Happy Valley Perspective: 2018 football home schedule to feature plenty of memorable games, moments
UNIVERSITY PARK — Consecutive 11-win seasons. Fiesta Bowl champions. Big Ten title.
Your Penn State Nittany Lions have produced back-to-back seasons that fans will remember for generations to come. The 2018 season opener will be here soon, and along with it, plenty of opportunities for fans to tailgate, watch some great football, and cheer on their team in the best stadium in the entire country.
Get ready with our rundown of some games and moments that’ll stand out at Beaver Stadium this season, and visit our website to view the entire 2018 schedule (along with schedules for 2019–21). You can also visit GoPSUsports.com for ticket information.
Season opener (Sept. 1)
The opponent almost doesn’t matter for the season opener. The headline is that Penn State football is back for another season, signaling the unofficial start to fall in Happy Valley. Appalachian State is the foe this year, and the Mountaineers offer an intriguing matchup. They finished 9-4 last season, as co-champions of the Sun Belt Conference. Despite that, expect the Nittany Lions to be a sizable favorite, and you can also expect great weather. Historically, according to AccuWeather, the average high for that day is 78 degrees. Here’s hoping for plenty of sunshine come September.
The Whiteout. More than 107,000 fans donning white, usually for a primetime matchup against a ranked team. It’s one of the best nights of the entire year — not just during the football season — and there are three legitimate options this season: Sept. 29 against Ohio State, Oct. 27 versus Iowa, or Nov. 10 against Wisconsin. Given that the Whiteout crowd helped catapult the Nittany Lions to an iconic upset over second-ranked Ohio State two seasons ago, our bet is late September against the Buckeyes, if you’re trying to look ahead and make travel plans. Both teams should be undefeated and ranked in the Top 10, with the winner having an early edge for the Big Ten East Division title and a spot in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship. Though even if the Whiteout occurs against the Hawkeyes or Badgers, count on a night you’ll be telling your friends about years from now.
Homecoming (Oct. 13)
After last year’s late-season Homecoming that came in the second week of November, fans should expect warmer temperatures — and better tailgating weather — when Penn State hosts Michigan State on Oct. 13. The contest likely won’t have a nighttime kick with so many other options on the Nittany Lions’ home schedule, though a mid-afternoon start should provide you and your tailgating crew plenty of time to enjoy yourselves. We also encourage you to get into the stadium at least a half hour before kickoff, with the Alumni Blue Band performing on the field with the student Blue Band. The alumni will also play at halftime and after the game, so stick around afterward for a late-evening performance. You also won’t have to navigate the heavy postgame traffic.
Badgers visit Happy Valley (Nov. 10)
Penn State’s home schedule is stocked this year with quality conference opponents, with Wisconsin coming to Beaver Stadium for the first time since 2012. The teams have split their 18 all-time meetings, with the Nittany Lions winning the last three games, including the Big Ten Championship in 2016. Wisconsin will once again be the favorite to win the Big Ten West Division, so this should be a contest with two ranked teams — and a great opportunity for the Nittany Lions to collect a signature win against a cross-divisional rival.
#HappyValleyHeisman features new candidate
Gone is Saquon Barkley, who created a level of excitement that no one player had ever generated before at Penn State. Athletics devoted a web page and the cool-sounding hashtag to the star running back’s Heisman candidacy, and that work can transfer to this season and senior quarterback Trace McSorley. The soft-spoken signal-caller has been listed as an early Heisman contender by various sports books, and no matter the opponent, watching McSorley lead the Nittany Lions’ high-powered offense should be highly entertaining. He’s thrown a touchdown pass in 28 consecutive games, his own school record that he started with the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl. McSorley also owns eight of the top 21 passing games in program history, and is primed to finish his career as possibly the most prolific Penn State quarterback ever. He ranks in the top 10 in many single-season and career marks, and he’ll have plenty of options with players like running back Miles Sanders and receiver Juwan Johnson positioned for breakout seasons.
30 million fans (and counting)
When you browse through the team’s media book, a lot of fascinating stats stand out, including this one: entering the 2017 season, nearly 29 million fans had attended games in Beaver Stadium, starting in 1960. Counting last year’s numbers, the total now stands at 29.7 million. Meaning, all-time attendance at Beaver Stadium will surpass 30 million during Penn State’s third home game this season, against Ohio State. Not that you need another reason to attend that game (and the possible Whiteout), though if you do, you can tell your family and friends you were the 30th million fan to watch a game at Beaver Stadium. Who can say you’re wrong?
New players, same iconic jersey numbers
It’s always interesting to see which numbers freshmen will wear once they start their Penn State football career. Will they start a new tradition, or continue a legacy chartered by previous standouts? For five-star linebacker recruit Micah Parsons, it’s the latter, since he’ll be wearing No. 11. LaVar Arrington — the most famous Nittany Lion to wear that number — recently said on his Instagram page that Parsons will be the best player to ever wear that number at Penn State. A few other notable numbers: Isaiah Humphries (safety) will wear No. 2, previously worn by players such as Marcus Allen and Derrick Williams; and Jesse Luketa (linebacker) will don No. 40, most recently worn by Jason Cabinda.
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