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Massachusetts Minutemen At Penn State Nittany Lions: A Way Too Early Nonconference Preview

The Massachusetts Minutemen face off against an opponent who has less of a chance of making a bowl game than the Minutemen (probably)

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Normally I'd crack some jokes in this section, but instead I'll ask all the Minuteman fans not to get to mean-spirited with their heckling. There are some things you don't joke about. Also the Alumni Association is having a pig roast before the game. Pig is delicious, so you should check it out.

Penn State Nittany Lions 2013 Season Rewind:

Penn State opened its 2013 season in the second year of sanctions, ineligible for bowl play. Despite this fact, and with reduced scholarships, Penn State managed to go .500 in Big Ten conference play and 7-5 for the season. Impressed with coach Bill O'Brien's work with Penn State despite the sanctions, the Houston Texans hired him away, leaving Penn State with a hole at the position for just the second time in almost 60 years.


Penn State's mascot is the Nittany Lion. What the hell is a Nittany Lion you ask? Supposedly it's a type of lion that used to roam the area. I believe it's just a more pompous version of a lion. Just call it a lion and get off your high horse Penn State. During games the band will play "The Nittany Lion," which fans call the Hail to the Lion, because even they sometimes realize that "nittany" is a made up word.


Penn State plays in the Big Ten conference, which is divided into two separate divisions. Unfortunately for the Big Ten, the person who names divisions called in sick when these divisions were named, and they ended up with the names Legends and Leaders. Penn State is in the Leaders division, despite questionable decisions by their former leaders which is now the stuff of legend. Authors Note: I have been informed that as of Rutgers and Maryland joining the Big Ten, Legends and Leaders divisions are now called East and West. I for one applaud the Big Ten for realizing how stupid those names were. Of course, the joke should now read: Penn State is in the East division, despite questionable decisions by their East which is now the stuff of West.


Penn State plays at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania, despite the fact that their mascot is a lion (and not just any lion, a nittany lion). Some say it's named for James A. Beaver, former governor for Pennsylvania, while other believe it's another attempt by Penn State to be pretentious and have multiple mascots. We're onto you Penn State, and your multiple mascot having ways.

Beaver Stadium holds 106,572 people, despite the fact that the record attendance was 110,753 people. One can only assume that it was really awkward for the 4,000 fans who sat on other people's laps that day.

Last Bowl Appearance:

The last bowl Penn State appeared in was the 2011 TicketCity Bowl, where they lost to Houston 14-30. Their last win was at the 2009 Capital One Bowl, where the (Nittany) Lions Beavers defeated LSU 19-17.

Head Coach:

Taking over for Bill O'Brien is James Franklin, former coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores. This marks the fourth head coach that UMass faces that has two or less years at their respective school. If any of these coaches lose to UMass, it may also be their last.

Five Key Players:

Christian Hackenberg - QB

Zach Zwinak - HB

Bill Belton - HB

Mike Hull - LB

Jordan Lucas - DB


Penn State runs a pro style offense. Under center is Christian Hackenberg, who threw for almost 3,000 yards last year. Behind him will be the team of Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak, both of which are threats to go for over 1,000 yards this year. The biggest weakness for Penn State is on the outside, which lost senior Allen Robinson.

In his place will be Eugene Lewis and DeAndre Thompkins. Finally, the offensive line has started a combined 20 games together as a unit, good for 120th out of 121 according to Phil Steele's blog. While that's not the end all be all, it's certainly a hole in the armor for the Nittany Lions.


Penn State's base defense is the 4-3 being run by first year defensive coordinator Bob Shoop (Shoop da whoop). Despite being known for their linebacker corps for what feels like forever, it's actually a position of weakness for the Nittany Lions. Mike Hull had a great year last year, but beyond that there isn't much (note that this is much for Penn State, as UMass wouldn't mind having Penn State's not much). In the secondary, Jordan Lucas is a stud, pulling in 3 interceptions and 65 tackles last season. On the line, Penn State returns all four starters, which should make a formidable challenge for opposing offensive lines.

Special Teams:

If there's one place that is especially hurt by scholarship reductions it's special teams, since the depth you'd normally use for special teams is taken from you. As a result, expect Penn State to struggle on special teams defense and returning. On the kicking side, Sam Ficken returns for his senior season at kicker, and redshirt freshman Chris Gulla takes over at punter.

Early Prediction:

Penn State, even with their sanctions, is better than the Minutemen are right now. Throw in being on the road at one of the tougher stadiums to play at, the Mintuemen don't have a chance.

PSU - 42
UMass - 7