Athlon cites five reasons why Penn State is ranked where it is: James Franklin, Christian Hackenberg, six returning defensive starters, offensive line concerns, and a favorable schedule. Athlon says that Penn State could surge to 10 wins this year, which would represent its first double-digit win total since 2009 when it went 11-2 and won the Capital One Bowl against LSU.
Athlon says the Lions will finish third in the Big Ten East Division in its inaugural year, behind Ohio State (No. 3) and Michigan State (No. 11). As far as other rivals go, it ranks Michigan No. 32, Pitt No. 36, Rutgers No. 73, and Temple No. 100 (the entire list is here).
Penn State hasn’t actually been ranked in the Associated Press poll since before its Ticket City Bowl loss to Houston in the 2011 campaign, when it was placed No. 24.
I’ve gone on a few rants this spring about how smart bettors should eye up the over on Penn State’s win total this year. While it does play both Ohio State and Michigan State, both games are in Happy Valley, and besides a trip to Michigan, the rest of the Big Ten schedule is cake. Meanwhile, Temple, UCF, Akron and Massachusetts don’t pose major threats. I think a 10-2 record is firmly within the realm of reason, and I hope you all remember to make fun of me for writing that prediction when it’s inevitably wrong.