

Early look at the Wisconsin Badgers 

August, 2, 2013
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Every day this week, NittanyNation took a closer look at a different game this season and how the matchup stacked up for PSU. Today is the final day of the series, but you can read all the other previews right here. Up today: Wisconsin.

Remember everything we wrote about Nebraska yesterday? About how it boasts a great offense, a decent secondary and a terrible front seven?

Well, reverse that completely -- and then you'll get Wisconsin.

The Badgers are the bizzaro Huskers, a team that will have to rely on defense to win and won't threaten with its passing attack. James White and Jared Abbrederis will spearhead the offense, but there's still no telling who the quarterback might be.

“[W]e may jog out there the first play of the game with two quarterbacks on the field and see what happens from there,” new head coach Gary Andersen said. “So who knows? It will be interesting.”

Andersen has big shoes -- and a big mouth -- to fill after Bret Bielema's surprise departure. Wisconsin earned three straight invitations to the Rose Bowl under Bielema. Granted, the Badgers lost every one -- but that's still an impressive streak that will likely be broken in 2013 because of offensive question marks.

Wisconsin will be a good team in 2013, easily the No. 2 or No. 3 team in the Leaders Division. But like Nebraska, it's far from perfect.

Early look at Nebraska Cornhuskers 

August, 1, 2013
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Every day this week, NittanyNation will continue taking a closer look at a different game this season and how the matchup stacks up for PSU. Up today: Nebraska.

653, 498, 640, 589.

Mention those numbers to a Nebraska fan, and he'll probably shake his head because he knows exactly what they represent -- the yards allowed by the Cornhuskers in their four losses in 2012. That includes the 63-38 loss to Ohio State and the 70-31 thumping by Wisconsin.

There's not another team like Nebraska in the Big Ten. The offense is great, and Taylor Martinez will undoubtedly be in the conversation as a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien Award. But the defense? Well, the Huskers might be better served fielding a front seven from the MAC.

Think about the disparity between Indiana's offense and defense -- and then multiply it by three. That's as close to Nebraska's recipe as you can get. When the Huskers lost, they lost big. When the defense struggled, it struggled big.

Nebraska boasts the offense of a Big Ten champion and the front seven of a Big Ten pretender. Bo Pelini has his work cut out for him this season on defense, but there's no doubt this offense will be among the most exciting in the conference.

The only question, really, is if that'll be enough.


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Early look at Purdue Boilermakers 

July, 31, 2013
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Every day this week, NittanyNation will continue taking a closer look at a different game this season and how the matchup stacks up for PSU. Up today: Purdue.

Darrell Hazell finished last season with one of the nation's most impressive coaching performances, leading Kent State to an 11-win season and coming within a heartbeat of an Orange Bowl berth.

Purdue's new head coach will need another one of the country's best performances just to get the Boilermakers into a bowl.

Hazell will need to break in a new quarterback and a new stable of receivers. Purdue will need to replace its best defensive player in DT Kawann Short. And it will need to fight past a tough non-conference slate that includes Cincinnati and Notre Dame.

Hazell's up for the challenge, but make no mistake about it: This is a rebuilding season for the Boilermakers. Hazell turned around a struggling Kent State squad from 5-7 in his debut season to 11-3 in Year 2. This will probably be a similar first season for Hazell record-wise, and there'll be plenty of bumps along the way.


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Early look at Minnesota Golden Gophers 

July, 30, 2013
7/30/13
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Every day this week, NittanyNation will continue taking a closer look at a different game this season and how the matchup stacks up for PSU. Up today: Minnesota.

With Jerry Kill at the helm, the Golden Gophers are poised to become bowl regulars -- and could become one of the bigger surprises in the Big Ten this season.

Minnesota was 3-9 in 2010 before Kill took over. Then the former Northern Illinois coach equaled that record in 2011 before doubling the win total in 2012. It's Year 3 for Kill now, and this third year is the one in which Minnesota could take off.

