The Penn State Nittany Lions haven’t been in the College Football Playoff. But this year feels a bit different for the Nittany Lions. Can they earn a CFP berth this season?
- Penn State went 11-2 overall with Sean Clifford at quarterback last season.
- Drew Allar will take over an offense as one of Penn State’s highest recruits at quarterback.
- James Franklin is entering his 10th year at Penn State, where he’s 78-36.
Is Penn State Finally a CFP Contender?
The Penn State Nittany Lions went 11-2 overall and 7-2 in the Big Ten Conference last year. That wasn’t enough to earn a top-four spot in the College Football Playoff.
Penn State has it tough. They’re typically a top-ten football program. However, they’re in a division with Ohio State and Michigan. Coming out of the division and earning a playoff berth is challenging in the Big Ten.
A Competitive Squad
But Penn State feels like they’ve got a competitive team heading into the 2024 season. They’re going to ride with Drew Allar at quarterback. He’s been the prospect all Penn State fans have discussed since he got on campus.
He had to wait his turn with Sean Clifford under center. But now, this is Allar’s team. He’s mature for his age and is already leading Penn State, especially since he was there last year and is familiar with the team and players.
The Offense Will Improve
Sean Clifford was a lot better than anyone has given him credit for. Clifford, a current Green Bay Packers quarterback, threw for nearly 11,000 yards and added 86 touchdowns, along with a Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl victory.
Clifford was the quarterback that sent Will Levis packing for Kentucky. Clifford beat Levis out for the quarterback job at Penn State.
However, as I mentioned earlier, the entire fanbase of Penn State has been eagerly waiting for Drew Allar. They think he can be better than both of those quarterbacks.
Allar was a five-star recruit who was able to get in on some action last season. Allar added 344 yards passing and added four touchdowns. That should help his confidence heading into the season.
Can They Catch?
He’ll have different receivers this year. The top three wideouts for Penn State are gone. But KeAndre Lambert-Smith will return, along with tight end Theo Johnson. Dante Cephas, a transfer from Kent State, should produce at a high level immediately for Penn State. He’s added nearly 2,000 yards receiving in two seasons.
Plus, Nicholas Singleton should be one of the best running backs in the nation this season. He added 1,061 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging nearly seven yards per carry last season. The Big Ten has some incredible defenses, but that didn’t phase Singleton.
Can The Defense Improve Too?
The offense will make things easier for Penn State this year. That’s pretty much a guarantee. But the secondary has a lot of new faces. The defense wasn’t always great on third downs, and now they’re without Ji’Ayir Brown and Joey Porter Jr. in the secondary.
Brown led the team in tackles, and Porter Jr. was ultimately the team’s best corner.
Kalen King will return in the secondary, along with Abdul Carter, at linebacker. Carter should lead the team in most categories. But they’ll also bring back Chop Robinson and Adisa Isaac. The pass rush should be excellent, and the linebackers are probably the best portion of the defense heading into this season.
Will Penn State Earn 10 Wins?
The sportsbooks have Penn State at a 9.5-win total this season. The Nittany Lions will face West Virginia as a 20-point favorite in the NCAAF odds to start their season at home. That should be a win, along with other non-conference games against Delaware (Week 2) and UMass (Week 6).
Their matchup against Illinois (Week 3) could get interesting, knowing how much better Illinois has gotten over time. But Penn State is projected to win that game, even on the road. They’ll also likely be favorites at home against Iowa (Week 4).
That would give them five wins right off the bat.
Penn State would then visit Northwestern (Week 5) on the road, face UMass, and then have Ohio State (Week 8) on the road. It’ll be a battle, but I’d agree that Ohio State would be a favorite for that game at home.
Penn State would face Indiana (Week 9) at home, which should be a win. They’ll also have Maryland on the road. That should also be a win.
Then they’ll face Michigan (Week 11) at home. This game could be a win for Penn State. After that, they’ll take on Rutgers and Michigan State on the road.
Penn State will likely lose to Ohio State on the road. They’ll have tough matchups against Illinois and Michigan State (Weeek 13) on the road.
The win total will likely come down to those four games. They’d have to win two of those four games. That ultimately seems doable.
Penn State’s roster is better than it has been in a while, and that should be reflected this season for your NCAAF picks.
NCAAF Pick: Penn State Over 9½ Wins (-135) at BetOnline
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.