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Penn State football should be competing for CFP spot in 2023

Penn State’s 2022 campaign was immensely successful. It snapped the 7-year-long top-10 losing streak, finished 11-2, won the Rose Bowl, and more. Still, the Nittany Lions have no excuse to not be in the mix for a CFP spot in 2023.



Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; The Penn State Nittany Lions run onto the field before the game between the Utah Utes and the Penn State Nittany Lions at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

As we wrap up the 2022 Penn State football season, its’s hard not to be excited for 2023 already. Despite low expectations, the Nittany Lions finished last season with an 11-2 record and a Rose Bowl Championship. In 2023, there is no excuse to be competing for less than a CFP spot and perhaps a Big Ten Championship as well.

Penn State football has the young talent to win in 2023

If anything became clear in 2022, it is that Penn State football has the talent to compete nationally moving forward. Freshman stars such as Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen propelled the Nittany Lions’ offense on the ground, while defensive standouts such as Abdul Carter helped the defense.

At quarterback, James Franklin decided to stick with Sean Clifford last year; however, Drew Allar still saw a lot of reps. Heading into the 2023 season, it is clear that this team will be one of the best offenses in the Big Ten and perhaps nationally.

Returning starters

While the Nittany Lions are looking forward to seeing  a few new faces (such as Drew Allar), there is still a solid amount of talent coming back. Along the offensive line, starters such as Olu Fashanu and Hunter Nourzad will be returning. On top of that, five-stars Alex Birchmeier and J’ven Williams will be joining James Franklin’s roster. There is still some time to hit the portal if needed, though at this point I am not sure that it will come to that.

On defense, Penn State football will bring back a solid amount of talent, mostly due to its plethora of young talent across the board. Assuming Manny Diaz will still be serving as defensive coordinator in 2023, the Nittany Lions’ turnover-prone defense will be a force to be reckoned with.

Offense showed signs of improvement

In 2020 and 2021, Penn State’s offense looked to be on a downward trend. Across both seasons, the Nittany Lions scored 40 or more points twice — once in 2020 and once in 2021. In 2022 alone, the Nittany Lions scored over 40 points five times and averaged 37-points-per game, the highest since Penn State’s 11-2 season in 2019.

The offensive line took some massive strides from 2021 to 2022 and helped lead the way for Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen to combine for over 2,100 yards total. Nick Singleton alone ran for over 1,000 yards on the ground and became Penn State’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2018 (Miles Sanders).

Despite losing Jahan Dotson, Penn State football saw an increase in serviceable receivers. Parker Washington, Brenton Strange, Mitchell Tinsley, and more led Penn State to over 3,100 passing yards in 2022. Breakout stars such as Theo Johnson (TE) and KeAndre Labert-Smith (WR) will be returning to Penn State for the 2023 season as well.

Pretty good for a “transition year”

After the 2021 season — a year that saw Penn State football finish 7-6 overall with a loss to Arkansas in the Outback Bowl — most fans thought that Penn State would not be any better in 2022. We saw predictions range from 5-7 to 8-4, though most credible outlets had PSU between 7-8 wins heading into the season. For the first time since 2016, Penn State football began the season unranked in both major polls, and just like 2016, the Lions will finish in the top-10 after playing in the Rose Bowl.

This season was Penn State’s first 11-win season since 2019, its fourth 11-win season in the past six full seasons, and its third New Year’s Six win in the past five years. The Rose Bowl win was also the Nittany Lions’ second Rose Bowl win of all-time and its first since the 1995 season.

Considering that this year was supposed to be a “transition” year in State College, Penn State football overachieved by a lot. Heading into the 2023 season, this is a good sign — if 11-2 with a New Year’s Six win is a transition season, imagine what 2023 could hold for Penn State.


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