Was 2020 just a one year blip on the radar? Only time will tell, but some formulas seem to think so. Penn State will start the year out in the preseason top-10, in ESPN's FPI rankings.
ESPN’s FPI gives Penn State a rating of 14.9, which means it views the Nittany Lions as 14.9 points better than the average FBS team, good enough for 10th in the country. FPI projects the Nittany Lions will win 8.6 games in the 12 game regular season, which rounded to 9 wins would be a nice bounce back for James Franklin after a disappointing 4-5 campaign in the Covid-19 shortened 2020 season.
FPI also sees Penn State winning the Big Ten East 17.2% of the time, the Big Ten 10.5% of the time, making the Playoff 7.3% of the time, and winning it all just 0.7% of the time (we can dream in April). Only one Big Ten team comes in higher than Penn State, as Ohio State sits fifth with a rating of 20.5.
Using FPI’s 2.5 point home field advantage we can map out how FPI sees each game going based off of preseason data.
@ Wisconsin - Wisconsin by 0.9 points
vs. Ball State - Penn State by 12 points
vs. Auburn - Penn State by 4.5 points
vs. Villanova - N/A FCS team
vs. Indiana - Penn State by 6.4 points
@ Iowa - Penn State by 1.2 points
vs. Illinois - Penn State by 20.6 points
@ Ohio State - Ohio State by 8.1 points
@ Maryland - Penn State by 8.1 points
vs. Michigan - Penn State by 10.2 points
vs. Rutgers - Penn State by 19.8 points
@ Michigan State - Penn State by 7.5 points
These numbers will change once teams have played games and there is actual data on the 2021 rosters, but FPI projecting some stressful second halves. Right now it sees seven games being decided by single digits, with four by less than a touchdown.