Penn State fans won’t like ESPN’s pick for the biggest upset in the Big Ten this season

There’s an old school of thought in college football that if you’re going to play your worst game of the season and suffer your worst loss, it’s best to get it out of the way as early as possible so you have time to make up for it. If that’s the case, then ESPN doesn’t think Penn State will have to wait long to get the bad taste out of its mouth. In fact, it will only be a matter of days.

ESPN college football reporter Mark Schlabach has laid out his entire list of preseason predictions for every power conference in college football for the 2022 season. Along with predictions for final records, season MVPs, coach of the year picks and more, Schlabach also pointed out his disruptive picks for the year. Penn State’s loss to Purdue is its Big Ten upset of the year.

Penn State opens the season Thursday, Sept. 1 at Purdue. This marks the third straight season Penn State has opened a college football season on the road against a Big Ten opponent. The Nittany Lions fell short against Indiana in 2020 but topped Wisconsin in 2021. Penn State is a slight favorite against the Boilermakers entering Thursday night’s opener, but a road game at Purdue, especially at night, is not the perfect place to ease into a new season.

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A week after Penn State’s loss to Iowa last season, Purdue handled the No. 2-ranked Hawkeyes at the time with a 24-7 upset at Kinnick Stadium. A few weeks later, Purdue knocked off No. 4 Michigan by a score of 40-29. Penn State would later lose to the same Spartans team in the regular season finale. The only games Purdue lost last season were against Ohio State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame.

Purdue scoring a win Thursday night against Penn State would certainly be considered an upset, but an upset of the year? It feels a little premature to suggest this given how strong a season Purdue had last season, as well as Penn State’s last two seasons. Penn State isn’t even ranked to start the season, although Schlabach projects the Nittany Lions to finish the season 9-3 overall with a 6-3 Big Ten record.

That prediction suggests Schlabach likes Penn State’s chances on the road at Auburn and will likely go up against Ohio State and Michigan, both of whom are ahead of Penn State in his preseason ranking prediction. Schlabach also might like Penn State’s chances at home against Minnesota in this year’s whiteout game, between games against the Wolverines and Buckeyes. That’s notable because Schlabach has Minnesota going down to the wire in the Big Ten West matchup with Wisconsin. A win by Penn State could finally keep Minnesota from capturing its first Big Ten West division title.

Schlabach doesn’t see such an optimistic outlook for Purdue this season. A projected 7-5 record with a 4-5 record in Big Ten play shows why the Boilermakers topping Penn State in Week 1 will go down as the upset of the Big Ten season.

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