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Is there a clear-cut expectation for Penn State football in 2023?

After a phenomenal top-10 year in 2022, is there a clear-cut expectation for Penn State football this fall?



Nov 26, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; A detailed view of the Land Grant Trophy as the Penn State Nittany Lion players sing their alma mater following the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Michigan State 35-16. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

After an incredible year of Penn State football in 2022 — one in which the Nittany Lions finished top 10, won 11 games, and brought home a Rose Bowl trophy — PSU is looking even better in 2023. Is there a clear-cut expectation for Penn State football this fall?

Penn State football has its best roster in years

The most glaring upside of Penn State’s 2023 season will be the talent on its roster. The Nittany Lions have more talent than they have since the 2017 season when a Saquon Barkley-led Penn State team finished 11-2 with a Fiesta Bowl win.

Now, rising sophomore quarterback Drew Allar will sit behind a much-improved offensive line, a revamped receiver room, and two of the best running backs in the Big Ten.

On defense, Penn State returns many starters and has some talented in-house talent, such as Abdul Carter and Chop Robinson. Additionally, head coach James Franklin will be in year 10, and Penn State football returns its offensive and defensive coordinators from the 2022 season.

Is there a clear-cut expectation?

There appear to be mixed feelings for Penn State football this coming season. On the one hand, some Nittany Lion fans expect Penn State to be a College Football Playoff contender and possibly win the Big Ten Championship for the first time since 2016.

On the other hand, many Penn State football fans see the youth on this year’s team and are hesitant to crown them off-season champions. Drew Allar could be the future of the Nittany Lions’ program; however, we are still waiting to see what he is made of as a starter. In fairness, most Penn State fans are just glad that we aren’t gearing up for a 7th season of Sean Clifford.

Regarding national media, there are mixed feelings for the opposite reason. Many around the country believe that Penn State football has the pieces to compete for a College Football Playoff spot in 2023, just as they did for many years since 2016. That being said, the country has seemingly lost its faith in James Franklin’s ability to win “big games.”

Franklin somewhat crushed this narrative with his 35-21 Rose Bowl win over Utah; however, he still finished the year 1-2 against ranked teams and lost again to Michigan and Ohio State. Penn State played Ohio State relatively close but still lost by 13 points at home, and at Michigan, the Nittany Lions were embarrassed, 41-17.

In 2023, Penn State football will host Michigan in late November but must square off against the Buckeyes and the Michigan State Spartans on the road. Additionally — even though neither feels like a massive test — Penn State will face West Virginia and Iowa at home. Both teams are coming in with revamped rosters, which could be an early-season test for the young Nittany Lions.

Looking at Penn State’s schedule, I am torn on what to think. On the one hand, depending on how the team meshes next season and how well Penn State’s young talent pans out, I could see Penn State dropping up to three games in 2023. Conversely, if the Nittany Lions are finally up to the hype, I could see PSU going on an undefeated streak and finishing the regular season 11-1 or 12-0.

The verdict

When it comes down to it, Penn State football is again facing some high expectations and much hype this offseason. We have seen it repeatedly, and the dam has to break at some point, right?

That is the nation’s train of thought. At the moment, it appears to be “put up or shut up” time for the Nittany Lions. 10-2 is likely acceptable; however, anything less than that would be a failure for Penn State football this fall. For the Nittany Lions to truly meet expectations (or surpass them) in 2023, Penn State must finish 11-1 or better in the regular season, compete for a Big Ten Championship, and perhaps even a College Football Playoff spot.

Another two-loss season with losses to Ohio State and Michigan would feel routine — same old Penn State. Now, it is time for the Nittany Lions to pick up where they started in 2016 and go on another miraculous run.


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