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Big Ten Football Countdown: No.8 Penn State

Penn State looks to dispel the dark clouds that hover over Happy Valley with another winning record in 2013.

2012 was an infamous year in Happy Valley as Penn State's football program took an unexpected plunge into darkness and uncertainty. To the objection of many Penn State fans, the university fired hall of fame coach Joe Paterno, who died shortly after, after his involvement, or lack thereof, in the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Bill O'Brien took over a program that was forever changed by the NCAA when they levied a four year bowl ban and scholarship reductions. After a multitude of transfers left the team and an 0-2 start to the 2012, many believed that Penn State was doomed for failure. O'Brien rallied his team to finish the year 8-4, winning eight of their last ten games. Many saw this triumph as an inspiration showing that teams can win under the worse of circumstances. Others saw this success as an act of defiance as the NCAA intended for Penn State to fail as punishment. No matter where people stand on the matter one thing is for sure, you can't stomp out Penn State football, the fan base it too passionate and the players are too dedicated to to allow failure.

2012 Record: 8-4 (6-2)

Returning Starters: 17 (8 OFF, 7 DEF, 2 ST)

Key Losses on Offense: QB Matthew McGloin (3271 yds. 24 TD), RB Michael Zordich (296 yds. 4 TD), C Matt Stankiewitch

Key Losses on Defense: DT Jordan Hill, LB Michael Mauti, LB Gerald Hodges, CB Stephon Morris

Head Coach: Bill O'Brien: 8-4 (2nd Year)

Strength: Secondary and Linebackers

Despite all that Penn State had to overcome, the Nittany Lions fielded of one of the nation's best defenses that ranked 16th overall in points allowed with 19.1 per game, and with 7 starters returning, it should stay that way. Linebackers Glenn Carson (85 TOT) and Mike Hull (58 TOT) return to a rush defense that ranked 23rd in the nation with just 128.4 yards rushed per game. The secondary wasn't the best last season, ranking 50th and allowing 225 passing yards per game (in the Big Ten...), but with CB Adrian Amos (44 TOT), S Malcolm Willis (45 TOT), and S Stephen Obeng-Agyapong (41 TOT) all returning the defensive backfield should see improvement.

Weakness/Questions: Quarterback

Losing QB Matthew McGloin (3271 yds. 24 TD) makes a big hole at quarterback that will have to be filled by JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson. Ferguson threw for 2614 yards with 22 TD and 12 INT while playing at College of Sequoias. While those stats aren't all that impressive, he was listed as the 77th best JUCO by ESPN. He will have Penn State's top 7 returning starters to throw to including WR Allen Robinson (1018 yds. 11 TD), WR Kyle Carter (453 yds. 2 TD) and WR Brandon Moseby-Felder (437 yds. 1 TD). If Ferguson isn't the passing type, he will have RB Zach Zwinak (1000 yds. 6 TD) to hand the ball of to. All the tools are in place for Ferguson to succeed, if he can't use them effectively then Penn State could dip into the depth some would hope they'd be.

Projected Record: 7-5 (3-5)

Bowl Game: None