Five things to look for as No. 9 Penn State kicks off the season - or preseason, if you will - against Akron in the first of three cupcake games.
No. 1: Building blocks
The non-conference schedule is awful, but the first three games against Akron, Syracuse and Temple will allow the Nittany Lions to work on things and get new starters some experience.
The process begins today against a Zips team that should test Penn State's secondary. Senior quarterback Chris Jacquemain has started for two seasons, and he has three senior receivers.
Make no mistake, we're not talking about Sam Bradford or Colt McCoy here, so it's not like Jacquemain will be pulling off a major upset. But he will be in the shotgun a lot, will get rid of the ball quickly and take all the underneath stuff the Lions give him.
Don't be surprised if Akron picks up a number of first downs and has good time of possession. Do be surprised, though, if the Zips find the end zone very often as PSU's defense will tighten up in the red zone.
No. 2: All eyes on O-line
The offensive line almost always seems to be a concern for Penn State - excluding last season - and with three new starters, the unit is a huge question mark.
If the line can't protect quarterback Daryll Clark and he gets injured, the season essentially will be over because the backup is a true freshman, Kevin Newsome. The line can be thankful it has three easy games early to jell.
No. 3: Zips lack balance
Akron may have some success on offense, but its defense could get shredded. The Zips allowed a ton of points last season, and if PSU can avoid first-game jitters, the Lions' offense may explode.
Akron also has no running game, so it will have to be one-dimensional on offense.
No. 4: Breakout player
Look for defensive end Jack Crawford to punish Jacquemain a few times, getting one or two sacks and several knockdowns.
No. 5: Where he belongs
Joe Paterno will be back on the sideline today after a painful hip problem in 2008 forced him up to the press box.
This could be the legendary coach's final shot to make a run for a national championship, so the team must work out all its kinks during the early season blowouts.
Prediction: Penn State 41, Akron 20
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.