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Penn State football facing highest expectations of the Franklin era

After winning 11 games and a Rose Bowl in 2022, Penn State football is facing its highest expectations of the James Franklin era in 2023.



© Dan Rainville / USA TODAY NETWORK

Since turning Penn State football around in 2016, James Franklin’s time in State College has been put under a microscope. On one hand, the Nittany Lions’ head coach has been one of the best at winning 10 games per season, recruiting, finishing in the top-10, and more. Still, it feels as if Penn State has fallen short in some areas, and should be winning more games than they have.

In 2023, with a new face under center and a loaded lineup on both sides of the football, the Nittany Lions are facing incredibly high expectations; perhaps the highest of the James Franklin era thus far.

2022 set a new standard

Despite entering last season with unreasonably low expectations, Penn State football managed to pull off an incredible turnaround season and finish 10-2 overall. The Nittany Lions went on to win the Rose Bowl — Franklin’s third New Year’s Six win since 2017 — and finish in the top-10 for the fourth time since 2016. What was extraordinary about Penn State’s 2022 season was the Nittany Lions’ ability to break trends and bounce back from losses.

Additionally, Penn State football managed to overcome much adversity, and its young talent shined in both big moments and small ones. Above all else, the 2022 Penn State football season established a new standard: as the Lions’ talent develops, the program is expected to take a huge leap forward. In 2023, most fans and the media will be looking for PSU to finish no worse than 11-1 and contend for the Big Ten.

Can Allar and Co. deliver?

If one thing became apparent in 2022 it is that Penn State’s freshman class is elite. On offense, quarterback Drew Allar shined when he was given the chance, and the Nittany Lions’ elite running back duo did the same. Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen transitioned from high school to college seamlessly en route to being one of the best RB duos in the nation.

Over the past few days, Penn State football has added some massive transfer wide outs to the WR room, as well as retaining Theo Johnson and improving its solid offensive line from 2022. Defensively, Penn State will need to replace some of its defensive backs; however, retains much of its defensive line and linebacker corps. One thing is clear right now: PSU is loaded on both sides of the football.

Playing on the road at Michigan State and Ohio State will be tough; hosting Michigan works in Penn State’s favor; however, I see no more than one loss as of right now. Ohio State is reloading, Michigan State is just not that good right now, and the Wolverines are beatable despite winning two-straight Big Ten Championships. That being said, seeing as nothing is a given in college football, 11 total wins needs to be the floor in 2023.

Penn State football has been close to breaking through for years, and in 2023, it’s time to take the next step. Can Franklin and Co. deliver is the bigger question.


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