Following a 7-6 2015 campaign that featured a five-game winning streak and a four-game losing streak, many Penn State Nittany Lions football fans circled the 2016 Blue & White Game on the calendars back in December.
It will unfold on Saturday, April 16 at Beaver Stadium, and it will begin at or very near 2 PM. Here are four important things to know about the game that gives all in attendance plenty to sink their teeth into and discuss in the months leading up to the 2016 season.
The Team’s Arrival
The official team bus for the 2016 Nittany Lions is scheduled to arrive at the corner of Curtain Road and Porter Road at approximately 12:45 PM. The team will filter into the stadium soon thereafter, making themselves available for autographs from 1:15 to 2PM. It is an excellent opportunity for fans of all ages to connect with the players that they will be seeing and rooting for during high-stakes games broadcast on national television this fall.
The 2016 Blue White Game is going to be one of the most popular to date. The last several years have featured crowds greater than 50,000, and the high-water mark is 70,000. For that many folks to attend what is essentially a spring practice is one of the most impressive off-season feats in all of college football.
The Bell Cow
Penn State has obviously lost quarterback Christian Hackenberg, tight end Kyle Carter, center Angelo Mangiro and a half dozen very talented defensive players as a result of graduation or entrance into the 2015 NFL Draft. This reality will obviously have an impact on the squad. But they return a fierce collection of talented wide receivers and valuable members of the secondary. Oh, there’s also Saquon Barkley.
The Big 10 Freshman of the Year in 2015 will be returning with more experience, and a bit more size and strength. The 5′ 11″ 220-pound running back out of The Bronx is headed for big things at the pro level.
For the next few years, he will be showing off his talents on the gridiron in Happy Valley. His 1,076-yard freshman year put him alongside some of the greats in college football history. He put the ball across the goal line a total of eight times last year. Amazingly, both of these totals are expected to increase in 2016.
Walking a Thin Offensive Line
The offensive line gave up nearly 100 sacks over the last two seasons, a number that simply has to decrease if the Many Lines are going to compete for late-December and early-January bowl games.
Whoever ends up going under center will likely be a much more mobile athlete then was Hackenberg, which will make the offense more kinetic and less likely to build rust on any given drive. The squad lost only one of their five starters on the offensive line to graduation.
The defensive line will need to be rebuilt quickly by head coach James Franklin after the departure of defensive tackles Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel. Solace can be found in the fact that the defensive line positions have been recruited heavily since the arrival of the current coach on campus.
Quick 2016 Outlook
The 2016 Penn State regular season schedule begins with a September 3 showdown against Kent State, and immediately moves to the large stage of Heinz Field the following weekend, where they will square off against the Pittsburgh Panthers.
The Nittany Lions will travel to The Big House on September 24 to take on a resurgent Michigan Wolverines squad, but they will square off against OSU, Iowa and MSU in the comfort of Beaver Stadium in the following weeks and months.