FOX Sports’ Bruce Feldman is a pretty realistic guy.
He released his “ Feldman’s Big Ten Picks” on Tuesday, and has Penn State slated to win nine games and finish third in the conference, behind projected No. 2 Michigan State and projected No. 1 Ohio State.
Feldman’s thoughts on the division were as such: “The East also has two proud programs that I think will take big steps forward in 2015: Michigan under Jim Harbaugh and Penn State with James Franklin. Bob Shoop's Nittany Lions D was superb last fall (PSU did hold Ohio State to under 300 total yards in a game that went into overtime) and should be even better led by its excellent D-line, anchored by DTs Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson. Expect Christian Hackenberg to have a big year with a gifted crop of tight ends and more experience around him.”
In regards to the Nittany Lions specifically, he wrote, “Christian Hackenberg will put up numbers that end all the skepticism about whether he's a first-round talent. He won't be running for his life so much because the O-line should be more stable, and the receiving corps has come a long way with Gronkesque sophomore TE Mike Gesicki on the brink of stardom.”
(Don’t forget about Kyle Carter and Adam Breneman, Bruce.)
Feldman’s colleague, Stewart Mandel, has Penn State ranking third in the division as well, but was stingier in the win column: He thinks the Nittany Lions will win only seven games this season.
Despite head coach James Franklin’s insistence that the roster will be two-deep and sometimes even three-deep at every position, Mandel wrote, “Penn State should improve in Franklin’s second season, and a comical early schedule makes a 6-0 start possible. (I have the Nittany Lions losing at Temple.) But this is still a sanction-depleted roster that could wear down late.”
Mandel has Ohio State winning the Big Ten Championship over Wisconsin, while Feldman is taking the Buckeyes over Nebraska.
Penn State opens the 2015 season on Saturday, Sept. 5 at Temple at 3:30 p.m. The game will be televised by ESPN.