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Penn State football listed as potential first-time College Football Playoff participant

Penn State football will have to venture into uncharted waters to accomplish its goals in 2023. But one analyst believes that the Nittany Lions could do just that this season.



Penn State football, CFP participant
Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Kaytron Allen (13) runs against the Utah Utes in the first quarter in the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Penn State football team has lofty goals for the 2023 season. The Nittany Lions must accomplish things they have yet to do under head coach James Franklin to reach those goals. This fact is not lost on the personalities inside the Lasch Football Building. But one national analyst believes James Franklin can reach uncharted waters, and recently listed Penn State as one of the most likely teams to become a first-time College Football Playoff (CFP) participant.

Penn State football listed as potential first-time CFP participant

Last week, Matt Zenitz of On3 published a piece discussing teams that could appear in the CFP for the first time in 2023. This feat has been accomplished in each of the last two seasons, but Zenitz believes there is only a short list of teams that could become first-time CFP participants this year. Since 2014, seven teams have made the CFP multiple times, and eight programs have made the Playoff once.

Penn State made Zenitz’s list of the top three candidates to become a first-time CFP participant in 2023, along with USC and Texas. Kansas State and Utah were also listed as honorable mentions.

“There’s definitely a case to be made that Penn State is among the five most talented teams in the country,” Zenitz writes. “The Nittany Lions are optimistic about their former five-star recruit at QB, Drew Allar, and have him surrounded by one of the nation’s top running back tandems, a strong offensive line led by first-round offensive tackle prospect Olu Fashanu and a defense that’s in line to be among the nation’s top units.”

Can the Nittany Lions make the Playoff for the first time ever?

If Penn State wants to be a lock for the CFP in 2023, it will have to accomplish something it has never done under James Franklin – defeat Ohio State and Michigan in the same season. Beating just one of these teams would put the Nittany Lions in good position to make their first-ever CFP. But even that is something that Penn State has rarely been able to do in the last decade.

Now, it’s important to remember that just because something hasn’t been done, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. Indeed, Penn State has one of its most talented rosters during Franklin’s time in Happy Valley. There’s a serious case to be made that 2023 could be the year the Nittany Lions finally get over the hump. While all the stars could be aligning in State College, all we can do for now is wait and watch.

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A third-generation Penn Stater, Matt is Associate Editor for Basic Blues Nation and co-host of the podcast PSU Tailgate Talk. Matt also works as a staffer in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Matt lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife and a small army of pets.