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Athlon Analyzes Penn State's Schedule

Penn State will face a lot of challenges in new coach Bill O'Brien's first season at the helm, and Athlon's Braden Gall and Steven Lassan think the non-conference schedule will be one of them.

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Bill O’Brien certainly didn’t walk into the easiest non-conference schedule. Ohio, Virginia, Navy and Temple wouldn’t normally scare too many PSU teams but this isn’t your ordinary Nittany Lion team. Those four teams combined for 32 wins a season ago and the Owls came up four points short of a monumental upset of rival Penn State. If the Lions can emerge from this tough non-conference slate unblemished, fans in State College should be ecstatic.

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"Ecstatic" is probably not the word I'd use. The Temple, Navy and Ohio games are all at home and Penn State hasn't lost to a non-BCS school at home since 2000, when Toledo walked into Beaver Stadium and left with a 24-6 win. If the Nittany Lions drop any of those games, a lot of people will be rightly disappointed.

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The trip to Virginia will be tough, but the Cavaliers were mid-pack defensively last season, allowing 23.8 points per game. There should be a reasonable expectation that the offense can score enough points for a Penn State defense that allowed just 16.8 points allowed last season to win the game.

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Getting out of the non-conference 4-0 would be a good start to the season to be sure, but it's hard to see many Penn State fans getting excited about surviving that intersectional slate.

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Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.