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Analyzing Post-Michigan State Reactions For Penn State Football

Penn State football wrapped up its season convincingly, defeating Michigan State 35-16 on Saturday in Beaver Stadium.

In his last performance in Beaver Stadium, Sean Clifford completed 19-of-24 passes for 202 yards and four touchdowns, while Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen combined for 160 rushing yards on 38 combined carries. The Nittany Lions finished the regular season with a 10-2 record, exceeding their preseason expectations.

As Penn State anxiously waits to find out its final bowl destination, let’s look at some hot takes after the conclusion of the regular season.

‘Sean Clifford Will Go Down As A Penn State Legend’

Frankie Marzano: He should. I think he’s compared to other elite quarterbacks way too much, which causes him to get way too much hate. He has taken everything on the chin, held himself accountable, and gave everything he had to Penn State football over his time as the starter. He deserves an incredible amount of respect from Penn State fans.

Sam Fremin: Clifford should go down as a Penn State legend, but I’m not convinced he will. Look, I’m not necessarily arguing that Clifford is the greatest quarterback to ever don the blue and white. However, Clifford is one of the most productive. 

As the program’s all-time leading passer (in multiple senses), Clifford has ushered in two 10-win seasons and captained the team to a top-five ranking before his injury last season. His commitment to the program and the university as a whole is commendable. I hope history is kinder to him than the present has been.

Ryan Parsons: I’ve been thinking about this, and I believe that legend is the correct term. No, Clifford didn’t take the program to new heights or necessarily enhance the team around him at all times. But, he did what he was asked and secured two 10-win seasons over a lengthy career. Being the quarterback at Penn State means you’re basically a figurehead for the university, and Clifford played that role to a t. His off-the-field attitude (especially this season) and true admiration for Penn State and his teammates, especially amid uncalled-for backlash, are incredibly respectable. Who knows how he will continue to positively affect the community and program in the future. No one will forget about Clifford for a long time, and that earns him legendary status.

Gabe Angieri: People will disagree with this, but Clifford should definitely go down as a Penn State legend. The numbers don’t lie, and his attitude and passion toward the program have been admirable. Two 10-win seasons, a New Year’s Six bowl win, and a potential for another big-time bowl win give Clifford an impressive resume.

‘I’d Rather See An SEC Team In The Citrus Bowl Than Tulane In The Cotton Bowl’

Frankie Marzano: I would. Going to the Cotton Bowl and beating Tulane is a lose-lose situation. If you beat Tulane, it’s not that great of a win, honestly. If you lose to Tulane, then that’s pretty bad because you lost to Tulane. I’d much rather see an LSU or even a South Carolina in the Citrus Bowl.

Sam Fremin: This is an easy yes for me. Although I find it unlikely the Citrus Bowl is still on the table, Penn State should prefer a higher-touted opponent in a “lesser” bowl. The TV product will be better and it’s likely to be a more productive matchup for the Nittany Lions — both motivationally ahead of a promising 2023 campaign and potentially on the recruiting trail as well.

Ryan Parsons: This is tough. Earlier in the season, I said I would take the bigger bowl no matter what, but at this point, a Citrus Bowl game against LSU sounds a hell of a lot more fun than a Cotton Bowl showdown with Tulane or UCF — especially since the Nittany Lions traveled to Dallas just three seasons ago. Another New Year’s Six appearance would have great recruiting and program status impacts, but a true measuring stick matchup against another Power Five team feels more productive at this point.

Gabe Angieri: I’m a little torn on this. Ultimately, I think a game against LSU in the Citrus Bowl would mean more than a Mickey Mouse Cotton Bowl game against a Tulane or UCF. In an ideal world, Penn State would just sneak into the Rose Bowl, so let’s hold out hope for that.

‘A Handful Of Players Will Opt Out Of The Bowl Game’

Frankie Marzano: I think it’s too early to tell and speculate. Each player has his own reason(s) to play or not play in the game. It seems like more of a personal preference that we can’t predict.

Sam Fremin: Who knows? As the landscape changes, this is more likely, but I also think extrapolating too much from last season is a mistake. Last year’s team was relatively top-heavy. And although some of the opt-out decisions were questionable, they sort of made sense. This team is a lot younger, and I’d expect to see more players sticking around. 

I wouldn’t hold your breath for Joey Porter Jr. though.

Ryan Parsons: Given how young the team is, I don’t think it’s going to be as damaging as last year’s Outback Bowl fiasco. Plus, a New Year’s Six appearance is what lots of players have dreamed of. Guys like Ji’Ayir Brown and Mitchell Tinsley have yet to play in one. I tried asking some players about this after the last game, but most were just focused on the present — although it seemed like there was some considerable excitement about heading to a big-ticket bowl. Sean Clifford will play, though, and I feel like more guys will follow suit.

Gabe Angieri: I don’t think this will be as much of an issue as last year. Maybe one or two guys will opt out, but I expect nothing close to last year’s mess.

‘Penn State Is Riding Considerable Momentum Into The Bowl And Next Season Following The Michigan State Game’

Frankie Marzano: It definitely is. Wins over Indiana, Maryland, and Rutgers may not be too flashy, but winning the games you’re supposed to is massive for the Nittany Lions, which is something they’ve typically struggled with in the last few seasons. Since getting dropped by Ohio State at the end of October, Penn State has looked like a team on a mission on both sides of the ball, and that momentum will definitely carry into the bowl game — especially if it’s against a top-tier opponent.

Sam Fremin: I wouldn’t put it all on the Michigan State game, but the momentum observation is accurate. Especially with Olu Fashanu’s recent announcement of his return, this team looks stacked next year. Not only that, but Drew Allar has had ample time to get comfortable with the system.

For all of you “start Allar” folks out there, this is where I think Sean Clifford’s greatest utility came from this season. Rather than throwing an inexperienced (and likely nervous) teenager to the wolves immediately, he was able to get real-game experience without the pressure of fickle fans’ expectations. He will enter next season, as a first-year starter, with a year’s worth of experience in offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich’s system — and a year’s worth of advice from a peer in Clifford.

Ryan Parsons: James Franklin keeps saying this team gets better and better each week, and I think he’s right. I feel like Penn State would match up with teams like Clemson, Utah, or LSU really well right now. It seems like there won’t be a lot of roster turnover and plenty of young stars are waiting for their chance to shine next season. Buy stock now.

Gabe Angieri: I’m on board with the momentum part of this. The Nittany Lions are rollin’, folks. This team is going to be really good next year, and I think there’s considerable momentum going into the bowl.

‘The Land-Grant Trophy Is The Most Beautiful In All Of Sports’

Frankie Marzano: Does a bear shit in the woods?

Sam Fremin: Personally, I miss the old BCS national championship trophy. But since we now have the soulless, modern version of a national title, the Land-Grant Trophy is the obvious No. 1.

Ryan Parsons: Next question.

Gabe Angieri: In terms of beauty, the Land-Grant Trophy is obviously hot.

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