Lions face new Big Ten season

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Saturday -- vs. Syracuse (at East Rutherford, N.J.)

Penn State's 0-2 start hurt in 2012. The Nittany Lions would do well to open by beating a team that was 8-5 a year ago.

Sept. 7 -- vs. Eastern Michigan

The easiest game. Eastern Michigan hasn't won more than six games since 1989. Attendance at Beaver Stadium will be more interesting than the result.

Sept. 14 -- vs. Central Florida

Bill O'Brien faces one of his mentors, coach George O'Leary. UCF was 10-4 last year.

Sept. 21 -- vs. Kent State

Another MAC team will hope for the upset Ohio University forged against Penn State last year. Kent was 11-3 last year but has a new coach.

Oct. 5 -- at Indiana

Indiana coach Kevin Wilson's offense supposedly is ready for a bowl this year. This game will be a litmus test for both teams.

Oct. 12 -- vs. Michigan

This game is Penn State's first opportunity for a significant victory. Michigan officially moves on from the Denard Robinson era, with QB Devin Gardner. The Wolverines' front seven gives them one of the best Big Ten defenses.

Oct. 26 -- at Ohio State

The toughest game on Penn State's schedule. Can Penn State contain QB Braxton Miller this year?

Nov. 2 -- vs. Illinois

No Illinois assistant coaches came to University Park -- for transfers -- this summer (at least not that we know of), but Penn State should be able to level another pounding on the Illini this season.

Nov. 9 -- at Minnesota

It's a make-or-break year for Minnesota coach Jerry Kill. Defensive consistency is necessary if Minnesota wants to beat Penn State or any above-average Big Ten team.

Nov. 16 -- vs. Purdue

Purdue has a new coach in Darrell Hazell. He will be helped by a veteran offensive line and secondary, but a good finish in the Big Ten will be elusive.

Nov. 23 -- vs. Nebraska

Penn State should be extra-motivated after losing to Nebraska last year, partially because of questionable decisions by officials.

Nov. 30 -- at Wisconsin

Will this be a sequel to the thrilling overtime classic last season? Wisconsin has a new coach in Gary Andersen and lost star running back Montee Ball.

1CAN THE OFFENSE FIND PLAYMAKERS?

The Panthers enter the 2013 season with no shortage of uncertainty on offensive, especially at the skill positions. Quarterback Tom Savage hasn't played a competitive snap since 2010, presumed starting running back Rushel Shell left in spring practice and later transferred and the Panthers return virtually no experienced receivers behind redshirt senior Devin Street.

Junior Isaac Bennett will take over at running back, but Pitt also will rely on freshman James Conner to pick up some carries. Former Clairton star Tyler Boyd appears to have won the second receiver job and the Panthers will have to hope the freshman can be a game-changer at the college level right away, especially with Street likely drawing the focus from most defenses.

Street made the jump to being a big-time playmaker last year with 73 catches for 975 yards and five touchdowns, but Pitt will need someone else on offense to make a similar jump and provide a complementary weapon.

psusports


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