The 2023 Penn State Football season is closing in ever so slightly.
Much of the emphasis so far has been on the Penn State roster itself, but it’s time to take a look at the 12 teams the Nittany Lions will face in the regular season.
Some matchups will come down to the wire, while others will be decided by halftime.
Let’s take a look at each game, ranking it from easiest to hardest for Penn State Football.
1. Home vs Delaware (Week 2)
Delaware is a respected program in the FCS ranks, but this isn’t that.
The Blue Hens did go 8-5 last season, including a 14-7 win over Navy, so they do need to be taken at least somewhat seriously. Coming to Happy Valley and playing a preseason top 10 team likely will not go well for the Blue Hens though.
Drew Allar and the rest of the Penn State starters should be out of this game by the third quarter.
2. Home vs UMass (Week 6)
The only thing tricky about this game is that it is the week before Penn State’s highly anticipated matchup with Ohio State.
The Minutemen went 1-11 last season and averaged just 12.5 points per game, the worst scoring total of the 131 teams in the FBS.
This team scoring more than a touchdown against Penn State would be a shock. This is another game where the starters should be out relatively early.
3. Away at Northwestern (Week 5)
Northwestern gave Penn State Football a good game last year in Happy Valley, losing only 17-7.
The problem is that Northwestern really made a mess of itself lately.
Long-time head coach Pat Fitzgerald was let go back in July over hazing accusations and this team is in a lot of turmoil because of that with multiple players hitting the transfer portal.
This Northwestern squad will struggle to come close in a Big Ten game this season.
4. Home vs Indiana (Week 8)
Penn State rocked Indiana 45-14 last year and we can probably expect a similar outcome this season.
The only thing the Hoosiers have going for them in this one is that this game is the week after the Ohio State game for Penn State. Win or lose, the Nittany Lions may have a bit of a hangover from that one.
Regardless, it would be a shock for Indiana to be within three scores when all is said and done.
5. Home vs Rutgers (Week 11)
Penn State Football throttled Rutgers 55-10 last year but the Scarlet Knights should be a bit improved in 2023. The only problem for them is, they have to come to Beaver Stadium this time.
This is also Penn State’s senior day and it’s hard to see the departing Nittany Lions not go out with a bang.
Expect a little more resistance than Rutgers put up in 2022, but this is another game that should be decided before the fourth quarter.
6. Home vs West Virginia (Week 1)
Penn State will open up the 2023 under the lights at Beaver Stadium against West Virginia, who is coming off a 5-7 season in 2022.
The Mountaineers will come out playing desperate as head coach Neal Brown starts the season on the hot seat, but the talent disparity between these two teams is significant.
West Virginia was one of the worst defenses in the country last year, allowing 32.9 points per game and it lost its best defensive player in defensive lineman Dante Stills.
With this being Drew Allar’s first ever start, maybe West Virginia benefits from some early Penn State jitters, but that won’t last long.
7. Away at Maryland (Week 9)
Penn State Football dominated Maryland 30-0 last season and the Terps arguably got worse in the trenches for 2023.
Yes, this time the game is on the road for the Nittany Lions, but Penn State has dominated Maryland in College Park under James Franklin. Penn State is 3-0 with a 156-17 advantage in points.
Maryland has some nice offensive skill players, led by quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, but the Nittany Lions have held them in check the last two seasons.
The one factor to watch is that this game is the week before Penn State hosts Michigan.
8. Neutral vs Michigan State (Week 12)
Penn State will conclude the regular season on a Friday night against Michigan State at Ford Field in Detroit.
The Spartans are coming off a rough 5-7 season in 2022, but they always seem to play Penn State tough.
There’s a lot of turnover with this Michigan State team on offense, something that may benefit the team considering the offense struggled in 2022.
The fact this is a neutral site game played in doors in November benefits Penn State greatly. Michigan State is a team you have to be on the look out for some trickery, especially if this game decides their bowl fate.
9. Home vs Iowa (Week 4)
Penn State will host Iowa for the annual White Out game this season.
The Hawkeyes went 8-5 last year thanks to an elite defense but also had one of the worst offenses in the country.
Iowa tried to fix that by adding former Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara but kept the same exact coaching staff. The Nittany Lions are out for blood after what happened the last time Penn State traveled to Iowa back in 2021.
There will be a ton of hype around this game, but it’s also a huge early test for Drew Allar going against one of the best defenses in the entire country. Penn State’s defense will have an easier time stopping Iowa’s offense though.
10. Away at Illinois (Week 3)
Drew Allar’s first Big Ten test will come on the road against Illinois in a game that will start at 11 a.m. local time. That sentence alone puts this game in the top three.
Illinois is an improved team that went 8-5 last year thanks to a strong run game and tough defense. Illinois allowed just 3.3 yards per rush last season and return arguably the best defensive tackle duo in the Big Ten in Jer’zhan Newton and Keith Randolph Jr. This means Penn State might have some difficulty running the ball which will lead to Allar having to go win this game.
Allar is certainly talented enough to do it, but this will be his third ever start in a road game against a conference foe. Penn State should win this game but it may be a bit uneasy.
11. Home vs Michigan (Week 10)
Michigan is coming off back to back Big Ten titles and a 41-17 pounding of Penn State last season.
Unfortunately, the Wolverines return a lot of that production, including quarterback JJ McCarthy and the running back duo of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards.
The good news for Penn State is that the Nittany Lions get Michigan at home.
Michigan has struggled in Happy Valley in recent years. Penn State won 42-13 in 2017 and 28-21 in 2019. Michigan won 21-17 in 2021, but that was a banged up Penn State team that had Michigan on the ropes for all four quarters.
Penn State struggles to match up with Michigan’s physicality at times, but this game being at home is a significant swing.
Away vs Ohio State (Week 7)
Penn State Football heads to the Horseshoe this year, a place the Nittany Lions have not won at since 2011.
Ohio State is a better matchup for Penn State than Michigan, but going on the road to Ohio State is no easy task.
The Buckeyes are starting a new quarterback in Kyle McCord, so this will also be his first big-time Big Ten matchup.
The Penn State defense may be able to rattle him and use its elite pass rush to counter Ohio State’s top-notch wide receivers.
Penn State has the personnel to get the job done but a win in Columbus is something you have to see to believe with Franklin’s Nittany Lions at this point. Allar could be the piece Franklin has been missing to pull off the victory though.