Penn State Football 2022 Season Prediction, Preview, Awards, Bowl Game 2022

After a disappointing football season at Penn State a year ago, James Franklin should be eyeing a big rebound for the Nittany Lions.

James Franklin has seen his star wane among Penn State football fans over the past two years as results at Happy Valley did not live up to expectations. However, there were difficult circumstances to deal with that inspire optimism for what’s to come for the Nittany Lions and that Franklin can get things back on track.

Will we see that in the 2022 season? There’s reason to believe Penn State football will make waves again in the Big Ten.

Come in at number 23 in our Fanpage Top 50 of the Preseason College Football Rankings, the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Penn State Football 2021 Season Recap

It was actually a modest improvement last season from the COVID-altered 2020 campaign, but Penn State still struggled to find the success that led to Franklin being commended for his work with the Nittany Lions.

A 5-0 start with victories over then-leaders Wisconsin and Auburn seemed to indicate things were back on track in the 2021 season, but then the wheels started to fall off, whether from injuries or general ineffectiveness. The Nittany Lions have lost five of their last seven regular season games, including an ugly loss to Illinois and narrow losses to top teams on the schedule, Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State.

That was still good enough to get the team into the Outback Bowl, but they ended the year with a 24-10 loss to Arkansas. All told, Penn State finished with a 7-6 record and just a 4-5 mark in the Big Ten. That’s the bare minimum Franklin and his team are trying to overcome in the 2022 season.

Penn State Nittany Lions offensive preview for the 2022 season

  • Returners (7): QB Sean Clifford, RB Keyvone Lee, WR Parker Washington, WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith, TE Brenton Strange, RT Caeden Wallace, OC Juice Scruggs
  • Notable newcomers: WR Mitchell Tinsley (Western Kentucky), WR Kaden Saunders (Rookie), WR Omari Evans (Rookie), RB Nicholas Singleton (Rookie), OG Hunter Nourzad (Cornell)
  • striker: Keyvone Lee

There is a combination of experience and question marks in this offense, but at the same time there is hope.

Sean Clifford is returning as starting quarterback for what feels like his ninth year, and much is being laid on his shoulders, particularly with the departure of his leading receiver Jahan Dotson and versatile running back Noah Cain. The good news is that Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith were productive and, along with newcomer Mitchell Tinsley, who has impressed this offseason, helped the passing game not miss a beat.

While there’s a revolving door of talented running backs on the roster, Keyvone Lee is key. He should be given a full workload, and the inconsistency of Penn State’s rushing offense has been most notable over the past two mediocre seasons. Lee being “the guy” might help ease that.

However, the core of this offense will be an offensive line that only returns two starters and has some real questions. There’s not a lot of experience among the players slipping into the other starting roles, and the lineup wasn’t that impressive last year. Clifford and Lee’s jobs are made significantly more difficult when things don’t add up there at fall camp.

Penn State Nittany Lions defense preview for the 2022 season

  • Returners (5): DE Nick Tarburton, DT PJ Mustipher, LB Curtis Jacobs, CB Joey Porter Jr., S Ji’Ayir Brown
  • Notable newcomers: DE Chop Robinson (Maryland), DE Dani Dennis-Sutton (rookie)
  • striker: Joey Porter Jr.

There’s far less experience defending Penn State for the 2022 season than there is on offense, and yet I’m higher on this side of the ball than usual.

Joey Porter Jr. is a true cornerback star coming into his junior campaign, and he’s joined by the team’s leading returning tackler Safety Ji’Aiyir Brown in the secondary. Even on some other exits, the lead these two should provide gives them a strong baseline to count on as that side of the ball undergoes a coaching change after Brent Pry left for Blacksburg.

Curtis Jacobs is an extremely capable linebacker, but the bigger question is all around him. Penn State loses Ellis Brooks and Brandon Smith, the team’s lead tacklers at Linebacker a year ago, and has to fill those gaps.

But the biggest question, apart from none, is the defensive front. This has been an often injured and troubled group overall in 2021, and they are now losing their lead sacker, Arnold Ebiketie, to the NFL. There is hope that Chop Robinson, who started every game for Maryland a season ago, and 5-star freshman Dani Dennis-Sutton will join the rotation and make a splash. But without that, Nick Tarburton gets a lot pounded on the plate.

