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Analyzing Post-Villanova Reactions For Penn State Football

No. 4 Penn State football is 4-0 entering a gauntlet of Big Ten play.

After Saturday’s win over Villanova Saturday, the Nittany Lions now face a prime-time date with Indiana and a trip to Kinnick Stadium even further on the horizon. The 2021 season is heating up, and with it are the takes surrounding James Franklin’s squad.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular thoughts surrounding the Nittany Lions early this week:

‘No. 4 Is Too High Of A Ranking For Penn State’

Sam Brungo: I would say that overall, this is an overreaction. Penn State as a team deserves to be ranked in the top four. The only argument against this is the timing of the jump. After an underwhelming 21-point win over an FCS opponent, I didn’t necessarily think the Nittany Lions would leap this high in the rankings. However, I’m glad the AP voters chose to overlook the garbage time scores for Villanova.

Will Pegler: I pissed a lot of people off with my discussion on this topic Monday morning. If you really look at what I wrote, however, I’m not trying to argue Penn State doesn’t deserve its top-four ranking. At this point in the season, and with where other top-ten teams currently stand, it makes complete sense that the Nittany Lions sit where they do. However, has Penn State done enough on its own to prove it’s the fourth-best team in the country? Not yet.

If that makes any sense, that’s where I stand on the No. 4 spot as of now.

Gabe Angieri: This is an overreaction. It’s entirely possible Penn State falls off a little bit and finishes the season closer to the No. 8 to No. 10 range. However, as things currently stand in college football, you can’t say No. 4 is too high for Penn State. Multiple other top-10 teams have had their fair share of struggles, and Penn State, whether you think it’s this good or not, has taken care of business to this point.

Whether you think the Nittany Lions are good enough to stay there is another story, though.

Ryan Parsons: I don’t know. It’s really early in the season and the AP Poll is generally a bad metric when lots of teams don’t have big resumes yet. Is Penn State the fourth-best team in the country? Probably not? But considering how this year has shaken up so far, it’s certainly deserving of the No. 4 ranking.

‘This Could End Up Being One Of The Top Wide Receiver Rooms In The Nation’

Sam Brungo: I do feel like this is *one of* the best receiving corps in the country. Although KeAndre Lambert-Smith and Parker Washington have taken a bit of time to get into their groove, they seemed to explode into the national spotlight after last week’s 236-yard receiving day between them, not to mention Jahan Dotson’s 117. It seems like they’re getting into mid-season form just in time for the thick of the Big Ten.

Will Pegler: I don’t see this as an overreaction just because of how much potential this group has. Jahan Dotson is obviously the man, while Parker Washington has shown flashes of greatness since his freshman campaign. If KeAndre Lambert-Smith can add value on a more consistent basis, this group could become a difficult three-headed monster for Big Ten defenses to handle.

Gabe Angieri: Jahan Dotson is an absolute stud, and Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith are rising stars of their own. This wide receiver room is as talented as any, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this group emerges as one of the nation’s best by the end of the season.

Ryan Parsons: This might not necessarily be true, but it’s certainly not an overreaction. PFF placed Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington at the top of its metric board for week four, which is saying something considering how the offense performed overall. If Sean Clifford can remain poised and Mike Yurcich can continue to call excellent games, anything can happen.

‘Penn State May Not Have As Much Depth As We Thought’

Sam Brungo: I think this is a bit more accurate than it may have seemed last week. I am still confident that Penn State’s backups could beat Villanova, but they did get shut out once the starters were out. Not something to worry about yet, but definitely something to keep an eye on.

Will Pegler: We were pretty high on Penn State’s defense depth early on, but as James Franklin said postgame, the reserves did not play up to the standard against Villanova Saturday. While it wasn’t a reassuring sight by any means, a lot of the players that struggled to slow down the Wildcats won’t realistically see a ton of the field against Big Ten opponents. Depth at linebacker and at the secondary, among key rotational players, remains to be a strong suit.

Gabe Angieri: I don’t really know how to feel about this one. Yes, Penn State’s reserves struggled against Villanova on Saturday. However, are we really going to put that much stock into one quarter of play basically? They’re reserves and not starters for a reason, so I actually think the playing experience they got against Nova can be beneficial moving forward. I would lean toward overreaction with this one.

Ryan Parsons: This just isn’t true I don’t think. Obviously, the reserves struggled against Villanova’s starters, but “depth” typically refers to the second-teamers. Guys like Keaton Ellis and John Lovett actually had impressive games in the first half, so if anything the depth is a positive takeaway, especially defensively.

‘Penn State’s Rushing Struggles Are Going To Be An Issue Against Big Ten Defenses’

Sam Brungo: I think Penn State’s running back room is fine. Assuming Noah Cain will be back and healthy after essentially getting the weekend off, the group will be just fine moving forward.

Will Pegler: Saturday was brutal for all of Penn State’s running backs, but as Sam noted, I expect Noah Cain would’ve had a much more productive day against the Wildcats had he gotten the opportunity. The group as a whole has yet to have a truly impressive performance, but let’s see what happens against Indiana and Iowa at Kinnick, a place Cain exploded onto the scene as a freshman in 2019.

Gabe Angieri: I’m not going to lie — I’m concerned about Penn State’s rushing attack. It shouldn’t matter that Noah Cain was sidelined for most of the game. This is Nova we’re talking about. Any running back on Penn State’s roster should be able to run circles around Nova.

I wouldn’t say this is an overreaction because if this continues, I think Penn State will struggle to run the ball against Big Ten defenses.

Ryan Parsons: I think this is an overreaction. I’m probably in the minority here, but I’m not too worried about Penn State’s rushing attack. By design, Noah Cain saw limited action against Villanova. It seemed like the Nittany Lions were trying new things rather than tipping their hand on film for foes like Iowa or Indiana. Let’s tide this another week or so. The offensive line is obviously sick against the pass rush, so I have confidence in the run blocking as well.

‘The Defense Is Going To Dominate The Rest Of The Schedule’

Sam Brungo: This is one of those defenses that you see only every now and then. It’s so damn good that it doesn’t matter as much about what the offense can do because this defense can flip the field and win games.

Will Pegler: Dominate is a strong word, but this defensive unit has been so good over the course of four weeks, they may be able to do just that against plenty of Big Ten offenses. Ohio State is always a threat, but even the Buckeyes look like they could struggle against the likes of Arnold “AK” Ebiketie and Jesse Luketa, among others.

Gabe Angieri: Penn State’s defense is really, really good, folks. I don’t think Penn State has played a good offense yet, but it’s not fair to blame it for that. Led by Arnold Ebiketie, Jaquan Brisker, and Jesse Luketa, Brent Pry’s defense could very well continue its dominance in this eight-game stretch of Big Ten play.

Ryan Parsons: Yes. This defense is awesome. I’m all in.

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