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Monday mailbag: Previewing a massive week for Penn State athletics

There is a ton of major Penn State events going on this week.

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Apr 17, 2021; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin yells at his players during the Penn State spring practice at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Alberti-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, PA — This week is a massive one for the Penn State fanbase as a whole. From numerous national title runs starting to the beginning of spring ball for the football team, Penn State athletics is about to have itself a huge week. Here is what you need to know ahead of this week’s events.

Penn State athletics will have a massive week

Starting on Tuesday, Penn State athletics is about to have itself a massive week of events. Three Penn State teams will begin possible national title runs, the football team is starting to get back into the swing of things, and more!

Penn State football to start spring practices

Leading up to Penn State’s spring Blue-White game on April 15th, the Nittany Lions will have 15 spring practices. On Tuesday, the Nittany Lions will take another step closer to the 2023 college football season by starting spring ball — Penn State head coach James Franklin will also address the media to kick off spring ball on Tuesday.

Penn State basketball makes NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011

On Thursday night, the Penn State Nittany Lions’ basketball team (10-seed) will face off against the Texas A&M Aggies (7-seed) in round one of the 2023 NCAA tournament. In just two seasons, Micah Shrewsberry has broken Penn State’s tournament drought and will have a shot at competing for a national title. Penn State’s seeding gives the Lions a tough path to the Sweet 16, though making a run against TAMU and Texas would not be impossible.

Penn State wrestling looks to win 10th national title in 12 seasons

Since 2011, the Penn State Nittany Lions have won nine of the past 11 national titles. A week ago, Cael Sanderson’s team brough home Penn State’s 7th-ever Big Ten title in Ann Arbor, and will now be pursuing even bigger and better things in the NCAA tournament. The NCAA tournament is set to begin on Thursday — the same day as Penn State hoops begins their tournament run. The Lions boast a 16-0 overall record (8-0 Big Ten) and four individual Big Ten Champions. The three-day event will begin on March 16th and end on March 18th — Penn State has a great shot at winning the program’s 11th wrestling title.

Penn State hockey has a shot at national title

The bracket has not been released for the 2023 NCAA hockey tournament; however, with Penn State sitting at No. 8 in the Pairwise rankings, the Nittany Lions are almost sure to make the 16-team field this year. Penn State men’s hockey will find out if it has made the tournament/where it has been seeded on Sunday, March 19th — the NCAA hockey selection day



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2023 Penn State football offensive line ranked in top 10

Today, the 2023 Penn State football offensive line was ranked among the nation’s top 10.

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2023 Penn State football offensive line
Sep 18, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) gestures from the line of scrimmage during the second quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Today, new rankings were released by 247 Sports, a trusted publication in the world of college athletics, which ranked the 2023 Penn State football offensive line among the top 10 best units in the nation. A season ago, the Nittany Lions’ offensive line showed shocking improvement as they helped lead the Blue and White to an impressive 11-2 campaign, which was capped with a Rose Bowl win over Utah.

2023 Penn State football offensive line ranked among top 10 nationally

In 2021, the Penn State football offensive line was perhaps as bad as it has ever been, leading to a stagnant rushing attack, an injured quarterback, and overall offensive failure. As a result, the Blue and White made a few staff changes, and these new faces, combined with rising young talents like Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen, brought the Nittany Lions back to success on the offensive side of the football.

For the first time since 2018, Penn State had a 1,000-yard rusher, and they nearly had two of them. Additionally, Sean Clifford had a chance to make decisions and throw the ball with his feet set, resulting in an improved passing game and overall success. By the end of the season, Penn State football had 11 wins, with all but one of those wins being blowouts, including the Lions’ huge win in the Rose Bowl.

Heading into the new season, the expectations for the Blue and White are growing higher and higher. The 2023 Penn State football offensive line is projected to be even bigger and better than the 2022 line. If the Nittany Lions expect to appear in the College Football Playoff or make a run at the Big Ten title this year, it will start with their performance up front.

According to today’s new rankings from 247 Sports, the 2023 Penn State football offensive line ranks among the nation’s top 10, coming in at No. 8 ahead of the new season. Fans will get their first glimpse of this new-look offensive line this fall when the Nittany Lions host the West Virginia Mountaineers at Beaver Stadium in State College, PA.



Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at basicbluesnation@gmail.com or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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Penn State football: Best wins over 2023 opponents – Iowa

It took all 60 minutes – literally – but Penn State football escaped this game at Kinnick with a victory.

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Penn State Football, Iowa
Sep 23, 2017; Iowa City, IA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) jumps over Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Joshua Jackson (15) and defensive back Amani Hooker (27) as Nittany Lions wide receiver Juwan Johnson (84) looks to block during the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Penn State won 21-19. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Today, we continue our series of the best Penn State football wins over 2023 opponents with Iowa. Penn State’s best wins over the Hawkeyes have come at the price of some heartache as well. The two schools met nine times before the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten, with Penn State winning six matchups.

Starting conference play, it seemed the Nittany Lions would continue this advantage, winning four of their first five contests with the Hawkeyes. But then the trouble started. Iowa dominated the series in the early 2000s. Some of the major letdowns include the infamous 6-4 game and a heartbreaking last-second loss in 2008 that cost the Nittany Lions a shot at the national championship.

