Roar Lions Roundtable: Hypothetical Over/Unders for the 2020 Penn State Season (Part 1)

By Matthew Filipovits on March 19, 2020 at 8:30 am
Oct 5, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Noah Cain (21) carries the ball against Purdue Boilermakers safety Navon Mosley (27) during the fourth quarter at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports
© John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

We're still a long way away from college football's return, but it's never too early to speculate. In today's group-think, our staff sat down and placed their bets on some hypothetical over/unders for the 2020 season.

O/U 3200 Passing Yards for Sean Clifford

Nick Polak: Under, but only barely. It's not that I don't think he can't reach this mark, but Penn State's stable of running backs is ridiculous and the offensive line should be improved. Especially in year one of the new offense, they would be wise to lean on the running game. I do think Cliff eclipses 3K, however.

Nate Wilmot: Under - Since 2013, Ciarocca-led offenses have reached this mark three times and Penn State only twice (2016 and 2017). The running backs will be the focal points of the offense and will keep passing to about 3000 yards.

Dan Smith: Under - He could get close, but their roster construction will dictate more focus on the running game. This says more about the receivers than it does about Clifford.

John Morgan: Under. With an adjustment to a new OC and a prolific running game, I am choosing the under. I think it'll be close, but feel that he'll have enough weapons on the ground and come up short.

Matt de Bear: Under. This isn't so much an indictment of Clifford, as it is an acknowledgment of Penn State's depth at running back. If things go the way we all hope, the Lions will win games on the legs of those guys, rather than Clifford's arm.

Jarrod Prugar: Under. Clifford is going to struggle with finding consistency from receivers early with Hamler heading to the league. How they respond to the new OC and the start of Big Ten play will be huge as they gain traction through the season.

O/U 1.5 return Touchdowns

Nick Polak: Under. I refuse to believe that Penn State can get return touchdowns via someone not named Saquon Barkley until I see them, plain and simple.

Nate Wilmot: Under - No KJ or Saquon makes me question who the guy will be. Under is the safe bet on uncertainty.

Dan Smith: Under - There just aren't many cracks at it in the kicking game, and without Hamler, the punt return game will likely be limited. Plus, they seem to get a penalty anytime anyone takes one back anymore.

John Morgan: Under. Two is a lot so I'm going to take the safer option here. Now if Parsons is returning kicks, I'd possibly reconsider.

Matt de Bear: Under. Needed rules changes have rendered kickoffs practically irrelevant, so don't expect any there. Penn State has talent in the punt return game, but two seems a bit much.

Jarrod Prugar: Over. Need me some Micah Parsons tuddies. This is the year the return game hits its stride and in a big way.

O/U 4.5 Different Linebackers Starting at least one Game

Nick Polak: Over. I think Parsons, Luketa, and Brooks will be the opening day starters, but I do think that Brandon Smith has a shot to start by the end of the season. Aside from that, it's unfortunately likely that at SOME point along the way, one of those three won't be able to start a game for whatever reason. Hence, starter number five.

Nate Wilmot: Over - There is LOTS of talent here but who’s going to play? Micah is the only proven commodity. I think we mix and match starters beyond No. 11 in the early part of the season.

Dan Smith: Under - Four seems like the right number. Brandon Smith and Jesse Luketa both have the ability to play in the middle, which means they probably have the same "next man up" plan for any single injury situation.

John Morgan: Over. With Cam Brown and Jan Johnson gone, I think they'll plug and play a little early in the year and hit the over.

Matt de Bear: Over. As much as we want it to not happen, injuries are going to happen. The good news for Penn State at linebacker is it can probably go five deep at linebacker. Micah Parsons, Ellis Brooks, Jesse Luketa, Lance Dixon, Brandon Smith, and even freshman Curtis Jacobs all have a chance to make an impact, and I'm betting at some point five of them get a start.

Jarrod Prugar: Over. The linebacking core is deep and athletic which bodes well for them this season. With that said, injuries are going to happen and they’ll need some guys to step up.

O/U 100 carries for the No. 2 back

Nick Polak: Under. I think it will be very easy to justify why Noah Cain (my presumed No. 2 back) SHOULD have over 100 carries, but I think Journey Brown is going to have an absurd fall. So for me, it will be more of Brown taking control of the backfield with dominant play than Cain not earning carries.

Nate Wilmot: Over - Over hits with 6.7 carries across a 15 game season. Easy win.

Dan Smith: Under - While I do think they'll still rotate, the combination of Journey Brown settling in as the starter and alternating between Noah Cain and Devyn Ford at No. 2 means that neither back eclipses 100 carries.

John Morgan: Over. Assuming Journey Brown is over 100, I could see Noah Cain getting there as well. Without injury, he would've been over that total last year, I would imagine.

Matt de Bear: Under. Journey Brown is going to get the bulk of the carriers, but Devyn Ford and Noah Cain are going to see plenty of action as well. Those two, plus at least one of Caziah Holmes and Keyvone Lee will have something to say too. The depth of talent will keep that number for whoever is number two under 100.

Jarrod Prugar: Over. The number two running back is going to be similar to a 1B should it be Brown at feature back. Cain will get his carries and hopefully, it’s quite a few of them.

O/U 750 Receiving Yards for Pat Freiermuth

Nick Polak: Over. For all the talk of how Ciarrocca's offenses have never featured tight ends, he's never had one like Freiermuth. When you watch how Minnesota's offense functioned last year, it's not hard to see how the star tight end could fit right in amidst the crossing patterns and mismatches.

Nate Wilmot: Cautiously Over - PF is the one proven pass catcher we have. He will have many targets.

Dan Smith: Over - They're going to force the ball to him, and not a whole lot of teams out there have the personnel to prevent it from happening. More two tight end sets and running backs going out for passes will lead to more looks for Freiermuth, as there will be plenty of mismatches.

John Morgan: Under. This one is tricky because he only had 507 this past season. With a new OC and the attention of defenses, 750 is a big number and I think he too will fall short.

Matt de Bear: Over. Kirk Ciarrocca doesn't have much of a history with tight ends, but he's never had one quite like Pat Freiermuth. Between the elite talent he brings to the table, and the lack of pass-catching depth anywhere else on the roster, the big junior is going to see plenty of the ball.

Jarrod Prugar: Over. He’s going to be Mr. Reliable early as Clifford gets used to a new-look receiving corps. Freiermuth is going to be rewarded for staying with plenty of touches and opportunities with the ball.

Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow!

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