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Week 1 opponent preview: Penn State

Let’s take a look at the teams on IU’s 2020 schedule, shall we?

Penn State v Indiana
Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions leads his team to the field before the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium on October 20, 2018 in Bloomington, Indiana.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With the season fast approaching, we want to take some time to familiarize ourselves with each of Indiana’s opponents this fall. Over the next week, that’s exactly what we’ll do. Contributors from every SB Nation Big Ten team site have offered overviews of their respective programs, and we’ll run through each school in the order in which they appear on IU’s schedule.

Up first, Penn State.

Penn State - Black Shoe Diaries (Jared Slanina)

List your team’s key departures (name, position, role) ​

  • KJ Hamler- WR
  • Yetur Gross-Matos-DE
  • Micah Parsons- LB
  • Ricky Rahne-OC

List your team’s key returnees (name, position, role) ​

  • Journey Brown-RB
  • Sean Clifford-QB
  • Shaka Toney-DE
  • Pat Freiermuth-TE

List a few true freshmen or transfers that will make an instant impact (name, position, role) ​

  • KeAndre Lambert Smith-WR
  • Parker Washington-WR
  • Curtis Jacobs-LB
  • Lance Dixon

Brief overview of 2020 team: ​

Penn State returns its starting quarterback, 4 of 5 offensive lineman (with the new starter with extensive playing time under his belt), a stable of talented backs led by Journey Brown...and only one wide receiver with any practical experience. It will be crucial for at least two young wideouts to emerge early in the season and for Sean Clifford to quickly build a rapport with them as KJ Hamler is no longer around to bail out the offense like he did so often the last two seasons.

The strength of the defense will be the linebackers, even with the departure of Micah Parsons. The defensive line returns plenty of talent and should be deeper than in recent years, but will need to get after the quarterback with more consistency throughout the season. The secondary was exposed toward the end of the season and could again be a liability against opponents with a quality quarterback.

What’s your team’s biggest strength? ​

A stable of talented running backs guided by a veteran offensive line.

What’s your team’s biggest weakness? ​

A lack of experience at wide receiver

How does your fanbase feel about your coach and his staff? ​

The fanbase is largely happy with what James Franklin has done in Happy Valley, especially getting the program consistently in the top 10 and winning a Big Ten championship well ahead of schedule.

The biggest questions are if he can ever get past Ohio State on a regular basis (tall order) and if those disturbing fourth quarter collapses in big games is behind him. With that being said, there is a vocal minority who think that the he should be fired, every player cut, and the stadium torn down every time they lose a game - or heck, don’t win by 40+ points.

Who is your team’s MVP this season and why? ​

I’ll go with tight end Pat Freiermuth, who has an excellent shot at being a first-team All-American and winner of the Mackey Award. He will play an even more essential role as Penn State works to break in several inexperienced wide receivers.

Predict your team’s record, its best win, and a potential surprise loss: ​

7-1, win them all but Ohio State. However, I wouldn’t be shocked if they lose at Indiana, where they always seem to be stuck in slow motion, or drop one against Iowa or Michigan, who they play in back-to-back weeks.

What else should we know about your team this year?

Penn State is set up for success more so than the last two seasons, but it will be a moot point if they cannot get past Ohio State for the first time since 2016