Since 2011 Penn State has won most of the matchups, but the last contest in 2021 left a bad taste in the mouths of Nittany Lions fans. Penn State will look to cleanse that in this year’s matchup in Happy Valley under the lights of a Beaver Stadium White Out.

However, of all the matchups, there is one game and resulting Nittany Lion victory that stands out in this series. This would be the 2017 contest in Kinnick.

Saquon Barkley was an inhuman force for Penn State football

A game in Kinnick Stadium is never easy. The fans are raucous and sit right on top of the players. The stadium’s design literally puts the stands as close to the sidelines as possible. If it is a night game, then the atmosphere turns up tenfold.

That is precisely what the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions faced in 2017. Both teams entered the contest undefeated, and the Hawkeyes had developed a reputation for upsets. Iowa’s last three home contests against top-five foes all ended in victories. The Hawkeyes looked to make Penn State its latest victim on this late September night.

But Saquon Barkley did his part and then some to ensure the Nittany Lions would be on the winning end. He finished the game with 211 yards on the ground with a touchdown, and added 12 receptions for 94 yards. His standout play of the night was this beauty that has gone down in Penn State football folklore.

It took all 60 minutes to beat Iowa

The game was quite sluggish to start. The teams traded punts through most of the first half, with Penn State converting a field goal, missing another, and getting a safety to lead 5-0 late in the second quarter. Then Trace McSorley would throw an interception, setting up the Hawkeyes deep in Nittany Lion territory. Iowa converted the opportunity into a touchdown to take a 7-5 halftime lead.

The Nittany Lions led 15-7 after three frames. But then the Iowa offense finally woke up. Running back Akrum Wadley scored two touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air, giving Iowa a 19-15 lead with just one minute and 42 seconds remaining in the game.

It looked like the Hawkeyes would pull another upset against a top-five foe. That is, until McSorley, Barkley, and the Penn State offense went on one magical final drive. Juwan Johnson’s touchdown catch, the first of his career, silenced the Kinnick crowd as time expired. 

Penn State won and kept its College Football Playoff hopes alive for several more weeks, until back-to-back close losses against Ohio State and Michigan State dashed those dreams. But the Nittany Lions finished the season with an 11-2 record and a win over Washington in the Fiesta Bowl. Despite the season not ending in a playoff berth, the game against Iowa is one Nittany Lion fans still remember fondly.



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James Franklin talks Penn State football and the College Football Playoff

Penn State football head coach James Franklin recently broke down the Lions and their hopes of a College Football Playoff berth.

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Nov 28, 2020; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Hassan Haskins (25) is tackled by defensive end Jayson Oweh (28) and Penn State Nittany Lions safety Jaquan Brisker (1) in the first half at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

After winning the Rose Bowl game against No. 8 Utah, the defending PAC-12 champions, in convincing fashion earlier this year, it comes as no surprise that the Blue and White are heading into a year full of high expectations. If this is finally the year that fans see a Penn State football College Football Playoff appearance, a few major things need to align just right for the Blue and White. Recently, in an interview with ABC27 sports director Allie Berube, head coach James Franklin detailed some of what needs to happen for the Lions to push for a playoff appearance.

James Frankin finally closing in?

Ten years ago, head coach James Franklin took over a total mess—the program was sanctioned, the school’s image was at a low point, and more. After two years of sanctions, Franklin got the Nittany Lions right back on track, winning 11 games and a Big Ten title in 2016. Over the past six full seasons, the Nittany Lions have won 11 games and finished among the top 10 nationally four times, as well as having a 9-win season and top 20 finish in 2018.

Still, despite his great success with the Blue and White, James Franklin is yet to make the College Football Playoff. With talent as plentiful as it has likely ever been in Happy Valley, fans are starting to get disgruntled with his lack of progress. Yes, 11 wins is a great season, but at some point, the glass ceiling needs to break.

This fall, fans could be in store for the first-ever Penn State football College Football Playoff appearance. The schedule is tough, but the Blue and White are talented and experienced, with a fantastic coaching staff to match. If the Nittany Lions can overcome a few major hurdles, such as games against Ohio State and Michigan, Penn State should find itself among the top four programs by season’s end.

Franklin talks about a potential Penn State football College Football Playoff trip

Here is what Penn State football head coach James Franklin had to say about the Nittany Lions potentially making a run at the four-team College Football Playoff this fall.

“We’ve been a part of those conversations really for probably the better part of the last seven years, we’ve been right on the cusp [of the CFP],” James Franklin said per ABC27 Sports. “When you’re able to become a part of those conversations on a consistent basis, then you’re going to have a year where the stars align and things go well.”

The two giants of the Big Ten conference still stand in the way of Penn State football — a challenge that has haunted the 10th-year head coach since 2014. However, James Franklin welcomes the challenge, understanding that if you want to be the best, you need to beat the best.

“You’ve got Ohio State, Michigan and us all within the top seven teams in the country, and that’s only on our side of the conference. So, it’s extremely competitive and we love that,”

Something that Penn State football has lacked in recent years is depth. If the Nittany Lions want to make a run at the Big Ten title, College Football Playoff, and more, they must ensure that they have adequate depth. This fall, it appears that Penn State is in great shape — perhaps better than ever under James Franklin — when it comes to the team’s depth on both sides of the football.

“Late in the season, being able to have enough depth to get through an entire season and still being playing your best football when it matters most,” Franklin said. “We need to start with West Virginia.”



Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at basicbluesnation@gmail.com or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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