UNIVERSITY PARK, Penn. – No. 14 Penn State begins life without Trace McSorley when the Nittany Lions open their season against visiting Idaho of the FCS on Saturday. McSorley left as the program's all-time leader in passing yardage, completions, touchdowns and several other categories while guiding Penn State to 31 victories in four years, forcing the program to pick a new signal-caller.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: No Line
Head coach James Franklin kept the masses waiting before nominating sophomore Sean Clifford this week, surprising nobody after Clifford took the bulk of the first-team reps in the spring and summer practices. Clifford was 5-for-7 for 195 yards and two touchdowns in limited action last year, including a program-record 95-yard scoring toss in the win over Kent State. Penn State will also need to replace star running back Miles Sanders, but it expects to lean heavily on a defensive unit that led FBS teams in sacks per game (3.62) and returns a host of talent, namely standout junior defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos. The Vandals have finished under .500 in eight of the last nine seasons after a 4-7 campaign in 2018 in their first year after dropping to the FCS.
ABOUT IDAHO (2018: 4-7)
Senior Mason Petrino - son of head coach Paul Petrino - and junior Colton Richardson are duking it out for the starting quarterback job. The two combined for 2,372 yards and 20 TDs last year and the elder Petrino has indicated he will allow the position battle to play out before naming a full-time starter after the team's third game at Wyoming on Sept. 14. Freshman Nick Romano is expected to get plenty of looks at running back for a team whose top returning rusher is sophomore Roshaun Johnson, who had just 99 yards in 2018.
ABOUT PENN STATE (2018: 9-4)
The Nittany Lions will utilize a host of talented players in the backfield to replace Sanders, led by sophomore Ricky Slade (257 yards, six TDs in 2018), while Clifford will look often for sophomore wideout KJ Hamler. The dynamic speedster led the team with 42 catches and 754 receiving yards last year while also shining in the return game. Seven starters return on defense, with Gross-Matos and sophomore linebacker Micah Parsons leading the charge and freshman end Jayson Oweh expected to turn some heads.
1. This marks the first meeting between the programs.
2. Freshman QB Will Levis will back up Clifford and is expected to see action against the Vandals.
3. Nittany Lions sophomore TE Pat Freiermuth hauled in eight TDs over the final 10 games in 2018.
PREDICTION: Penn State 48, Idaho 10