After a disappointing 2020 season, Penn State is looking forward to shrugging it aside and prove itself once again in 2021. The schedule presents plenty of worthy challenges for the Nittany Lions for head coach James Franklin to navigate through.
How Penn State will perform remains one of the biggest questions in the Big Ten. After going to three New Years Six bowl games and winning two in the previous four seasons, life threw Penn State a screwball in 2020 that has many wondering just what to expect from Penn State in 2021. Is this a team that bounces back in a big way, or will the Nittany Lions struggle their way through one of the more challenging schedules of the Franklin era?
So let’s take a stroll through the 2021 Penn State football schedule and see how things will go.
Sept. 4 at Wisconsin
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Prediction: Penn State wins Penn Stater opens the 2021 season with one of its biggest challenges of the season. And although the Nittany Lions appear to be starting the year off as an underdog, a rarity for the program, Penn State has a lot to look forward to as a team on offense and defense. Getting out of Madison with a win will not be easy, but it is absolutely not impossible to believe could happen. A strong second half will help the Nittany Lions pick up a major victory in the season opener to set the tone for the rest of the season.
Sept. 1 vs. Ball State
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Prediction: Penn State wins Penn State's home opener will be played against a solid MAC program with Ball State coming into Beaver Stadium. Expect a decent fight from the Cardinals for a while, but Penn State's advantages in talent and depth will eventually lead Penn State to pull away for a win.
Sept. 18 vs. Auburn
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Prediction: Penn State wins Perhaps one of the most anticipated non-conference matchups in decades, Penn State will roll out the full whiteout treatment in Week 3 when the Auburn Tigers come to Happy Valley for the first time. Auburn brings an incredible running game to the field that could pose problems for the defensive line, but Penn State will take advantage of the home field and improve to 3-0.
Sept. 25 vs. Villanova
Photo: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Prediction: Penn State wins Penn State is actually looking to snap a three-game losing streak to Villanova, and the decades-long wait will easily result in a win. Villanova may go on to have a successful season in the FCS, but they will be no match for Penn State. Penn State wraps up an undefeated September heading into a key stretch of the season.
Oct. 2 vs. Indiana
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Prediction: Penn State wins If you don't think the home game against Indiana isn't circled on Penn State's calendar, think again. After losing to the Hoosiers in a controversial fashion last season, an ominous sign of unfortunate things to come for the Nittany Lions in 2020, Penn State will look forward to getting revenge with a vengeance against the Hoosiers. It won't come easily, but Penn State will get by Indiana this time, and it won't come down to a final play either.
Oct. 9 at Iowa
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Prediction: Iowa wins Penn State's undefeated season will be put to the test in Kinnick Stadium against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa roughed up the Nittany Lions last season in Beaver Stadium during Penn State's dismal start to the season. Penn State will put up a better fight this time, but this is most likely to trip Penn State up just enough.
Oct. 23 vs. Illinois
Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
Prediction: Penn State wins After getting a bye week to recoup from the game against Iowa, Penn State should have an easier game at home against Illinois. The Illini may have a new energy under head coach Bret Bielema, but Penn State has too many advantages in their favor to lose this one.
Oct. 30 vs. Ohio State
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch-USA TODAY NETWORK
Prediction: Ohio State wins Playing Ohio State is never easy. Playing the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium is even more difficult. The gap between the two programs has grown a little bit on an annual basis since Penn State's Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley run, but the Nittany Lions will at least keep things respectable. In the end, Ohio State just has too many playmakers to contend with, and one mistake could cost Penn State.
Nov. 6 at Maryland
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Prediction: Penn State wins Another revenge situation for Penn State, which is a rarity against Maryland. But history suggests Penn State will have an excellent chance to pick up a win against the Terps in College Park. The biggest concern is playing a road game after a battle with Ohio State. What's the mindset like for this game? Could it be an ugly performance? Possibly. But Penn State should have a good chance to get out of here with the win as they have done so many times south of the Mason-Dixon Line over the years.
Nov. 13 vs. Michigan
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Prediction: Penn State wins Penn State looks to make it three wins in a row over the Michigan Wolverines. Penn State is also looking for a third-striaght win at home against Michigan dating back to 2017. Penn State is 4-1 against Michigan in games played in Beaver Stadium since 2008.
Nov. 20 vs. Rutgers
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Prediction: Penn State wins Penn State hasn't exactly blown the doors off of Rutgers in their recent late-season meetings, but the Nittany Lions haven't had a close call against the Scarlet Knights since their first Big Ten clash in 2014. Mark this one down as a win.
Nov. 27 at Michigan State
Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
Prediction: Penn State wins Not much is being expected of Michigan State this season, but a road trip to East Lansing in the final week of the season isn't exactly something to take for granted. But considering Penn State could be on the verge of a potential spot in a New Years Six bowl game and the Spartans could just be ready to hit the offseason, this goes down as a win for the Nittany Lions. Follow Nittany Lions Wire on Twitter and like us on Facebook for continuing Penn State coverage and discussion.