USA Today published a very comprehensive preview of Penn State’s upcoming campaign yesterday as part of its series counting down college football’s 128 teams, and Penn State clocked in at No. 56 in the nation.
The rankings are being compiled by Paul Myerberg, who began the task in April and has impressively written thousands of words on every individual program. On Penn State, he wrote that a 10-2 record constitutes a dream season, whereas a 4-8 record would make for a nightmare season. As you might expect, he thinks our biggest concern is the offensive line except Donovan Smith, but he lauded Christian Hackenberg’s first season, the development of the secondary, and the depth at running back.
Here’s what’s close to a synopsis from his prognostication:
Despite the problems, this team should win at least six games and as many as eight. Hackenberg is a star in the making, a foundational piece of the entire offense – and the face of the entire on-field team. The backfield is terrific. The receiver corps has enough athleticism to surpass my expectations. The defensive line is going to be a strength if the top four stay healthy. The secondary is another grouping set to exceed preseason projections. Yeah, the linebacker corps and offensive line will be an issue all year – that’s simply a fact, though Hand has worked wonders before. In total, this new staff is going to win games. What about 2014? Let’s be careful about planning for a major breakthrough. Bowl eligibility is the baseline, but this team isn’t equipped to make a 10-win finish out of this schedule.
Like other preseason pundits, Myerberg notes Penn State’s ease of schedule entering 2014 but also the lack of depth across the board to create a very average ranking. Some rival/conference programs have already been ranked, as well: Pitt (No. 59), Maryland (No. 64), Minnesota (No. 67), Indiana (No. 69), Illinois (No. 84), Temple (No. 86), Rutgers (No. 98), and Purdue (No. 108).
No. 56 is likely a spot with which some Penn Staters will take umbrage, especially considering Athlon Sports pegged the Lions No. 22 in the nation in its preseason rankings. If you’re asking me (who, when I covered the team in 2012, tweeted that they’d finish below .500 if Justin Brown transferred for my hottest take ever), I think Penn State belongs somewhere squarely in between those two rankings.
Less than 46 days until Dublin.