Only 49 days after they were scheduled to begin their 2020 football season, the Penn State Nittany Lions are finally getting started on their eight-games-plus-one schedule, or as many games as they can stay ahead of the coronavirus.
Here’s a look at their opponents:
For the fifth straight season, and the 10th time in the last 11 years, the Nittany Lions open their Big Ten schedule on the road. They are 21-1 lifetime against Indiana, but the Hoosiers usually make it tough for them in Bloomington, winning in 2013 and losing one-possession games on five other occasions. Michael Penix takes over as IU quarterback, succeeding Peyton Ramsey, who passed for 371 yards last year at Beaver Stadium.
No Halloween White Out at Beaver Stadium this year, but nevertheless, this is the opponent the Lions must defeat to have any hope of reaching the conference championship game and their first College Football Playoff berth. They are 1-5 vs. the Buckeyes in the James Franklin era, with two losses by one point each and another in overtime. Quarterback Justin Fields, a former Penn State commit, is among the leaders of the non-Trevor Lawrence division of the Heisman Trophy race after accounting last year for 51 touchdowns — 41 passing, 10 running.
The NCAA gave coach Mike Locksley an early Christmas gift when it awarded a waiver to Alabama transfer quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, the younger brother of Tua who is competing against redshirt freshman Lance LeGendre. The Terrapins have much rebuilding to do on defense, having allowed 35 points and 449 yards per game last season.
The Cornhuskers made the most noise about the Big Ten’s decision to wipe out the season, and were rewarded after the conference’s change of heart with crossover games against Ohio State and Penn State. Junior Adrian Martinez returns as the starting quarterback after getting pushed by redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey (brother of Christian). Dedric Mills helped the Huskers rush last season for more than 200 yards per game. This is the Lions' first trip to Lincoln since 2012.
The dean of FBS head coaches, Kirk Ferentz is in his 22nd season guiding the Hawkeyes. Redshirt sophomore Spencer Petras is his new starting quarterback, succeeding Nate Stanley. Defensive back Jack Koerner leads Iowa’s perennially strong defense, but the team suffered a blow before the season when linebacker Dijmon Colbert opted out. This is the fifth consecutive year the Hawkeyes and the Nittany Lions have met.
Penn State hasn’t won at the Big House since 2009, going 0-3 under Franklin. Jim Harbaugh still hasn’t revealed his starting quarterback, but it figures to be redshirt sophomore Joe Milton or redshirt freshman Cade McNamara. The Wolverines lost their top three receivers from last season, with Nico Collins having decided to leave earlier this month. They also had some big losses on defense, but senior tackle Kwity Paye provides toughness on the line.
The return of head coach Greg Schiano is a welcomed sight for Scarlet Knights fans who feel there is no way for this program to go but up, especially considering Rutgers was outscored, 355-51, in losing nine Big Ten games last year. Redshirt sophomore Artur Sitkowski, who left the transfer portal after Schiano was hired, is competing with Nebraska graduate transfer Noah Vedral at quarterback. Senior linebacker Tyshon Fogg was fourth in the conference in tackles last season.
After 13 seasons as head coach, Mark Dantonio resigned last February and was replaced by Mel Tucker, who spent 2019 in the same position at Colorado. Tucker has to find a replacement for quarterback Brian Lewerke, who left as the Spartans' career leader in total offense with 9,548 yards. He has no fewer than four candidates for the job, with redshirt junior Rocky Lombardi the only prospect with starting experience. Redshirt sophomore Elijah Collins rushed for 988 yards last season.