For Penn State Football, life in the Big Ten East division is a challenge every season.
The division is considered by many college football experts as the second-toughest behind the SEC West. Pair that with an SEC opponent on the non-conference schedule, and a tough crossover slate could be the difference between 7-5 and 11-1 for the Nittany Lions, as we saw during the 2021 season.
Here are 3 games that will define the direction of the 2022 Penn State Football season.
9/1/22 @ Purdue
After finishing 7-6 last season there will be a lot of pressure on Penn State Football to start fast in 2022.
While the Boilermakers historically aren’t a dominant football program, Jeff Brohm has the team heading in the right direction and they are poised for a big year in the Big 10 West.
Starting on the road during the school’s first blackout game since Ohio State in 2018 will be a tough task.
It is not out of the question that Purdue could be the west’s representative in the Big 10 Championship game come December.
The Nittany Lions currently sit two spots out of the coaches poll and four out of the AP poll. A win over a solid Purdue team could catapult them into the rankings. A loss would amp up the pressure on James Franklin and company to figure it out quickly with a tough road game at Auburn lurking 2 weeks later. A big component of successful James Franklin teams in the past has been the ability to start fast. This game will show the public whether Penn State can return to the 2016-19 form or if they are still the same team, as we have seen the last 2 seasons.
9/17/22 @ Auburn
Anytime that you get to play an SEC team in the non conference it is instantly a measuring stick game, not just for your team but also the entire conference.
While Auburn may not be as strong as in past seasons, a game on national television in Jordan-Hare stadium will be a tough task.
If the Nittany Lions can defeat Purdue in Week 1, there is a good chance that they are ranked heading into this game.
Auburn will also be the last major test until Michigan, and if Penn State can get the road win have a real possibility of being 5-0 heading to the Big House in October.
Winning against an SEC team will not only give the Nittany Lions momentum, but also confidence that they are a good team and proven to win in a tough environment.
This game will help dictate whether the Nittany Lions are a 7-5 or 8-4 team versus a competitor in the Big 10 East.
10/29/22 vs. Ohio State
The Buckeyes are always the biggest game on Penn State Football’s schedule every season.
While this year’s edition will most likely be a noon kickoff (you can thank Fox for that), it will still be a great opportunity for the Nittany Lions.
There are a few scenarios heading into this game … one could be that Penn State Football is 7-0, or possibly 6-1 with a loss at Michigan, and both teams are highly ranked. This game then becomes a chance for Penn State to stake their claim in the Big 10 East title race. Another scenario could be if the Nittany Lions are stumbling into this game with a possible 3-4 or 4-3 record in which a win over Ohio State could help turn the season around and get things back on track.
Franklin’s teams have always found a way to play the Buckeyes tough, even though there is a rather large disparity in talent regarding recruiting rankings but have only managed 1 win since 2014.
However, if Penn State Football ever wants to close the recruiting gaps between themselves and Ohio State, they will need to start beating them at least a 50% clip.
The consequences this game carries for this season, and future battles on the recruiting trail, are immense.