Tuesday, May 30, 2006

2006 Spring Opponent Preview - Penn State Nittany Lions

Top player: Paul Posluzny, LB
Make-or-break player: Anthony Morelli, QB
Biggest offensive strength: Running Back
Biggest offensive weakness: Wide receiver
Biggest defensive strength: Linebackers
Biggest defensive weakness: Cornerback
Spring Depth Chart

The Penn State game has a special place in my heart (I'll post about it the week before the game), and I feel truly blessed to have the opportunity to see the Nittany Lions play in Notre Dame stadium this year. As part of our 5-game gauntlet to begin the season, the Nittany Lions are coming off a BCS season last year, and have the best linebacker in the nation in their defensive backfield. They have one of the softest Big Ten schedules a man could want, with the only major challenge being their Big Ten opener at Ohio State. They have an excellent shot at being a BCS contender this year simply due to their schedule.

The big question mark is quarterback Anthony Morelli, who will be attempting to replace the versatile senior leadership of Michael Robinson as a sophomore and a traditional passing QB. He won't be able to run the option like Robinson, which will place more pressure on the running backs and receivers.

The receivers are their biggest weakness on offense. While they have lots of depth (5 players with at least one touchdown), they don't have the elite receiver necessary to burn our defense. Only 1 returning receiver has the potential to breakout as such, Derrick Williams, but he only accounted for 1 receiving touchdown last year, being used more as a reverse threat on the option (he scored three rushing TDs).

Penn State lost some elite defensive players on the D-line and at cornerback, and they will be susceptible to the passing game early in the season, struggling to cover receivers or get effective QB pressure. However, Penn State might have the best linebacking corps in the nation, and they will be tough against the running game and short passing game. Our deep passing game will be the difference in a defensive battle, with the Irish pulling away in the 4th quarter, taking advantage of a tired linebacking corps that is doing too much to make up for their other defensive weaknesses.

9/9at Notre DameL
9/16Youngstown St.W
9/23/td>at Ohio StateL
10/7at MinnesotaW
10/28at PurdueW
11/4at WisconsinW
11/18Michigan StateW