Most Team Sacks In A Single College Football Game #26 Penn St. Nittany Lions Preview

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#26 Penn St. Nittany Lions Preview

Spring practices are in the books and fall camps will be here before you know it, so that means an early jump on the 2006 NCAA football season. Knowing the teams now will save you time in August, and Matt Fargo is here to help you figure out what to expect next year. We go from worst to first in this 2006 college football preview.

#26 – Penn St. Nittany Lions 11-1 SU; 8-4 ATS

Fargo’s last second touchdown was for the Nittany Lions against Michigan and the 2005 undefeated season. However, Penn St. would have been 12-0 and a shot at the national championship, but that would have meant three undefeated teams, and we all know the problems that could have caused, maybe that was for the best. The Nittany Lions will be hard pressed to match last season’s performance, but they have enough to make it to the Big Ten title. Replacing Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Michael Robinson in the midfield will be tough, but Anthony Morelli has the tools to be a special player. The defense will have to replace much of the front four and the entire secondary, but Penn St. has the best running back corps not only in the conference, but in the entire country. Disappointment from last season shouldn’t happen as the Nittany Lions are back for good.

Returning starters on offense – 5 Morelli doesn’t have much experience, but his stock is high and his spring performance gives the team a lot of optimism heading into the season. Unlike Robinson, he is a pure passer, so the rush element is gone from the position, but the passing game should improve significantly. The biggest concern for the offense is replacing four starters on the line, but there is a good track record. Tony Hunt returns after rushing for 1,047 yards last season, and his performance will be key early on. The top four receivers return, including the top three wideouts led by sophomore Derrick Williams, who could have a breakout campaign. The Nittany Lions are 13th in scoring offense at 34.4 ppg, and matching that average will be difficult, but if Morelli can learn quickly, it’s possible.

Returning starters on defense – 4 Penn St. had one of the best defenses in the country last season, ranking 12th in total defense and 10th in scoring defense. Many key players will have to be replaced, but returning linebackers Paul Posluszny, the 2005 Butkus winner, Dan Connor and Tim Shaw make up the nation’s best middle linebacker. They will have to withdraw the unit until the rest of the defense is assembled. The defensive line returns just one starter, but seniors Jim Shaw and Ed Johnson will make an immediate impact. Although the secondary will have to replace everyone, the cornerbacks have great potential, led by super-sophomore Justin King, last season’s top defensive recruit. Safety positions are controlled by two adults. Creating a pass rush will be key for the entire unit, and if they can even come close to last year’s 41 sacks, big things could happen again.

Schedule The schedule doesn’t look good to a quick start, with trips to Notre Dame and Ohio St., two of the top teams in the nation by many, coming in two of the first four weeks. The other two games in the stretch are easy home contests against Akron and Youngstown St., while the fourth and final non-conference game is at the end of the season against Temple. The Nittany Lions will host Northwestern before heading back home to Minnesota and getting a chance to get some payback against Michigan. The rest of the Big Ten schedule isn’t difficult, with the two toughest matchups at Purdue and Wisconsin. Indiana and Iowa are off the table for the second straight season. Another problem is that Penn St. has to play all 12 games without a bye week in the mix.

You can bet on … Penn St. fans are hoping that 2003 doesn’t happen again. After a highly successful 2002 campaign, the Nittany Lions slumped, winning just three games the following season, raising questions about whether it was time for head coach Joe Paterno to hang up. He certainly shut down the conversation last year, but another drop could mean the end is near. The Nittany Lions went 3-0 last season against the number as underdogs and 16-10 ATS in that role since 2001. Two opportunities to use it early against Notre Dame and Ohio St. Penn St. But as a road team is 0-8 against the number in the last eight meetings between the two.

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