Aug 20, 2012

2012 Big Ten Previews: Penn State with Black Shoe Diaries

We’re previewing the upcoming season with help from SBNation. Today, Black Shoe Diaries breaks down Penn State.

The Nittany Lions draw one of the easier Big Ten schedules on paper, hosting division favorites Ohio State and Wisconsin at Beaver Stadium. Road games at Nebraska and Iowa are Penn State’s toughest travel dates. The Huskers are a favorite in the Legends division, and PSU hasn’t won in Iowa City since 1999.

2011 Record: 9-4

2011 Bowl: Ticket City Bowl, Loss vs. Houston, 30-14

2012 Bowl Projections:

  • Ineligible

History in Orlando

1988 Florida Citrus Bowl vs. Clemson, 10-35
1994 Florida Citrus Bowl vs. Tennessee, 31-13
1998 Florida Citrus Bowl vs. Florida, 6-21
2003 Capital One Bowl vs. Auburn, 9-13
2010 Capital One Bowl vs. LSU, 19-17 (Win Vacated)

Q&A with Mike and Jeff from Black Shoe Diaries

Describe the 2011 season in two words.

Pure chaos.

What type of on-the-field changes will we see from the Nittany Lions under Bill O’Brien? How will we recognize his fingerprints on the team?

It’s difficult to say for sure, as this will be O’Brien’s first head coaching job. But if we can glean anything from his time at New England, the hallmarks of the Penn State offense will eventually become a run-and-gun style passing attack that relies heavily on the tight ends and running backs. Quick slants and short crossing routes will be the plays called most often, with the running back playing a vital role in the passing attack. On defense, things won’t change too much at the beginning, as Penn State has long been a defensive minded team. However, over time and as the proper players are recruited, the secondary will move from more of a cover system under Tom Bradley to an aggressive system under Ted Roof. The front seven won’t see much change (which isn’t surprising, given that the only two holdover coaches are the defensive line and linebackers coaches), but the cornerbacks should press more at the line of scrimmage, which puts more pressure on the safeties to be able to cover where needed.

The switch from Galen Hall and Tom Bradley to Bill O’Brien and Ted Roof seems to indicate changing priorities from defense to offense (correct us if we’re wrong). Personnel aside, is that going to be a painful transition for Penn State fans?

Not in the slightest. Some more traditional fans may see a shift in priorities and be wary. And that’s understandable, as the Penn State defense was the reason that the team has been so successful, with a few notable exceptions. But fans, especially recently, have grown tired and somewhat frustrated with the Penn State offense. The thought of Bill O’Brien coming in and duplicating his New England offense excites many fans, even if they know it will take some time to get anywhere close to that offensive style. Additionally, with coaches Larry Johnson (DL) and Ron Vanderlinden (LB) still around, it isn’t so much that the priorities will shift from defense to offense; rather, there will simply be an added emphasis on offensive explosiveness, something that has been lacking, for the most part, for quite some time.

On paper, what looks like the toughest game this season?

Penn State has a rather difficult schedule this year, including four non-conference opponents who should each give the Lions a run for their money. And given the chaos surrounding the team, a loss to any of those four teams wouldn’t be surprising. Seeing as how Penn State has the good fortune to miss both Michigan teams this year, the easy answer is that Ohio State will once again be the toughest game of the season. The Buckeyes look good on paper, and with new head coach Urban Meyer on the sidelines, a man that has proven he knows how to win, Ohio State will be a tough team to beat, even in the friendly confines of Happy Valley.

What’s the new benchmark for this Penn State team? What would constitute a successful year?

Honestly, many fans are now more willing than ever to give Bill O’Brien a little bit more leeway in terms of early success. Whereas at other schools a couple disappointing seasons to start a new coach’s career would spell trouble for that coach, O’Brien has earned a bit of a longer leash in many fans’ opinion. So simply having a winning season this year would be something of a good start for O’Brien. They obviously can’t go to a bowl game next year (which means they can’t go to the Big Ten Conference Championship Game, if eligible), so finishing anywhere above 6-6 would be seen as a success.

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