UNIVERSITY PARK - There are more questions surrounding the Penn State football program than in any other year.
How can the Nittany Lions make up for the loss of nine transfers after the NCAA handed out its sanctions? Three of those losses are key in tailback Silas Redd, wide receiver Justin Brown and kicker Anthony Fera.
How will a Penn State team coached by Bill O'Brien play? O'Brien coached Tom Brady at New England, but he doesn't have Brady in Happy Valley and he's never been the head coach of a team.
Matt McGloin has been sharing the quarterback duties with Rob Bolden, but Bolden transferred to LSU. How will McGloin play in what could be a passing offense. O'Brien says backup Paul Jones will play this year.
How will the Lions handle the intense emotions within and outside the program? How will they handle the scrutiny on the road? How much will opposing teams attack the depleted secondary?
In a survey of 20 reporters, including a retired one, covering Penn State media day, those questions and others were cited in predicting a season record. The Lions, of course, have been banned from Big Ten championship and bowls.
Eleven picked the Lions to go 7-5, five went with 6-6 and four selected 8-4. For the record, of the four Mirror reporters, two of them picked 7-5. The other two went with 6-6 and 8-4.
The reporters gave reasons to support their picks, which can be read below. Last year, only five correctly picked the Lions to go 9-3 in the regular season.
Philip Cmor, Altoona Mirror - Record: 8-4. Comment: "I think the talent is actually here. I think at the positions where they lost people, there's enough depth to overcome it. I think this coaching staff is good enough, and I have enough confidence in them to maybe pull out the high end of what people will see to be the spectrum with the wins this season.
Cory Giger, Altoona Mirror - Record: 6-6. Comment: My initial prediction was 8-4. But with no proven lead tailback, an inexperienced receiving corps, a new kicker and punter and a questionable secondary that has little depth, it's hard to see more than three wins in the Big Ten. I can see a 3-1 start with a loss at Virginia, but a 3-5 league record will leave the Lions at 6-6.
Todd Irwin, Altoona Mirror - Record: 7-5. Comment: "The transfers of Redd, Brown and Fera are big and will be hard to overcome, but the early-season schedule and the leadership of O'Brien, McGloin and Mauti amid adversity and crushing sanctions will get the Nittany Lions a winning season.
Neil Rudel, Altoona Mirror - Record: 7-5. Comment: I thought this was an 8-4 team before the sanctions. The lack of depth will bring a strong resolve, but I'm not sure it can outweigh offensive question marks and a tough road schedule.
Bill Albright, CentralPASportscenter.com - Record: 7-5. Comment: "One thing about is they're going to play good, hard-nosed football. Just listening to Coach O'Brien for the first time, you can tell he's locked in, and I'm sure he has the players locked in."
Ben Brigandi, Williamsport Sun-Gazette - Record: 7-5. Comment: "I would have thought eight or nine wins would have been possible a couple months ago, but I think they've just lost too much. However, they will be better than a lot of doubters think."
Jon Christoff, The (Clearfield) Progress - Record: 7-5. Comment: "The offense is going to be the biggest question mark with Silas Redd and Justin Brown leaving and a few starters on the offensive line. I think 7-5 would be considered a pretty good season with everything that has been going on."
Guy Cipriano, Centre Daily Times - Record: 8-4. Comment: "I don't think the schedule is very difficult. They don't face a passing offense that was in the top 30 in the nation last year. The weakness defensively is the secondary, but there's not a lot of big-play pass attacks in the Big Ten."
Fran Fisher, retired Penn State radio play-by-play announcer - Record: 7-5. Comment: "As far as the record is concerned, there are a number of circumstances that play into that - not the least of which is the difficulty of the schedule. Those four pre-Big Ten games are anything but cupcakes. I think with the attitude of the squad going into the season and the attitude of the new coaching staff, I think they're going to have a winning year."
Bob Flounders, Harrisburg Patriot-News - Record: 7-5. Comment: "Before all the defections and transfers, I think I picked them to go 7-5, but the loss of Silas Redd is a big deal. I don't think there are many tailbacks in the country that are as good as Silas. He didn't really get a chance to show everything he could do last year in that offense. There's no question the adversity they've had to deal with in the offseason is unprecedented, and I think their leaders have done a really good job keeping the team together."
Phil Grosz, BlueWhite Illustrated - Record: 8-4. Comment: "It's going to be interesting with the loss of Redd and Fera. It's really going to hurt the football team. You get the feeling they might have some problems early on, especially putting points on the scoreboard. If they can find eight wins this season, it's really a positive step forward."
Travis Johnson, Centre Daily Times - Record: 6-6. Comment: "You've got a new coach. You've got a lot of guys who haven't played in skill positions. It's a very weak secondary. Depth overall is going to be a problem for them."
Matt Maisel, WJAC-TV - Record: 7-5. Comment: "I'm torn between 6-6 and 7-5, but ultimately they'll fall into a 7-5 team because I think there's still too much talent left over, especially on the defense, from last year's team. The offense is going to struggle without Silas Redd and Justin Brown, and special teams is going to be an issue without Anthony Fera here."
Walt Moody, Centre Daily Times - Record: 7-5. Comment: "The defense is going to be pretty good, and offensively they've got a lot of holes to fill. I'm interested to see how O'Brien's offense kicks in. It certainly has some potential. The Leaders Division isn't particularly strong of the two divisions, so they may get a little bit of a break."
Chris Morelli, Centre County Gazette - Record: 6-6. Comment: "I think the transfers, the sanctions and everything that they've gone through in the past several months will take their toll. Originally, when I thought they had everybody intact, I was thinking 9-3."
Ron Musselman, StateCollege.com - Record: 7-5. Comment: "I don't think it's going to be a great team by any stretch, but I think there's enough wins there for them to go 7-5."
Rich Scarcella, Reading Eagle - Record: 7-5. Comment: "If injuries happen, and they're bound to happen, I think that's where Penn State will be hurt the most. I think the defense is going to keep them in a lot of games. As O'Brien said, I think the defense is going to be the backbone of the team."
Andy Stine, The (Clearfield) Progress - Record: 8-4. Comment: "Originally, I thought they had a good shot to be very good this year. I was going to say around 9-3 or 10-2 before Brown and Redd left. I still think they're going to have a relatively decent year."
Earl Whitmore, Lebanon Daily News - Record: 6-6. Comment: "It was a joke when Silas Redd said he would improve his academic standing by going to USC. One departure that I think is a bigger loss is Fera. I thought he was sensational, but I can understand he's from Texas and he wanted to get out of this mess. I do think O'Brien is the right guy who can turn them around."
Mark Wogenrich, Allentown Morning Call - Record: 7-5. Comment: "I think emotion will be good for two or three wins and depth will be good for some of the losses."