What to look forward to at Beaver Stadium in 2017
Penn State has owned its home turf over the past few years, winning 13 of the last 14 games at Beaver Stadium, including a perfect 7-0 mark last season. Here’s a rundown of what fans can look forward to at Beaver Stadium this season:
Season Opener (and a Familiar Name): The season kicks off Sept. 2, with Akron visiting Happy Valley. The Zips head coach is Terry Bowden, who grabbed national headlines in 1993 by leading Auburn to an 11-0 record and earning numerous accolades. And if that last name sounds familiar, that’s because his father is longtime former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden.
Busy September: While the early-season slate isn't quite as busy as a few years ago — when Penn State played five consecutive home games from Sept. 12–Oct. 10 — the Nittany Lions play three consecutive home games in September: Sept. 2 against Akron, Sept. 9 versus Pitt, and Sept. 16 against Georgia State.
Penn State-Pitt (and Honoring the 2016 Big Ten Champs): The 98th all-time meeting between the Nittany Lions and Panthers will feature some extra buzz, given that the team will unveil “2016” on the Beaver Stadium suites before the game to recognize last season’s Big Ten champions. Additionally, the 1982 national championship squad will be celebrated at halftime.
Early Night Game: A week after Pitt, another Panthers squad comes to Happy Valley — Georgia State. The Atlanta-based school competes in the Sun Belt Conference; this will be the first time Penn State has played a school from that conference. The Panthers finished last season 3-9, so this is a rare opportunity for fans to soak up an entire day of tailgating without necessarily worrying about getting a win that night. It’ll be more about how the Lions play against a lesser-tiered opponent under the lights, and expect the day’s tailgating to feel more like a daylong festival.
New-Look Hoosiers: If the trait “quirky” ever applied to a Big Ten football school, it’d be Indiana. The Hoosiers are a fun team to watch, though usually find a way to lose. They improved mightily on defense last season, improving in every major statistical category; though that came after 2015, when the Hoosiers allowed 30-plus points nine times, 40-plus points five times, and 50-plus points twice. Indiana also features a new head coach, Tom Allen, who oversaw the defensive turnaround last season as associate head coach.
Wolverine White Out: This is the one home game all fans are waiting for: the annual White Out. Kickoff time hasn’t been announced yet, though here’s to hoping for a primetime start. The White Out just looks so much cooler at night, right? James Franklin looks to pick up his first win against Michigan, a game that Penn State seemingly has to win if the Lions want to compete for another Big Ten title. The game also kicks off a crucial three-week stretch for Penn State, who will travel to Ohio State and Michigan State the following two Saturdays. Two other quick notes: Penn State has a bye the week before, and there’s an outside chance that ESPN’s College Gameday could broadcast live from Beaver Stadium. This would hinge on both teams sporting 6-0 records coming into the contest. If that happens, then the Penn State-Michigan contest (with a White Out) becomes one of the top games in the entire country that week.
Late Homecoming: This year’s Homecoming uncharacteristically arrives in November, though at least the game against Rutgers features a noon kickoff (saving fans from colder temperatures at night). The game will feature one of the most underrated traditions at Beaver Stadium, when the Alumni Blue Band will join the current band on the field for performances throughout the day. And the game will also double as Military Appreciation Day, with Homecoming happening on Veterans Day (Nov. 11).
Nebraska Stripe Out: One of the team’s newest traditions continues Nov. 18 against Nebraska, a program that can match Penn State in prestige and stature. And it’s always nice to see a visiting team that the Lions don’t usually face at Beaver Stadium. Nebraska finished last season 9-4, good for second in the Big Ten West Division, though they ended the year with a loss to Tennessee in the Music City Bowl. The Cornhuskers haven’t won 10 games in a season since 2012, though have reached nine wins on three occasions since then, with the outlier season of 2015, when they finished 6-7 (including 5-7 in the regular season). Nebraska lost four of its final six games last year, and will feature a new-look offense after quarterback Tommy Frazier Jr. graduated. The Cornhuskers haven't won a conference title since 1999 — a lifetime ago for a program as revered as Nebraska. Chances are the Cornhuskers won’t end the drought this year, though fans will see a quality opponent for the last home game of the season.
Barkley’s Pursuit of History: It’s possible that Saquon Barkley will break the school’s all-time rushing mark this season; Barkley’s got 2,572 career yards and Evan Royster owns the record with 3,932. Barkley is certainly capable of the season that’s needed, and the vibe this offseason is that he’s motivated more than ever. Penn State’s home finale against Nebraska on Nov. 18 could prove to be the game that Barkley owns the mark. If not, look for it to possibly happen the following week at Maryland or in the postseason.
What did we miss? Tag us on social media (@HappyValleyPSU) and let us know what you’re looking forward to this season.