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ESPN analyst shares major concerns with Penn State offense

Expectations are high for the Nittany Lions in 2023, but one ESPN analyst needs to see more from the Penn State offense before he can go all in on James Franklin’s squad.



Penn State Football, Penn State offense, ESPN analyst
Nov 6, 2021; College Park, Maryland, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin speaks withwide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith (13) on the sidelines during the second half against the Maryland Terrapins at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As Week 1 of the Penn State football season gets into full swing, the excitement is reaching a fever pitch in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions come into this year as one of the most dangerous teams in the country, and appear poised to make waves in the Big Ten title and College Football Playoff race. However, one ESPN analyst needs more before being fully bought in on James Franklin and the Nittany Lions in 2023. Last week, Stanford Steve, ESPN’s popular gambling analyst, expressed what he thinks are major concerns with the Penn State offense this season.

ESPN analyst “needs to see more” from Penn State offense

The vibes around the Penn State football program are pretty good right now. Coming off an 11-2 Rose Bowl-winning season, the Nittany Lions are the preseason No. 7 team in college football. James Franklin’s team is a trendy College Football Playoff darkhorse candidate. The Nittany Lions have even been picked to make the CFP by several top analysts, most recently CBS’s Josh Pate.

But ESPN analyst Stanford Steve isn’t sold on Penn State just yet. On a recent episode of the Always College Football with Greg McElroy podcast, Stanford Steve expressed several concerns with the Penn State offense.

“When you look at Penn State, you’re talking about a transfer wideout from a MAC school being your difference maker,” he said. “I’m sorry, I need to hear more. Especially when you have a kid who hasn’t played in big spots before. I need to see more out of their offensive line.”

The MAC transfer, of course, is in reference to incoming Kent State wide receiver Dante Cephas. Cephas will push for a starter’s role this fall. However, no wide receivers have “separated themselves from the pack,” according to James Franklin.

Penn State returns one of the best offensive linemen in America in left tackle Olu Fashanu. However, the Nittany Lions will shift Hunter Nourzad to center to replace Juice Scruggs. The health of left guard Landon Tengwall is also in question. Tengwall has experienced “bumps and bruises” in camp after returning from an injury-shortened season in 2022.

Stanford Steve picks Penn State to finish second in the Big Ten East…but doesn’t love it

Despite the concerns expressed by Stanford Steve, the Penn State offense does have an extremely talented backfield, headlined by Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen. The offense’s success could hinge on the quarterback position, which is expected to be filled by former five-star Drew Allar. The Nittany Lions also tout one of the best defenses in the nation.

Nevertheless, Stanford Steve still sees a tough road ahead for Penn State in the Big Ten. The ESPN analyst pointed to several challenging conference games as pivot points for the season. While he currently has Penn State finishing ahead of Ohio State in the Big Ten East race, it appears that all bets are still off on the Nittany Lions in 2023.

“Penn State is really up against it in the Big Ten,” Stanford Steve said. “All of the positive vibes coming out of there, but you’re still gonna have to go to Columbus. I think there’s a really tricky game in Champaign early. We’re gonna really find out what they have at the quarterback in that game because Illinois is gonna be a pain in the but. They’re not gonna give you anything easy…Michigan, you play at home. Go put that tape on. I would take Penn State over Ohio State as far as wins; I don’t love it.”

Penn State football opens the 2023 season Saturday night in Beaver Stadium against West Virginia.

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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