The 2023 Penn State Football season is only two weeks away.
There’s a lot of hype around the Nittany Lions after going 11-2 last season, and for good reason. Head coach James Franklin‘s team bring A LOT of talent back and made key additions from the transfer portal.
With that said, it’s time to break out our crystal ball and predict the outcome of each game this season and see what record the Nittany Lions finish with.
Penn State Football 2023 Game-by-Game Predictions
Week 1 vs West Virginia
West Virginia is coming off a rough 5-7 season in which the Mountaineers gave up over 30 points a game.
The front seven in the defense also lost its best two players with Dante Stills off to the NFL and Jordan Jefferson transferred to LSU. On offense, WVU does return all five offensive line starters from last season and running back C.J. Donaldson, who had a breakout freshman season in 2022.
The Nittany Lions will be breaking in new starting quarterback Drew Allar, so there may be some growing pains there, but he has an elite run game to rely on. Penn State will try to exploit West Virginia’s defensive line and have running backs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen carry them to victory.
The Mountaineers run game will be a good test for the Penn State defense, but if WVU falls behind, it will have to abandon that plan.
Week 1 under the lights in Beaver Stadium, good luck Mountaineers.
PSU 35 WVU 13
Week 2 vs Delaware
Penn State Football will face an FCS opponent in Delaware in week 2. Delaware is a respectable program at the FCS level and has produced its fair share of NFL talent.
With that said, the talent gap in this game is significant and the Penn State starters should be out of this game by the middle of the third quarter.
This game will give James Franklin a chance to get his backups key reps, especially backup quarterback Beau Pribula, who is yet to throw a pass in a real game.
The Nittany Lions will rotate frequently throughout this game, which may keep Delaware somewhat in it for a time, but expect the starters to get in, get up big and get out and prepare for Illinois.
PSU 45 Del. 10
Week 3 at Illinois
The first real test of the season for Penn State Football will come in week 3 against Illinois.
I’m sure you all remember what happened last time these two squared up, so there’s no need to rehash that. This is a tough and physical Illinois team that took Michigan to the wire in the Big House last season.
The Illini do lose workhorse running back Chase Brown and three members of an elite secondary, but do return without a doubt the best defensive tackle duo in the conference. That duo, Jer’Zhan Newton and Keith Randolph Jr, will make life difficult for Penn State’s run game.
This will be the first time Drew Allar will be asked to go win a game for the Nittany Lions.
On the road for an 11 a.m. start in Allar’s first Big Ten game will be tough, but the Penn State defense will be the difference.
PSU 24 Illinois 14
Week 4 vs. Iowa
Penn State will return home in week 4 for the annual White Out game, which will be played against Iowa this season.
The Hawkeyes are coming off a wild 2022 season in which they were 2nd nationally in scoring defense but 123rd nationally in scoring offense. Iowa tried to fix this by adding former Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara as the starter for 2023.
Despite some key losses in the front seven, Iowa returns a strong secondary that will surely give Allar and the Penn State passing attack some problems.
Much like the Illinois game though, it’s hard to see Iowa doing much on offense against this stout Penn State defense.
Add in the fact that Franklin probably wants to send a message to Iowa following the comments that were made about Penn State players following the 2021 matchup and this could get ugly for the Iowa offense.
PSU 27 Iowa 9
Week 5 at Northwestern
Northwestern hung in with Penn State last season, losing 17-7 at Beaver Stadium. That I had more to do with the fact that the game was being played in a literal hurricane and moving the ball was near impossible.
The Wildcats finished 2-10 in 2022 and honestly things are looking even bleaker than that this season with head coach Pat Fitzgerald being fired over hazing allegations.
This was already and undermanned team and now multiple players have hit the portal in the wake of this scandal. Long story short, this should not be a close game.
This should be another opportunity for Franklin to get his backups key reps and protect the health of his numerous star players.
PSU 41 NW 7
Week 7 vs UMass
Following the bye week, Penn State Football will return home to face UMass. UMass was quite literally the worst offense in the nation last season, averaging 12 points per game.
The Minutemen’s defense wasn’t much better, giving up 31 points per game, resulting in the Minutemen going 1-11 in 2022. That one win was against Stony Brook…
This will be another quick one for the Penn State starters, who will prepare for their huge matchup with Ohio State the following week.
Because the defense will likely be rotating frequently throughout this one, UMass should at least get one opportunity to score, but a shutout would not be all that surprising here.
PSU 48 UMass 7
Week 8 at Ohio State
Penn State’s first opportunity to avenge one of its two losses from 2022 will come in week 7 as the Nittany Lions head to Columbus to face Ohio State.
The Buckeyes return a ton of talent and production from their 2022 playoff team, but they do have key losses to two critical areas: quarterback and offensive tackle. Losing star quarterback C.J. Stroud and both starting tackles could give an advantage to Penn State’s aggressive defense.
