Penn State has reached the midway point of its season and has a bye week before No. 2 Ohio State comes to Beaver Stadium for a Saturday night showdown Oct. 22. It’s a good time to take stock of what has transpired for the Nittany Lions (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) and what might lie ahead.
It’s been a wild, unpredictable first half of the 2016 season for Penn State. And yet the Nittany Lions are exactly where the majority of people would have expected at the midway point of the season.
Those statements can both be true, and are. The first half of the season featured two exciting finishes, an embarrassment by a national power, a siege of injuries at perhaps Penn State’s most vulnerable position, constant chatter about the state of the program and coach James Franklin’s future, and two straight wins before the bye week to ease some of the consternation. At least for now.
|BY THE NUMBERS||2016||Big Ten rank||NCAA rank|
|Total yards allowed/game||381.5||10th||55th|
|S&P+ offense rating||34.2||4th||39th|
|S&P+ defense rating||20.5||4th||14th|
|S&P+ special teams rating||1.3||3rd||12th|
Penn State began the season with two new coordinators, a new quarterback and an almost entirely new defensive line. By Week 3, the Nittany Lions had an entirely new linebacker corps as well.
Evaluating the first six games of the season for the Nittany Lions is tricky. Penn State’s performance has fluctuated, even from quarter-to-quarter, let alone game-to-game. The Kent State game was closer than the final score. The Temple game was the opposite. The Michigan game was exactly what what the final scoreboard said it was.
Penn State in the first half against Pitt and Minnesota looked like a three- or four-win team. The team in the second half of both of those games could probably beat everyone but Michigan and Ohio State on its schedule.
Assuming the Nittany Lions lose to Ohio State (just being competitive would be progress after the trip to Ann Arbor) and beat Purdue and Rutgers, the ultimate success of this season will be determined by three games. They are home games against Iowa and Michigan State, two teams that have not met preseason expectations, and a trip to Indiana, which looks like an improved outfit from 2015.
OVERALL GRADE: B-minus
Check out the grades for other aspects of Penn State’s 2016 season: