PENN STATE: A DARK HORSE IN THE CFP RACE

PENN STATE A DARK HORSE IN THE CFP RACE

Since arriving in Happy Valley, James Franklin has created a culture of winning expectations, high recruitment, and home-field advantage like no other. He has turned around this program in a time of desperate need and has made Penn State into a consistent national title contender.

No turnaround has been greater than the one that is currently underway. In the COVID stricken 2020 season, the Nittany Lions started the season with an 0-5 record. During that time, their defense was giving up 30 plus points every week. Franklin and his staff had enough. It was time to change and improve and build for the next season.

Penn State finished the 2020 season 4-5 which as a whole is a disappointment. What the coaches and players can be proud of is the fact that they finished the year on a four-game winning streak. That momentum has carried into this season and has placed the Nittany Lions in a prime position to grab ahold of the Big Ten conference as well as a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Defensive Improvement

Last season, the https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/schools/penn-state/2020.htmlPSU defense averaged 27.7 points against per game. They started very rough but etched out a lot of mistakes and corrected them by the end of the season.

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This season, the PSU defense is allowing 14.3 average points per game by their opponents. A massive improvement. Along with the much-improved points against the opposition, this defense currently boasts six turnovers that they have stolen from the opposing teams.

James Franklin and his coaches’ defense has quickly cemented themselves among the elite. They are taking pride in their play and are continuing to hold the namesake, Linebacker U.

Improved Quarterback Play

Last season, starting quarterback Sean Clifford struggled through most of the season. His lackluster play ultimately put him on the bench for portions of the 2020 season. His 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions were average at best. A direct correlation to the average season Penn State had in 2020.

This season, Clifford is on fire! He has four touchdowns with one interception through three games and his yards per attempt have risen from 7.5 to 8.1. He is confident in his ability and his receivers’ ability as well. He is spreading the ball all around the field and has a primetime playmaker in Jahan Dotson at WR.

If the Senior quarterback can maintain this level of production and ball security. The Sky is the limit to this Penn State offense.

Home Field Advantage

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Everyone knows about Penn State and its unparalleled atmosphere in Happy Valley. They won a tough matchup in Week 1 in Madison, Wisconsin, and have handled business at Beaver Stadium with wins against Ball State and Auburn.

The matchup with Auburn was the true test if the home-field advantage with a full capacity crowd could help swing things for the Nittany Lions, it did. This season, Penn State matches up with Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Rutgers at home. Penn State in Happy Valley with a full capacity crowd should go undefeated at home this season.

If they can find a way to manage the atmosphere at the opponents’ stadiums with the likes of Iowa, Ohio State, Maryland, and Michigan State, Penn State has an opportunity to come out of the regular season with one or zero losses.

A one-loss Big Ten Champion should be able to get into the College Football Playoff. The Big Ten East is a juggernaut of a division and whoever comes out of that will be battle-tested for the playoffs.

If Penn State can maintain their high standard of play throughout this season, expect James Franklin and company to bring the roar right into the CFP.

 


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