Penn State remains an easy read after its 20-12 loss to Ohio State.

The Nittany Lions have an elite defense … and an offense still sporting training wheels. It also has a head coach who, despite an offensive background as a player and assistant, can’t adjust or have a Plan B ready when Plan A goes south.

No need to ruminate too much on Saturday’s loss at Ohio Stadium, but here’s a couple quick takes:

  • Nick Singleton had 44 yards on his first 4 carries, then 4 yards on 5 carries the rest of the way. For whatever reason, 2nd-and-4 and 3rd-and-2 became passing downs. And then the runs starting going East-West instead of North-South. And Penn State never used the “tush-push” QB sneak a single time in short yardage. I’m sure there’s a weak explanation of why all of that is so from James Franklin and OC Mike Yurcich. Seek it out if you care.
  • Backup QB Beau Pribula would have complemented the early running game success and stressed the OSU defense in a way Drew Allar can not, but again, Plan B is apparently not an option.
  • Going for it on 4th-and-4, on your own 43-yard line, in a 1-score game, is idiotic.
  • The way holding/pass interference is called/not called is ruining football, at both the college and pro level. No consistency whatsoever. Personally, I’d like to see it called much tighter. Way too much clutching and grabbing. If Penn State’s scoop-and-score isn’t nullified — a 14-point swing as it turned out — the Lions very well might have rode the momentum to victory, even with their anemic offense. Kalen King was hands-on on that play, but I’ve seen refs pass on worse.

Penn State will finish 10-2, 7-2 in B1G East

As for the rest of the season, Penn State (6-1, 3-1) remains a strong team. And it will likely get better and less uptight on offense as the year goes on. But this team can’t beat Michigan, even if the Wolverines don’t know what plays are coming. So the Lions will finish 10-2, go to a nice bowl and probably win that too. And then next year they’ll try again, with a schedule that should have them at 6-0 heading into a visit from the Buckeyes. It’s the cycle of life, Nittany Nation.

The rest of this season:

Week 9: vs. Indiana

Skinny: The Hoosiers have a dynamic disruptor in edge-rushing senior linebacker Aaron Casey, but not much else. They rank 12th in the B1G in total defense and 11th in offense. Since their magical 2020 season, which included a 36-35 opening victory over Penn State, Tom Allen’s men are 8-23 overall and 2-20 against the league. With Michael Penix Jr. now chasing the Heisman with Washington, Indiana has no shot in this game by any  stretch  of the imagination. James Franklin will improve to 9-1 against the Hoosiers and the Lions to 25-2.

Prediction: Penn State 45, Indiana 3

Week 10: at Maryland

Skinny: Taulia Tagovailoa gets a final chance to tame the Lions, against whom he has gotten progressively worse. After tearing up the Lions 35-19 in State College in 2020, the 4th-year Terrapin has produced just 14 combined points in back-to-back losses. Maryland has some weapons, but its line won’t give Tagovailoa time. A repeat of last year, when the QB took 7 sacks and threw for just 74 yards, is possible. It probably won’t be as bad as that 30-0 thrashing, but Franklin will improve to 8-2 vs. the Terps and the Lions to 43-3-1.

Prediction: Penn State 45, Maryland 13

Week 11: vs. Michigan

Skinny: If Penn State does indeed reach this game at 8-1, the hype machine will get cranked up again. Surely at home, in front of 110,000+, the Lions will have a shot. But despite all the noise around alleged off-the-field cheating by Jim Harbaugh’s program, Michigan puts more toughness, power and experience on the field than the Lions. Second-year starter JJ McCarthy and his receiving group trump Allar and his targets. The Wolverines have comparable backs and a better offensive line. Maybe if Penn State gets a defensive touchdown that isn’t called back … . But otherwise …

Prediction: Michigan 31, Penn State 13

Week 12: vs. Rutgers

Skinny: The Scarlet Knights haven’t beaten Penn State since 1988, and before that since 1918. Greg Schiano’s men always battle hard with what they have, but what they have is the B1G’s No. 10 offense and 12th-rated quarterback. Toughness and determination only take a team so far. Penn State improves to 32-2 all-time against Rutgers and 4-0 against its former DBs coach Schiano (1991-95).

Prediction: Penn State 49, Rutgers 10

Week 13: at Michigan State

Skinny: There are a lot of wild cards with this matchup still 5 weeks away. The snow version of a white out might be going on in East Lansing like in 2021. If it has 2 losses, Penn State might be packing it in, with veterans looking ahead to the NFL Draft. Whatever the case, the Spartans are more likely to be the ones ready for the season to mercifully end. If the Nittany Lions lose, they will have beaten themselves. But I think they’re better than that.

Prediction: Penn State 56, Michigan State 17