In 2018, Penn State went 9-4 losing to Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl. After losing talent to the NFL, transfer portal and most importantly 3 year starter Trace McSorley, Penn State went under a complete overhaul in the off season and brought in one of the best freshman classes in recent times. It’s a whole new team for the Nittany Lions.
By The Numbers
Coach: James Franklin – Year: 6, Record: 45-21, Bowl Wins: 2
2018 Record: 9-4 (6-3 Big Ten)
Key Player: QB Sean Clifford
2018 Offensive Production: Rushing Offense – 29th, Passing Offense – 77th, 33.8 ppg – 31st
2018 Defensive Production: Rushing Defense – 72nd, Passing Defense – 15th, 20.5 ppg allowed – 23rd
Turnover Margin: -0.08, 20 Gained, 21 Lost
Sacks: 3.62 Sacks per game
Long Scrimmage Plays >20 yards: 73, 23rd
Opponent Long Scrimmage Plays >20 yards: 47, 21st
All eyes are pointing to RS sophomore Sean Clifford to step in the shoes of Trace McSorley. Surrounding Clifford are inexperienced ball carriers and receivers and a young offensive line. Penn State’s offense will be completely new. Clifford has thrown 7 passes in his career, KJ Hamler and Jahan Dotson are the only players returning that caught more than 10 passes and Sophomore RB Ricky Slade only had 455 carries for 257 yards behind Miles Sanders. The offensive line has a combined 62 starts with 2 linemen making their first start this year.
Offensively it will be a challenge for Penn State. Gone are Miles Sanders, Trace McSorely, Saquon Barkley, DaeSean Hamilton, and Mike Gesicki. It will be a whole new offensive squad for the Nittany Lions and hopefully, for fans, it doesn’t skip a beat.
Penn State was one of the most aggressive teams on defense in 2018. In the regular season, the Lions led the league in sacks, held other teams to 33.65% on 3rd Downs and was top 5 in tackles for loss. Penn State, however, will also be rebuilding their defense with many first time starters on the defensive line and as linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties. Though the defensive unit is largely void of returning full-time starters, it does not lack experience. Redshirt juniors and seniors should keep penalties to a minimum in their new starting role, something Penn State will need from its starters to be a top 15 defense in 2019.
The B1G East will always be a tough division. With young guys on offense and new starters on defense, I won’t be the first to tell you that Penn State will have a tough time getting to a B1G championship. It is a rebuilding year, but, James Franklin has coached this team for 6 years and knows how to lead a project team in the tough B1G East. The experience in the defense will have to carry a team that was known for its offense in the last couple of seasons. If not, the young offense will fall prey to some of the most intense defenses in college football