There are 100 days left until the 2022 Penn State football season.
Is that still too early to predict, oh, every single regular-season game Penn State will play this year?
Maybe so, but I’m doing it anyway.
WEEK 1: PENN STATE AT PURDUE, SEPT. 1, 2022
There are plenty of easier ways for Penn State to start the season. For the third straight year, Penn State will not be hosting a cupcake at Beaver Stadium to open the year. Instead, the Nittany Lions will play the first Big Ten game of the 2022 season on a Thursday night in West Lafayette, Indiana, against a promising Purdue football program.
Purdue went 9-4 last season and has some talent coming back. The team will undoubtedly have adrenaline playing under the lights at home against a school as prominent as Penn State.
Opening the year on the road against Purdue won’t be easy, but a few things should play in Penn State’s favor. Although Penn State’s roster is young in some areas, it should be experienced enough to where Week 1 rust won’t bite them as much as it would a less experienced group.
Also, Purdue’s teams in the Jeff Brohm era don’t tend to turn it on until later in the year. That could be coincidental, but maybe it isn’t.
Lastly, Purdue’s top returning receiver, Milton Wright, is no longer with the team, which means sixth-year quarterback Aidan O’Connell won’t have either of his top weapons from 2021, as Biletnikoff finalist David Bell is now in the NFL.
Maybe Purdue will adequately account for the loss of Wright at some point in 2022, but I have my doubts that it happens right away (or Wright away, hehe.) In an even matchup such as this— Penn State is favored by a field goal— one man’s absence could make the difference.
I’d still probably pick Penn State with Wright in Purdue’s lineup, but I like its chances even more without him.
PREDICTION: WIN (1-0)
WEEK 2: PENN STATE VS. OHIO, SEPT. 10, 2022
The last time Ohio came to Beaver Stadium, it beat Penn State. I’m not expecting that to happen 10 years later.
In 2021, Penn State hosted a MAC school (Ball State) in its home opener and won comfortably. I wouldn’t expect anything different this year.
PREDICTION: WIN (2-0)
WEEK 3: PENN STATE AT AUBURN, SEPT. 17, 2022
This is a toss-up, as evidenced by Penn State being an early one-point favorite.
It’s a tricky game for James Franklin and Penn State. Auburn should be good enough and certainly is nationally prominent enough that it would be a big deal for Penn State to beat the Tigers on the road, especially if it comes into the game 2-0.
But it’s not likely that the Tigers will be one of the best teams in the SEC, so the loss will sting if Penn State falls to the Tigers.
Based purely on my gut, I would say that quarterback Zach Calzada— a Texas A&M transfer— and the Tigers will pull out a close one at home and avenge last year’s loss in Happy Valley. I could also see it going the other way.
PREDICTION: LOSS (2-1)
WEEK 4: PENN STATE VS. CENTRAL MICHIGAN, SEPT. 24, 2022
Everything I wrote about the Ohio game applies here. I can’t see Penn State losing to a MAC school in Beaver Stadium.
PREDICTION: WIN (3-1)
WEEK 5: PENN STATE VS. NORTHWESTERN, OCT. 1, 2022
Northwestern was one of college football’s feel-good stories of 2020 when the Wildcats made it to the Big Ten championship game. Those days feel far away, and now, Pat Fitzgerald’s squad could be the worst in the Big Ten.
This is probably Penn State’s easiest conference game— at least on paper— and I’m a little curious that the school didn’t pick this for its homecoming contest.
PREDICTION: WIN (4-1)
WEEK 6: BYE
WEEK 7: PENN STATE AT MICHIGAN, OCT. 15, 2022
James Franklin doesn’t do too well in Ann Arbor.
In four trips, Franklin has beaten Michigan in “The Big House” just once, and that was in 2020, when there were virtually no fans and Michigan finished 2-4.
Now, the fans are back, and although Michigan might not be quite as good as it was when it won the Big Ten championship this past season, Jim Harbaugh’s squad still packs some punch.
On paper, Michigan has the edge, and Penn State’s history in Ann Arbor since joining the Big Ten doesn’t do it any favors, either.
PREDICTION: LOSS (4-2)
WEEK 8: PENN STATE VS. MINNESOTA, OCT. 22, 2022
Much like the Auburn game, this is a toss-up that I could easily see Penn State winning or losing.
Minnesota has the potential to win the Big Ten West, with sixth-year senior Tanner Morgan back at quarterback and offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca— who held the same position at Penn State in 2020— back for his second stint with the Gophers.
Both Morgan and Ciarrocca beat Penn State in 2019 in Minnesota. Can they do the same in Beaver Stadium? I think they could, but I’m not confident that they will.
PREDICTION: WIN (5-2)
WEEK 9: PENN STATE VS. OHIO STATE, OCT. 29, 2022
Ohio State is a legitimate national championship contender, and its offense might be the best in the land.
To me, Penn State playing Ohio State in late-October instead of late-September— which was originally the plan— hurts more than it helps.
By the end of October, it’s likely that quarterback CJ Stroud and company will be in top form, and that’s bad news for Penn State.
Penn State has played Ohio State somewhat close in seven of the eight meetings the teams have had since Franklin came to Happy Valley, and I expect Penn State to be somewhat competitive here, too.
But Ohio State is just too good.
PREDICTION: LOSS (5-3)
WEEK 10: PENN STATE AT INDIANA, NOV. 5, 2022
Penn State will likely go into Bloomington in need of a win, and if Indiana is anything like it was last season, when it went 2-10, Penn State should have little problem getting one.
PREDICTION: WIN (6-3)
WEEK 11: PENN STATE VS. MARYLAND, NOV. 12, 2022
Coach Mike Locksley has done a reasonably good job in his three seasons in College Park, with last seasons 7-6 campaign being a step forward.
Although the Terps have progressed since Locksley’s first season, where they went 3-9 in 2019, I don’t see this Maryland team being able to walk into Beaver Stadium and get a win.
PREDICTION: WIN (7-3)
WEEK 12: PENN STATE AT RUTGERS, NOV. 19, 2022
Rutgers hasn’t beat Penn State since it joined the Big Ten in 2014, and I’ll believe it happens if and when it happens.
PREDICTION: WIN (8-3)
WEEK 13: PENN STATE VS. MICHIGAN STATE, NOV. 26, 2022
Michigan State football is a crapshoot.
The Spartans had a rotten campaign in 2020 and an excellent one in 2021. So what will we see in 2022?
I don’t know the answer to that, and I surely don’t know what things will look like come September. As I’ve done earlier in the post, I’m just gonna go with my hunch, which tells me that Penn State wins at home.
PREDICTION: WIN (9-3)
So there you have it. As of now, I see Penn State finishing 9-3 with losses to Auburn, Ohio State and Michigan. Penn State fans, how would you feel about a 9-3 season?