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- QB, Penn State University
The 2021 college football season came to a close Monday night with the Georgia Bulldogs winning their first national championship since 1980. But the team they beat to take the throne is coming on on top of the way-too-early top 25 ranking from USA TODAY for the 2022 college football season. And things are expecting to start looking back up in Happy Valley for the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Penn State managed to crack the top 25 of the USA TODAY way-too-early top 25 compiled by USA TODAY college football writers Paul Myerberg and Erick Smith. Penn State was the sixth of six Big Ten teams to be listed among the top 25 teams expected to take the field next season.
Penn State is going to enter the 2022 season in a bit of a unique spot for the program. A good number of defensive starters are off to the NFL, as well as leading receiver Jahan Dotson. There will be a new defensive coordinator and special teams coordinator following departures from the coaching staff for other jobs. Sean Clifford is back at quarterback for another season as the expected starter, and the expectations are high for the recruiting class signed in 2022. But after a .500 record over the course of the last two seasons, the 2022 season could be a pivotal one for James Franklin’s program.
Here’s what USA TODAY had to say about the Nittany Lions and their way-too-early forecast for 2022;
A loaded recruiting class arrives on campus amid a staff shakeup and big losses on both sides of the ball. On defense, PSU must replace seven of the top 11 tacklers — look for a bunch to go in the 2022 NFL draft — while the offense loses star receiver Jahan Dotson. After going 11-11 in the past two seasons, the Nittany Lions can use the influx of talent. But that group’s impact may not be truly felt until 2023 or later. Without a major improvement from the offensive line and a breakthrough year from veteran quarterback Sean Clifford, the Nittany Lions resemble a team good enough to finish in the top 20 but not good enough to take home the Big Ten.
This all seems pretty fair to say about Penn State. The past two seasons have not come close to sniffing the bar previously set by the program when Penn State won a Big Ten title and played in three New Years Six bowl games in a four-year span that included victories in the Fiesta Bowl and the Cotton Bowl between 2016 and 2019. And the Class of 2022 has been well-documented to be one full of potential key figures in a revitalized program, but it could still take a year or two before some of the biggest names really get to start shining.
To check out the full way-too-early top 25, check it out in full here.