The Nittany Lions kickoff the shortened 2020 college football season with a road trip to Indiana. No. 8 Penn State features 39 letterman from a 2019 team that finished in the AP Top 10 with a Cotton Bowl win over Memphis under Head Coach James Franklin.
The Nittany Lions look to rely on returning quarterback Sean Clifford under first-year Offensive Coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca. This week, Penn State surprised fans by announcing that star running back Journey Brown would be sitting out for the season due to an undisclosed medical condition. With the shakeup, many experts expect RB Noah Cain to step into that leading back role. In 2019, Cain rushed for 443 yards on 84 attempts, averaged 5.3 yards per carry and scored eight touchdowns with no fumbles.
The departure of Micah Parsons left a hole in the linebacker room. The Harrisburg product chose to opt out of the 2020 season during the Big Ten postponement to focus on the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. Defensive Coordinator Brent Pry spoke with confidence this offseason about his linebacker room and the ability of a number of guys to fill Parsons’ shoes.
Penn State is set to play its latest season opener since World War I and the influenza pandemic prevented the 1918 season from kicking off until November 2. Indiana poses an interesting test in this season opener, as both the 2018 and 2019 Penn State/Indiana games were decided by one possession.
Penn State has the series edge against Indiana, 22-1, however, Franklin says this could be the best Hoosiers team he’s face in his tenure in Happy Valley. Indiana features sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. The touted QB played in just six games in 2019 due to injuries, but still threw for 1,394 yards on 110 completions, with a 68.8 completion percentage, plus 10 touchdowns with only 4 interceptions. Many college football experts believe Penix has improved this offseason, and should he stay healthy, could have a breakout season.
Penn State’s last loss to Indiana came on the road in 2013, 44-24. Since then, the Nittany Lions have rattled off six straight wins.
Kickoff is Saturday 3:30 pm in Bloomington, Indiana. The game will be broadcast live on FS1, highlights and reaction from Penn State will be on abc27 at 11pm.