PSU 2018 season predictions

UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State will be without running back and kick returner Saquon Barkley, who was selected by the New York Giants with the second pick in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Coach James Franklin will have to fill the entire secondary after the departure of Marcus Allen, Troy Apke, Christian Campbell and Grant Haley, all of whom are trying to make the roster of NFL teams.

How will the defense perform this season?

Is the offensive line any better than it was last season?

How will the Lions make up for the loss of Mike Gesicki? The tight end is having a big preseason with the Miami Dolphins.

Who will be the kicker after the departure of Tyler Davis?

How will the Nittany Lions do against a rugged schedule, which includes home games against Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin?

How many more bruises will Franklin sustain from playing paintball?

All of those questions are factors when predicting how the Lions will do this season.

The Mirror asked 16 media members at Saturday’s Penn State media day for their predictions, and they were split exactly between 9-3 and 10-2. The Lions went 10-2 during the regular season in 2017, and they finished 11-2.

They were all asked to give a comment to back up their picks, which you will see below. Many said that the Sept. 29 game with Ohio State is a huge game. Some said fans should be wary of the Nov. 3 game at Michigan, which will be followed by the home game against the Badgers.

Cory Giger, Altoona Mirror: 10-2. Comment: “I have major concerns about the defense, particularly the linebackers, and the Lions will give up a lot of points. But look for Trace McSorley and the offense to bail them out by scoring a bunch.”

Todd Irwin, Altoona Mirror: 10-2. Comment: “The elephant in the room is the departure of Saquon Barkley, who made up for an average line with spectacular runs. His kick returns will also be missed. Trace McSorley should have an outstanding year, though.”

Neil Rudel, Altoona Mirror: 10-2. Comment: “This is McSorley’s team now, and all he’s done is win big. There are holes to fill, but it looks like the recruiting has done that.”

Frank Bodani, York Daily Record: 10-2. Comment: “I think they’ll be better on their lines. It’s a tough division, and three or four games could decide it all.”

Mark Brennan, FightOnState.com: 10-2. Comment: “The things that I think are really working in Penn State’s favor are the fact that in this unbalanced schedule, they get five Big Ten games at home. That’s always big. They obviously haven’t lost at home in a couple of years, but they also play the best teams from both divisions. I’m talking about Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan on the road, Iowa and Wisconsin. I think it’s going to be a good year, but I think they’re going to get clipped a couple times.”

Jed Donahue, PASportsNetwork: 9-3. Comment: “I’ll go 9-3 with close losses simply because I think their schedule is that good. I think going to Michigan is really brutal. They have to go back to Wisconsin. I think Pitt is really slippery, and I think they can go 11-1.”

Bob Flounders, pennlive.com: 9-3. Comment: “The losses of Barkley and DaeSean Hamilton and especially Mike Gesicki are big. That schedule really jumps out at me. I think it’s their toughest schedule since (James Franklin) has been here. I’m not sure their toughest game will be Ohio State. To play at Michigan is going to be super tough, and I really like Wisconsin. I think they have the kind of style that can travel anywhere. The things that Penn State has going for them is they’re so much faster on defense, and I think the defense could be better than it was last year. I do think that it’s great that they’re finally going to cash the best insurance policy in college football — they’re going to play Tommy Stevens in multi-rolls.”

Gordie Jones, Freelance writer and reporter: 9-3. Comment: “I think they’ll go 9-3 because of all the holes they have to fill. They lost a lot of production on offense, and they lost the middle of their defense.”

Joe Juliano, Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News: 9-3. Comment: “I think the schedule is really tough. I think they’ll go 2-1 against the teams in their division — Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. I think they have some question marks. I think the teams they’ll lose to are a little too experienced, but you never know.”

Josh Moyer, Centre Daily Times: 9-3. Comment: “I just feel like there are a lot of questions with Penn State, and some of the team leaders from before aren’t here. The Big Ten is better. Michigan State is improved. Penn State plays Wisconsin, and those are some tough games.”

Greg Pickel, pennlive.com: 9-3. Comment: “I think this group is talented enough to perform better, but some inexperience at a few key spots will cost them a game here or there, and the road trip to Michigan should pose a stiff challenge. A good building year setting up Franklin’s best Penn State team for a big run in 2019.”

Pat Principie, WGAL-TV: 10-2. Comment: “I’m going between 9-3 and 10-2 because even though they have a lot of holes to fill, I think they have enough talent now to fill some of those holes. Their schedule is tough this year, but they do play big games at home.”

Rich Scarcella, Reading Eagle: 9-3. Comment: “I think the offense is going to have to carry the load. I think there are going to be a lot of shootouts. I think the defense will be good, and I think it’s really talented. That might change with the addition of Manny Bowen. If Manny Bowen sees a significant amount of action, I might change to 10-2. There’s so much youth and inexperience on defense, which would concern me.”

Audrey Snyder, The Athletic: 9-3. Comment: “I’m on the fence between a nine-win team and a 10-win team. I’m going to go with nine for the sole fact of the defense right now. That’s where the questions are, of course, and it’s a really, really tough schedule.”

Peter Terpstra, WTAJ-TV: 10-2. Comment: “I think they roll through the first four. Ohio State is going to be a massive game, and I think they’ll beat Ohio State. I think by that time of the season the defense is going to have things figured out. Your biggest chance for a letdown is Michigan State on homecoming. I think they’ll lose to Wisconsin, as well.

Mark Wogenrich, Allentown Morning Call: 10-2. Comment: “I like the home schedule for the hard games, but they have four top 15 teams in the first seven weeks. There’s two losses just kind of built in. They could go 11-1 on the outside.”