Kill loves to run the ball, but his hopes are inextricably linked with sophomore quarterback phenom Philip Nelson, Minnesota's Mr. Football in 2011 who received recruiting interest from the likes of Nebraska and Wisconsin. Nelson experienced a rough rookie campaign, but Minnesota's hopes for a breakout season are tied to just how much he can improve this season.

Minnesota isn't a lock on the Nittany Lions' schedule. Not anymore. It's a wild card, and it's one PSU can't take for granted.


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Every day this week, NittanyNation will continue taking a closer look at a different game this season and how the matchup stacks up for PSU. Up today: Illinois.

For as long as Tim Beckman remains the Illinois coach, Bill O'Brien and the Penn State fan base aren't going to forget about last summer -- or how Beckman and Co. arrived on campus in an attempt to "poach" players.

Of course, Beckman might not be the Illinois coach much longer.

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Early look at the Ohio State Buckeyes 

July, 26, 2013
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Braxton MillerPatrick Smith/Getty ImagesBraxton Miller ran for 134 yards and accounted for three touchdowns vs. Penn State last season.
Every weekday over the next two weeks, NittanyNation will take a closer look at a different game this season and how the matchup stacks up for PSU. Up today: Ohio State.

This is the most difficult game on Penn State's schedule -- and for good reason.


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Early look at the Indiana Hoosiers 

July, 24, 2013
7/24/13
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Every weekday over the next two weeks, NittanyNation will take a closer look at a different game this season and how the matchup stacks up for PSU. Up today: Indiana.

The Hoosiers last won a bowl game in 1991, before PSU joined the Big Ten. But head coach Kevin Wilson is slowly turning things around -- and this could be the season in which it all comes together.

No, Indiana won't challenge for the conference title or for a major bowl. But the Hoosiers return 21 of 24 starters, and going bowling for the first time in six years is a definite possibility.

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Early look at Kent State Golden Flashes 

July, 23, 2013
7/23/13
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Every weekday over the next two weeks, NittanyNation will take a closer look at a different game this season and how the matchup stacks up for PSU. Up today: Kent State.

The Golden Flashes boast one of the most dynamic tailbacks in all of college football.

If we believed what our mothers told us -- and didn't say anything unless we had something nice to say -- that would be the end of this preview, however. After a Cinderella season where Kent State came within a heartbeat of the Orange Bowl, the Flashes' luck has run out.

Gone is head coach Darrell Hazell, who left for Purdue. Gone are three offensive linemen who combined for more than 120 starts. Gone is the four-year starting QB. Gone is three-quarters of the secondary.

Gone is just about every reason Kent State could be considered a threat. Except for tailback/slot receiver Dri Archer. This team was a threat last season -- but this season? The Flashes are somewhere between Eastern Michigan and Syracuse in terms of talent.


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Early look at the UCF Knights 

July, 22, 2013
7/22/13
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Every weekday over the next two weeks, NittanyNation will take a closer look at a different game this season and how the matchup stacks up for PSU. Up today: UCF.

The Nittany Lions will welcome Central Florida as their first big test in 2013 -- and it's not going to be easy.


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Every weekday over the next three weeks, NittanyNation will take a closer look at a different game this season and how the matchup stacks up for PSU. Up today: Eastern Michigan.

Big Ten teams can no longer schedule FCS teams -- but this matchup's about as close as it can get.

Eastern Michigan last won a conference championship in 1987, back when Bill O'Brien was still playing ball in high school, and had its last winless season in 2009. Put simply, the Eagles are one of the worst programs in the FBS and are the closest thing to a sure win that PSU can get.

The question isn't whether PSU can win, but by how much, and just how soon the backups and the walk-ons can get some game experience. It's not going to be pretty.


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Early look at the Syracuse Orange 

July, 18, 2013
7/18/13
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Every weekday over the next three weeks, NittanyNation will take a closer look at a different game this season and how the matchup stacks up for PSU. Up today: Syracuse.

If there's one team on PSU's schedule that has as many -- or, possibly, more -- question marks, it's Syracuse. With a new head coach, a new quarterback and a new conference, this season-opening matchup should be an interesting one.


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