Penn State Football Ranked Preseason No. 19 By Phil Steele
The generous Phil Steele has been optimistic about the Nittany Lions already this offseason when he named nine players to his Preseason All-Big Ten team, but he’s going all-in on Penn State in his Preseason Top 40. The esteemed college football analyst has James Franklin’s team ranked at No. 19 after a middling 7-6 season a year ago.
Last month, we took a look at some of the most pressing issues surrounding the team and Penn State does look poised for a vast improvement. After last year’s 4-0 start, rumors began spreading that the Nittany Lions might have been a quality win or two away from breaking into the national rankings, but a four-game losing streak quickly dispelled that. If Steele’s word is to be trusted (spoiler: it probably is, since 90 percent of his Top 40 in each of the last two years ended the season bowl-eligible), Penn State might begin to look like an elite team sooner rather than later.
There’s an understandable amount of hype surrounding the team. Hackenberg is another year older and wiser, the defense has plenty of candidates that can take over games, more scholarship players are available, and, well, the offensive line has nowhere to go but up. All of that coupled with an underwhelming schedule (opening up at Temple and then playing five-straight home games, and the most difficult opponent in that streak is either Rutgers or Indiana) are a few of the reasons why SBNation’s Bill Connelly thinks Penn State can win 10 games this season.
Penn State is the fourth of six Big Ten teams on Steele’s Top 40, following Ohio State (the obvious No. 1), No. 9 Michigan State, and No. 13 Wisconsin and ahead of No. 26 Nebraska and No. 36 Minnesota. Other notable teams that Penn State ranks ahead of is No. 20 Ole Miss (which finished No. 17 in last year’s final AP Top 25), No. 23 Boise State (No. 16 last year), and No. 24 Missouri (No. 14 last year).
81 days to kickoff can’t go by quick enough.