There’s a lot of hoopla surrounding teams such as Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, and USC, however, we shouldn’t write off the Nittany Lions as the leaves turn brown and the snow creeps into the forecast. Penn State can earn its first national championship since 1986. Here are a few reasons why:
OFFENSE HAS GUTS AND GLORY
Trace McSorley is in his sophomore campaign but already looks like the man with all the tools to lead the blue and white to a huge season in 2017. McSorley has guts during tough situations and he has shown the ability to be accurate in and out of the pocket. He burst onto the college scene by putting up great numbers as a freshman(29 touchdowns, over 3600 yards, and only 8 interceptions).
Saquon Barkley should have another MVP caliber season for the Nittany Lions. He makes the offense go and he gives McSorley another weapon to help keep the opposing defense on its heels. Meanwhile, the PSU offense has four returning starters and tight end, Mike Gesicki (679 yards receiving yards in 2016).
The blue and white had three players that rushed for five touchdowns or more last year. They also had six players with a touchdown catch of 40 yards or more. The fact that this offense gets a lot of folks involved makes it harder for opposing teams to prepare for them. PSU shouldn’t be messed with just because of its offense alone, so I wouldn’t recommend frolicking through that Lion’s den known Beaver Stadium.
DEFENSE IS BRINGING BACK THE HEAT
Even though the blue and white are losing Garrett Sickels and Brandon Bell to the draft, this Nittany Lions squad has the energy and experience that will help them make gnarly waves in the BIG 10 pool. Jason Cabinda (3rd in tackles on the team with 81) is returning and safety Marcus Allen brings the pain from the defensive backfield (22 tackles vs Minnesota in 2016). There’s plenty of young players still growing on this squad, but with the type of chemistry that is being shared in this locker room, don’t be surprised if this defense doesn’t miss a beat in 2017. The beginning of Penn State’s schedule will be a nice tune-up before facing the Wolverines and Buckeyes after the bye week.
PSU HAS A MORE HELPFUL SCHEDULE THAN THE WOLVERINES AND BUCKEYES
Penn State’s 2017 schedule is pretty much the same as its 2016 schedule even though the teams have changed a little bit. They face teams within the Big Ten that could reach the top five such as the Wolverines and Buckeyes, but for the most part, it’s an easy schedule. Things could get interesting versus Pitt as well as Michigan State, but I would expect PSU to pull out those wins.
Michigan gets to play PSU, OSU and Florida (1st game of the season) in 2017. Ohio State faces Oklahoma (2nd game of the season), PSU and Michigan (last game of the season). With the Wolverines and Buckeyes losing 25 combined players to the NFL Draft, each team will have to dig a little deeper to wipe away any doubts and win big games.
With that in mind I understand the Nittany Lions have their fair share of young players, but at the end of the day, I could see them running the table. If they win 11-12 games and become Big 10 champs, then expect PSU to enter the playoff picture barring a turn of unfortunate events.