The 2021 season, widely seen as a disappointment, will end one way or another for Penn State.
It certainly won’t be the same looking Nittany Lions team that fans have grown used to seeing in 2021. Six Lions— including receiver Jahan Dotson, safety Jaquan Brisker and defensive end Arnold Ebiketie— have decided to opt out and end their college football careers. Additionally, starting left tackle Rasheed Walker is out with an injury.
Arkansas is ranked 21st in the country and only had two players opt out. So the Nittany Lions will be in for quite a challenge.
As with any game, the Nittany Lions have some things going for an against them, and here is what they are for the 2022 Outback Bowl.
WHAT THE NITTANY LIONS HAVE GOING FOR THEM
The biggest thing Penn State has going for it is that this game doesn’t matter.
Like any game, the Nittany Lions would rather win that lose, and sure, finishing 8-5 looks a lot better than 7-6, and a bowl win over a top 25 SEC opponent wouldn’t be a bad way for Penn State to end the season.
But anybody who follows college football even a little bit knows that bowl games don’t have the meaning they once did. Players like Dotson and Brisker opting out proves that.
So while this game is still meaningful to those who are playing, it won’t have the nearly the same meaning of the same nervous feeling amongst fans that games against Michigan and Ohio State do every season.
But although college football fans everywhere wish bowl games mattered more, it might also be a relief for Penn State fans and the program to have considerably less pressure than regular-season games present. Additionally, even if Penn State is to lose, there is still a chance for young players like receiver Malick Meiga to provide silver linings for the Nittany Lions.
WHAT THE NITTANY LIONS HAVE GOING AGAINST THEM
If the two teams played at even strength, it’s not a sure thing at all that Penn State would have the edge.
Since Arkansas has far fewer players opted out than Penn State goes, it’s clear, on paper at least, that Pig Soohie has the edge.
To be blunt, Penn State went 7-5 with players like Dotson and Brisker in the fold. Without them, it will be that much tougher.