Penn State Football: Ranking the Hardest Games of the 2014 Schedule

Tim Tolley@@TimTolley_BRContributor IMarch 17, 2014

Penn State Football: Ranking the Hardest Games of the 2014 Schedule

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The 2014 season will bring many changes to the Big Ten and Penn State.

    Gone are "Leaders" and "Legends," being replaced with East and West Divisions made up of 14 teams, including newcomers Rutgers and Maryland.

    Penn State's Land Grant rivalry with Michigan State has been renewed and Northwestern is back on the schedule. Nebraska and Wisconsin aren't on the 2014 schedule, but Penn State will play UCF again—this time in Dublin to kick off the season.

    A September trip to Rutgers could be an early test and November will see the Nittany Lions play five games in consecutive weeks following the Ohio State game.

    Where will this Penn State team find its biggest hurdles? Can it keep its streak of winning seasons alive through the sanctions?

    Let's take a look at the most difficult games Penn State has on the upcoming schedule!

    See Penn State's full schedule at

5. August 30, UCF in Dublin

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson lit up the the Nittany Lions to the tune of 400 total yards in the 2013 matchup, but luckily for Penn State, they'll both be preparing for their NFL debuts when this game kicks off in Ireland in August.

    While Penn State should have the talent edge this year, there will be wrinkles to iron out and doing that against a George O'Leary team, halfway around the world, won't be easy.

    The Nittany Lions will be breaking in new starters on the line of scrimmage, in the defensive backfield and at wide receiver as they implement new schemes brought on by the coaching hire of James Franklin.

    If Penn State can get through Week 1 unscathed, the schedule favors the team through September and it'll have time to get things clicking.

4. November 8, at Indiana

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    Doug McSchooler/Associated Press

    Following a two-game homestand against Ohio State and new, speedy division foe Maryland, Penn State will head to Bloomington, Ind., for the second straight season, where it'll be looking for revenge after losing to the Hoosiers 44-24 in 2013.

    Though the game was closer than the score indicates, it was clear that Penn State struggled against Indiana's fast-paced offense. You better believe the Hoosiers will make their opponent prove that those issues have been resolved.

    Penn State could be hovering right around .500 when this game comes around and the matchup with Indiana could be the difference between a winning and losing season.

    Indiana will have confidence and home-field advantage.

3. October 11, at Michigan

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Penn State took four overtime periods and a few missed field goals at home, at night, in front of a white house, to beat the Wolverines last season.

    In 2014, comparable teams on both sides will square off in Ann Arbor, Mich., in front of over 100,000 fans dressed in the wrong shade of blue. 

    It will be nearly impossible for the Nittany Lions to duplicate the magic that helped them prevail in 2013 and a loss would send them into a bye week on a down note with Ohio State waiting in the wings.

    Can James Franklin go into The Big House and get a win on his first try or will Michigan get revenge for the heartbreaking loss from last season?

2. November 29, Michigan State

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Coming off of a season that saw the Spartans win the Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl, it's fair to assume the 2014 season finale will have some postseason implications.

    The Spartans defense lost some key contributors, but good "D" has become a staple for Mark Dantonio's teams and 2014 should be no different.

    Penn State will likely have a shot to play spoiler while battling for the Land Grant Trophy. Will it be playing at a high enough level by late November to ruin Sparty's Indianapolis arrangements?

1. October 25, Ohio State

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Though it's currently on a two-game losing streak, most experts expect Ohio State to right that ship in early September.

    They'll have some issues in the defensive backfield and it's unclear who will step up on the offensive side of the ball, but the Buckeyes still have the best player in the Big Ten in Braxton Miller and should boast one of the top defensive lines in the country.

    Penn State went into Columbus, Ohio, and lost by almost 50 points in a game it was never in.

    Now, Urban Meyer has a true recruiting rival in James Franklin, and if he can use an on-field performance to help in that aspect, he will jump at the chance. 

    This matchup has been considered a rivalry game by the Penn State faithful for years, but 2014 could be the edition that makes Buckeye fans think the same...or Penn State could lose by seven touchdowns again.