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Penn State Football Preview

Penn State Nittany Lions

 Overall Rank: #9

#3 Big Ten

 Besides a one-point loss at Ohio State and a three-point loss a week later at Michigan State, Penn State had a perfect 2017 season. Those two losses were enough to keep the Nittany Lions out of the Big Ten title game, but a trip to the Fiesta Bowl was not a bad consolation prize, especially considering they beat Washington 35-28.

 2017 Record: 11-2, 7-2

2017 Bowl: Fiesta Bowl vs. Washington (W 35-28)

Coach: James Franklin (36-17 at Penn State, 60-32 overall)

Offensive Coordinator: Ricky Rahne

Defensive Coordinator: Brent Pry

 

Returning Leaders:

Rushing: Trace McSorley, QB, 491 yards

Passing: Trace McSorley, QB, 3,570 yards

Receiving: Juwan Johnson, WR, 701 yards

Tackles: Koa Farmer, LB, 48

Sacks: Shareef Miller, DE, 5.0

Interceptions: Amani Oruwariye, CB, 4

 

Other Key Returnees: RB Miles Sanders, WR DeAndre Thompkins, S Nick Scott, DT Kevin Givens, P Blake Gillikon

 

Key Losses: RB Saquon Barkley, WR DaeSean Hamilton, TE Mike Gesicki, LB Jason Cabinda, LB Brandon Smith, S Marcus Allen, S Troy Apke, CB Christian Campbell, CB Grant Healey

 

Offense:

Trace McSorley has been a prolific passer during his tenure at Penn State and that will continue into his senior season. Last year he threw for a Big Ten leading 3,570 yards and 28 touchdowns. McSorley also added 491 yards and 11 more scores on the ground. DaeSean Hamilton and tight end Mike Gesicki are gone, but McSorley still has plenty of talent to work with in the passing game. Juwan Johnson figures to be the top target after catching 54 passes for 701 yards as a sophomore. He is a big target who can go up and get the ball. On paper the ground game might be in trouble with the departure of Saquon Barkley, who rushed for 1,271 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2017. However, Miles Sanders is a very talented back who will have the benefit of an experienced and talented offensive line creating space for him to operate.

 

Defense:

Much of the defense that ranked seventh in the nation in points allowed will have to be replaced. There will be new faces just about everywhere. Shareef Miller is a proven pass rusher, but the rest of the line is very young and inexperienced. The linebackers are even worse. Freshman Ellis Brooks will likely step into the starting middle linebacker spot and that is asking a lot from a freshman. Outside linebacker Koa Farmer is the team’s top returning tackler with 48. The secondary at least has more options despite losing all four starters. Amani Oruwariye saw plenty of action last year and intercepted four passes and John Reid will man the other corner spot after missing last season with an injury.

 

The Bottom Line:

The defense will likely give up some more yards this season, but if they can keep the opposition out of the end zone, this is a Penn State team that can win the Big Ten. The non-conference slate should give the defense some time to find new playmakers with games against Appalachian State, Pittsburgh and Kent State. The Big Ten opener at Illinois provides another week before things get tough. The next two games are against Ohio State and Michigan State, but both are at home. A November 3rd trip to Michigan could be the trickiest game on the slate and perhaps the one that decides Penn State’s title fate.

 

Projected Bowl: Peach Bowl

 

2017 Team Stats:

Rushing Offense: 170.2 (59th in nation, 6th in conference)

Passing Offense: 290.2 (23, 1)

Total Offense: 460.3 (19, 2)

Scoring Offense: 41.1 (7, 2)

Rushing Defense: 118.0 (14, 5)

Pass Defense: 211.5 (47, 8)

Total Defense: 329.5 (17, 5)

Scoring Defense: 16.5 (7, 2)

Turnover Margin: 0.92 (11, 1)

Sacks: 3.23 (7, 1)

Sacks Allowed: 2.23 (75, 8)

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