Penn State Football Players Awards clock for the 2022 season

Parker Washington and Mitchell Tinsley, Biletnikoff

Penn State veteran Parker Washington is joined by Western Kentucky transfer Mitchell Tinsley on the watch list for college football’s top receiver, but both should have plenty of chances to establish themselves as the nation’s top wideout.

Joey Porter Jr. and Ji’Ayir Brown, Jim Thorpe

The two high school veterans are returning to a lot of hype and rightly so. Despite being different player types, with Porter Jr. being more of a traditional cover man and Brown being more of a downhill tackle, this is a fine duo who should get much-deserved love this season.

Sean Clifford, Maxwell/Davey O’Brien

In my opinion it will take a huge leap from Clifford if he really wants to fight for one of these awards. That being said, his experience combined with his recovery gives some hope that he can be better in these races and possibly make some noise.

Biggest Penn State football game on schedule for 2022

There could be strong arguments that Thursday night’s Sept. 1 season opener against Purdue is crucial to setting a tone for the Nittany Lions, so this is the team’s most important game, but I’m looking a little further down the line.

The Purdue game is going to be tricky, but worst-case scenario, in my estimation, Penn State sits 4-1 in their bye week and then in a trip to play Michigan in the Big House. I don’t think that’s a win in any way, so that’s a worst-case scenario 4-2 start before welcoming Minnesota to the Happy Valley homecoming.

PJ Fleck’s team seems to be quite a nuisance this season, and that’s exactly where the wheels fell off for Penn State in 2021. Losses started to pile up after their loss to Iowa at the same time they are playing Michigan. So the Oct. 22 matchup with the Golden Gophers is crucial against a good team — sandwiched between Michigan and Ohio State no less — that will really set the tone for the end of this season.

Penn State Football best case scenario

Is it in the cards that the Nittany Lions could actually win double-digit games this season alone after going 11-11 the last two seasons combined? Actually it seems quite possible.

Because as much as Penn State at its best can test the forces of the Big Ten, I don’t think being in the same stratosphere as Ohio State and Michigan playing in Ann Arbor all but eliminates the chance of an upset in this game. But after those two losses, Penn State has the experience and potential going into the 2022 season not to lose again in conference or otherwise.

Going through with it would be the best scenario and leave Penn State at 10-2 for the year.

Worst case scenario of Penn State football

But let’s say the offensive line is stuck, defense is struggling to replace production at the linebacker and get a consistent push forward, and Sean Clifford is stagnant. Then we have some problems.

Should things develop this way and the sour feelings of 2021 continue, there’s a chance they could lose to Purdue early in the season. Two weeks later, while I don’t believe Auburn excessively, that’s a loseable game down the road. Throw in the usual losses to Ohio State and Michigan, and add in a five-loss tally to Michigan State in the season finale. And when things go this bad, a resurgent Maryland team could cause some trouble.

The worst-case scenario looks like a 6-6 season for the Nittany Lions. It could be worse, of course, but that’s not the step forward Franklin wants to take after the past two campaigns.

Penn State Football Season 2022 Prediction

When it comes to things, I don’t see the worst-case scenario as likely. The fact that the Nittany Lions can build up a quick attack more than they have in recent seasons while also anticipating increases in defensive performance and playmaking makes me feel far more optimistic than the worst-case scenario.

Losses to Ohio State and Michigan remain, and my gut tells me this team will lose to either Purdue, Michigan State, or even Maryland in a rush. Still, after winning just 11 games together over the past two years, I was able to secure one 9-3 regular season having the chance to go ahead and hit 10 wins with her bowl game is the rebound Franklin is looking for.

Penn State Football 2022 Bowl Game Prediction

That College Football News Bowl projections after Spring Make the Nittany Lions and Franklin wish they had a turkey sandwich as they will be surrounded by Duke’s Mayo in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. Penn State is expected to face the Miami Hurricanes.

Next: No. 22: Kentucky

Other articles in this series:

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John Verrall

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