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Penn State has been one of the more stable programs under James Franklin’s watch through his first five seasons in Happy Valley. Much of that had to do with Trace McSorley being the leader of the offense for the last three. However, 2019-20 brings with it a ton of attrition with five starters leaving for the NFL early and another 11 entering the transfer portal. With that, plenty of question marks surround the program as it looks to improve upon a disappointing 9-4 campaign that saw it fall to Ohio State and both Michigan schools in the regular season before bowing out to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl. New faces will be installed up and down the roster on both sides of the ball, but an infusion of talent just might be what this program needs to once again vie for the Big Ten title at online sportsbooks.
Replacing a multi-year starter like McSorley under center won’t be fun. However, Sean Clifford proved to have the goods in his limited time seeing the field last season. He will be looked upon as more of a game manager so anything else provided will simply be gravy. With Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders now playing on Sundays, the backfield belongs to Ricky Slade who was nothing short of a home run hitter in averaging 5.7 yards per carry to go along with six scores. Three starters return along the offensive line so the ground game could improve upon its No. 29 ranking from a year ago, but the pass protection must be much better to compete in the ultra-competitive Big Ten East. KJ Hamler and tight end Pat Freiermuth figure to be the two main pass catchers after the duo combined for 68 catches, 1,122 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The Nittany Lions led the FBS in sacks with an average of 3.6 per game, and also ranked No. 4 in tackles for loss registering 8.2 per contest. Though Shareef Miller is out of the equation, Penn State still has plenty left in the tank to get after quarterbacks this season. Leading sack master Yetur Gross-Matos ( 8 ) and Shaka Toney will no doubt be turned loose to wreak havoc after combining for 13 sacks, while Robert Windsor will bring the pressure up the middle. Remember the name of redshirt Frosh Jayson Oweh as well - he’s a gamer! The back seven also looks to be in great shape with Micah Parsons and his team-leading 83 tackles in a non-starting role likely the glue that keeps it all together. He’s joined by a couple of veterans at linebacker and the secondary. With so much more depth and talent on hand, it’s possible PSU doesn’t skip a beat defensively but it will need to do a much better job against the run to be a factor in conference play.
The winning formula in Happy Valley for a number of years now has been excelled play on the offensive side of the ball. That script is likely to be flipped in 2019-20 with the offense going through wholesale changes at just about every level. With that, it’s going to be up to the defense to set the tone early by getting the job done versus the lesser portion of the schedule. Once October rolls around, both units best be on the same page because that’s when the schedule takes a dramatic turn for the worse. The Nittany Lions are 8-1 dogs to win the division and enter the season with 8.5 game season win total odds at top rated sportsbooks. Nine wins just might be the high watermark with games scheduled to go on the B1G road at Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State.