For Penn State to win this game, the pass rush will have to get home and keep the ball out of Ohio State’s elite wide receivers’ hands. On offense, the run game should have some success, but this will be a game where Drew Allar will need to live up to his 5-star status.
Penn State has the team to upset Ohio State, but the Nittany Lions haven’t won in the Horseshoe since 2011.
OSU 30, PSU 24
Week 9 vs Indiana
Penn State Football will certainly have a little bit of a hangover after a close loss at Ohio State, but a return home against a struggling Indiana team should remedy that.
The Hoosiers are coming off a 4-8 season in 2022 and coach Tom Allen is definitely feeling some heat heading into this season.
Indiana was 100th in scoring offense and 120th in scoring defense in 2022, not exactly an ideal combo. The Hoosiers also lost leading rusher Shaun Shivers and have questions at quarterback with no true starter emerging throughout the 2022 season.
Chances are this will be another tough season for the Hoosiers and although Penn State may start slow, the talent difference will eventually overwhelm Indiana.
PSU 37 IU 10
Week 10 at Maryland
Penn State handled Maryland easily in 2022, shutting out the Terps 30-0. That was in Beaver Stadium, this matchup will be in College Park, where oddly enough, Penn State seems to play better at.
Under Franklin, the Nittany Lions are 3-0, outscoring Maryland 156-17.
Led by veteran quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland will be a threat in the passing game, but the Terps are extremely weak on both the offensive and defensive lines and Penn State took advantage of that in a big way last season.
Maybe the Nittany Lions get caught looking ahead to the huge matchup the next week, but for whatever reason, the Nittany Lions seem to be Maryland’s kryptonite, and that should continue in 2023. The Penn State pass rush will have Tagovailoa scrambling all afternoon.
PSU 35 Maryland 17
Week 11 vs Michigan
Penn State’s 2023 season will come down to this battle with Michigan in week 11.
The Wolverines will likely be undefeated and the Nittany Lions will be fighting for their College Football Playoff lives.
Last season, Michigan crushed Penn State 41-17, rushing for over 400 yards in the Big House. This year though, the game is at Beaver Stadium.
Michigan has had its fair share of struggles at Penn State lately.
The Nittany Lions won 42-13 in 2017 and 28-21 in 2019. In 2021, a playoff-bound Michigan team needed a broken play to defeat an eventual 7-5 Penn State team 21-17.
Michigan is a tough matchup for Penn State with how physical the Wolverines offensive line is and how much they rely on the run. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz may have figured something out after being embarrassed by Michigan last season though, as the Nittany Lions only allowed 2.6 yards per rush in the seven games after that loss.
By this point in the season, the Penn State offense will also have an identity and Drew Allar should be comfortable at quarterback. Add in a crazy crowd and Penn State may have what it takes to knock off Michigan.
PSU 23 Michigan 20
Week 12 vs Rutgers
Penn State Football will conclude its home slate against Rutgers in week 12.
The Lions crushed the Scarlet Knights 55-10 last season and the result this season could be more of the same. If the Nittany Lions are coming off a massive victory over Michigan, the vibes will be high and they should come out firing.
Rutgers scored only 17.4 points per game last season and this offense should not be any kind of threat to the elite Penn State offense. Rutgers quarterback Gavin Wimsatt threw seven interceptions compared to just five touchdowns last season and he does not have much talent around him.
If Penn State loses to Michigan, Rutgers may be able to keep it close early, but the Nittany Lions will want to win on senior day.
PSU 40 Rutgers 10
Week 13 vs Michigan State
Penn State Football will conclude the 2023 regular season on Black Friday against Michigan State at Ford Field in Detroit.
The fact this game is not being played in Lane Stadium is a huge advantage to Penn State, as that place has been a house of horrors for the Nittany Lions in recent years.
Michigan State lost a lot of star power on offense with quarterback Payton Thorne transferring to Auburn, wide receiver Keon Coleman transferring to Florida State and wide receiver Jayden Reed being drafted by the Packers. There’s plenty of new faces around this Michigan State offense.
The Spartans defense should still be a quality bunch, led by linebacker Cal Haladay. Questions about the secondary still remain though and multiple transfers were brought in to try to fix the issue. This game may be competitive, but the Nittany Lions are the better team and will benefit from the game being indoors.
PSU 27 MSU 17
With the Nittany Lions going 11-1, the fate of their season will actually come down to what happens with Ohio State and Michigan.
If all three finish 11-1, a tiebreaker will be the deciding factor for who goes to the Big Ten championship.
Penn State Football could very well go 11-1 and miss both the Big Ten title game and the Playoff.
All the Nittany Lions can do is try to take care of what they can control and just see how the cards fall.