We're still months away from Penn State football, but it's never too early to speculate. Our staff sat down to give some over/under predictions for this upcoming season. The numbers were set by our own Matt Flip and any complaints about them can be directed to @PSUMatt2005 on Twitter.
O/u 3,000 passing yards for Sean Clifford
Matt de Bear: Over, but it's going to be close. That is more a testament to what Mike Yurcich's offense has done everywhere he's been, rather than Clifford's performance last year.
Dan Smith: Over. I just do not see competition for Clifford. so I assume that he will be healthy and will start every game. I think he is better than he showed in 2020. Time will tell how much better he actually is.
Vincent Lungaro: Under. I think the Mike Yurcich hire is great for Penn State's offense. I just haven't seen enough from Sean Clifford as a consistent passer in the past two seasons to think another new offensive coordinator is going to fix most of his problems.
Kevin Fay: Over. Even with last year's regression and limited offense he threw for almost 1,900 yards. With a normal offseason and a couple of cupcakes mixed in, I expect him to eclipse that mark.
Nick Polak: Maybe this is too optimistic, but knowing what we know about James Franklin and Mike Yurcich, Penn State's offense should be one that plays to its strengths rather than trying to force anything. Given the potential of the pass-catching group, we should expect to see Clifford spread the ball around to great effect in 2021.
Michael Stanley: Over. In a Mike Yurcich-led offense, the passing attack will always be potent. Also, if anyone can get the most out of Sean Clifford after a forgettable 2020 season, it's Yurcich.
Bill DiFilippo: Over. The offense is going to attack down the field and not ask Clifford to run as much. This helps him put up numbers and plays to his strengths, which hasn't always been the case the last few years.
O/u 3.5 Running backs with 250 yards
Matt de Bear: Over, contingent on Noah Cain's health. Keyvone Lee, John Lovett, and Devyn Ford seem like shoe-ins to eclipse 250 over 12 games. If Cain can return to health, I'd pencil all four guys in for the mark.
Dan Smith: Over. They should go by committee once again; they have that sort of depth and do not have a Saquon Barkley type as we sit here in the preseason. The games in which they should get a big lead will be great opportunities to share the load.
Vincent Lungaro: Over. This will be more one of the more intriguing snap-count battles to watch. Noah Cain, Keyvonne Lee, Devyn Ford, Caziah Holmes and Jon Lovett are all in the mix to receive carries. I'm betting at least four of them eclipse 250 yards.
Kevin Fay: Under. I expect there will be three backs used, but they settle in on a primary option eventually that eats into opportunities. If Cain stays healthy, he figures to be the guy.
Nick Polak: Over. Penn State's running back room, while not as effective in 2020 as years prior, is still immensely talented. Still, it's the offensive line that makes me think this will be true. This should be one of the best groups up front we've seen for the Nittany Lions in a long time, and the ball carriers will benefit from it.
Michael Stanley: Under. I expect John Lovett and a likely-healthy Noah Cain to take the top two spots in the running back and handle the bulk of carries between the two. I believe a third back can get to 250, likely one of Caziah Holmes or Keyvone Lee, but it'll be tall task to take the ball away from Cain and Lovett. If Cain goes down again or isn't ready to go by August, then this becomes another conversation and likely becomes over.
Bill DiFilippo: Under. Noah Cain stays healthy and grabs hold of the job, with the remaining three guys occasionally spelling him.
O/U 4.5 Linebackers to Start a Game
Matt de Bear: Under, hopefully. That would mean both a healthy linebacking corps, as well as solid play. If PSU has to go five or more deep at linebacker, there are several issues at hand.
Dan Smith: Under. O would love to see their young athletes at linebacker eclipse the experienced but limited starters in Jesse Luketa and Ellis Brooks. But that has not been Brent Pry’s style.
Vincent Lungaro: Under. I don't think there's a ton of depth at linebacker. So, barring injuries, I think the trio of Brandon Smith, Jesse Luketa and Ellis Brooks are near locks to start every game.
Kevin Fay: Under. Wait, do special teams starts count?
Nick Polak: Under. I think it's probably likely that we see the Luketa-Brooks-Smith starting trio to start the season. I do think that Curtis Jacobs will earn a starting spot on the outside by season's end which will shift Luketa inside over Brooks. Still, barring injury, I don't see anyone else breaking through there.
Michael Stanley: Under. This is purely me hoping as the depth at linebacker is scary low and any injury could be fatal to the defense. But it's likely to be more.
Bill DiFilippo: Under. More than four play, but I think they have two dudes who are sure-fire starters (Jesse Luketa, Brandon Smith), one who will start (Ellis Brooks), and one who could break into that trio (Curtis Jacobs).
O/U 1.5 Return Touchdowns
Matt de Bear: Under. I'm going to say under, if only because return chances are few and far between in today's game. Jahan Dotson is a threat to take one back whenever he gets an opportunity, but I'm not sure he's going to get many because of that fact.
Dan Smith: Under. It’s not their forte.
Vincent Lungaro: Over. Jahan Dotson is still around, so I'm confident Penn State is going to get more than one return touchdown.
Kevin Fay: Under. This is such a hard number to predict. They have dynamic athletes, but there are so many variables it's tough to predict the over here.
Nick Polak: Under. If you told me that Jahan Dotson was going to return every punt, I would be tempted to take the over. However, I don't see him profiling as a return man in the NFL and Franklin has shown that he'll do what he needs to in order to prepare his guys for the next level. I would expect at least one return touchdown, but I won't push my luck on two.
Michael Stanley: Over. Jahan Dotson has quickly emerged as a fantastic returner and he alone could get two return touchdowns. Penn State has also gotten to the point where there are enough tremendous playmakers down on the depth chart at running back and wide receiver that whoever handles kick returns can manage to take one to the house.
Bill DiFilippo: Under. They're hard to get!
O/U 10.5 Interceptions for Penn State's Defense
Matt de Bear: Under. This just feels like a big number for a defense that has struggled to take the ball away for several years. Improved safety play could make me rethink this, however.
Dan Smith: Under. They are deep at corner, but the pass rush and safety help are question marks. If the pass rush steps up, I can see the increased pressure lead to more turnovers.
Vincent Lungaro: Over. Penn State brings a lot of experience back at cornerback. Put me down for the over and for Joey Porter Jr. to lead the team in INTs.
Kevin Fay: Over. I think they have some dynamic playmakers in the defensive backfield and I have faith that the defense as a whole will end up being better by default with a normal offseason.
Nick Polak: Over. This largely hinges on Tariq Castro-Fields staying healthy, because when he's on the shelf I think the unit still is too attackable to bank on that many interceptions. If they can count on TCF to lock down half of the field, however, I could see the secondary having a very productive year when it comes to takeaways.
Michael Stanley: Under. Penn State's defense's strength hasn't been takeaways in quite a few years and I'd be surprised to see that change this season.
Bill DiFilippo: Under. The team had four last year. The secondary should be better, but that's a huge jump.
Come back tomorrow for Part 2!