The Penn State Nittany Lions football program has made its way back to among the country’s best, and after an impressive 2016 season, expectations are sky high in 2017. The team won 11 games a season ago and returns many key players on each side of the ball.
The Big Ten is tough with the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines in the conference, but Penn State has a legitimate shot at pushing for a second consecutive championship. If everything breaks right, the Nittany Lions may be able to challenge for a berth in the College Football Playoff. Coach James Franklin has things going really well in State College as Penn State has returned to glory and hopes to keep up the momentum in 2017.
2016 Record: 11-3 SU, 10-3-1 ATS, 11-3 O/U
2017 Regular Season Win Total: 9.5
National Championship Odds: +2000
Odds To Win Big Ten: +500
Penn State lost two of its first four games, including a 49-10 drubbing at the hands of Michigan, but went on an unlikely and impressive winning streak from that point forward. The Nittany Lions reeled off nine consecutive wins to end the regular season, which included an upset of Ohio State and a win over Wisconsin in the conference championship game.
Penn State’s winning streak was snapped in the Rose Bowl when it lost to USC, 52-49. The Nittany Lions averaged 37.6 points per game a year ago. They were led by Saquon Barkley, who had 272 carries for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns and could be a Heisman Trophy candidate this year.
Penn State’s quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 3,614 yards with 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions a season ago. His top receiver was Chris Godwin, who had 59 catches for 982 yards and 11 scores.
The defense gave up 25.4 points per game, which was in the top-50 nationally, and did a nice job until the bowl game, when USC star quarterback Sam Darnold carved it up.
Barkley is a dynamic running back who should have a big season, while McSorley returns under center. Godwin is gone, but the Nittany Lions should have plenty of receiving options which step up.
The Nittany Lions’ defense actually took a step back a season ago and hopes to improve this year. The secondary may lead the way, with safety Marcus Allen hoping to set the tone. Penn State had 40 sacks last season and if it can generate a similar pass rush, the scoring defense should improve.
The projected win total is high, as outside expectations are for this team to either come close to or hit double digit victories. The big stretch comes in late October, when Penn State hosts Michigan on Oct. 21 and then must turn around and face Ohio State on the road a week later.
The Nittany Lions were able to split those games a season ago, and could be in good shape if they do the same thing in 2017. The Wolverines and Buckeyes have had a stranglehold on the Big Ten in recent years, but Penn State broke through last year. The Nittany Lions have the pieces to make another run, and if Barkley has a big year and the defense improves, this could be one of the best teams in the country.
It definitely looks like it will be at least a three-team race in the conference this year. Penn State has too much success and too much experience to lean on to be intimidated by the Buckeyes and Wolverines.
Saturday, September 2: Penn State vs. Akron
Saturday, September 9: Penn State vs. Pittsburgh
Saturday, September 16: Penn State vs. Georgia State
Saturday, September 23: Penn State at Iowa
Saturday, September 30: Penn State vs. Indiana
Saturday, October 7: Penn State at Northwestern
Saturday, October 21: Penn State vs. Michigan
Saturday, October 28: Penn State at Ohio State
Saturday, November 4: Penn State at Michigan State
Saturday, November 11: Penn State vs. Rutgers
Saturday, November 18: Penn State vs. Nebraska
Saturday, November 25: Penn State at Maryland
|SEC Conference||Big 10 Conference|
|ACC Conference||Big 12 Conference|
|Pac 12 Conference||Big East Conference|
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