Penn State opens their season on Saturday afternoon against the Idaho Vandals. With all due respect to Paul Petrino's squad, the biggest games of the 2019 campaign will come a bit further into the season. We surveyed our staff to get their thoughts on which matchup they feel is the most important.
Craig Fritz: It's a lot easier to stomach a road loss than a home loss, and Michigan may not lose another game. Penn State needs this head-to-head against the Wolverines more than any other game.
Dan Smith: Ohio State is the only team they are definitively an underdog against heading into the 2019 season. That means how they do against Michigan is going to really define how this season will be viewed. After failing to take care of Ohio State at home in 2018, dropping a home game to Michigan in 2019 would definitively relegate Penn State to the second tier in the Big Ten East.
Nick Polak: With such a loaded away schedule, Penn State needs to do everything in its power to lock down the home slate. The toughest test in that regard will be the Wolverines. Ohio State at the end of the season will be hugely important as well, but only if the Nittany Lions can first take down Michigan in October.
Bill DiFilippo: After how last year's Ohio State game went, you have to defend your home field if you want to be considered among the cream of the crop in the Big Ten. Michigan may win the conference this year, but Penn State could have something to say about that.
Jarrod Prugar: If they can avenge last year’s beat down by Michigan it’ll give them confidence heading into MSU and the rest of the season
Michael Stanley: This will be Sean Clifford's first road game against a good team. If the first-year-starting quarterback can manage to escape Kinnick with a victory, there isn't a game on the schedule that will prove too big for him.
Kevin Fay: It's tough because there are several answers to this but I'll go with the start of a season defining three game stretch against the Hawkeyes. Penn State figures to be favorites in the first five games against lesser opponents. If they can escape Iowa City, it sets up a likely top-10 showdown against the favorites in the East, Michigan, in Beaver Stadium. If they lose, that could be the first of potentially three losses in a row.
Matt de Bear: There isn't a bigger game on the schedule than Michigan at home or a road trip to Ohio State. However, none of those are as important as the season's first real test in Iowa City. The Lions should be 5-0 heading into Kinnick, but none of those first five opponents will test James Franklin's young squad like the Hawkeyes will. A victory sets up a massive second half of the season, starting with the Wolverines the following week. A loss, however, could render late-October and November somewhat irrelevant in the championship picture.
Matt Filipovits: The Ohio State and Michigan are important, but Penn State really should be 3-0 against the Spartans over the past three seasons. A win here shows the staff has really learned from their mistakes and gotten over that hump.
John Morgan: It's been two years of bad games against the Spartans. This is now one they have to win.