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Why is 2023 so important for Penn State football?

Penn State football had a great year in 2022; it’s now time to capitalize on that momentum and make 2023 an even bigger success.



Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith (1) runs for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Utah Utes in the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The contrast between the 2021-22 offseason and the 2022-23 offseason for Penn State football is astounding. The last time the earth was this far around the sun, Penn State fans were demoralized after their Nittany Lions’ 5-0 start quickly turned into a 7-6 finish.

If that was not enough, Penn State then put more players in the NFL than any other program — which is by no means a bad thing; however, it showed how much talent was wasted in the previous two seasons.

The offseason that followed 2021

It was not a good time to be a Penn State fan if we’re being honest. All the media talked about was how awful Penn State would be in 2022; frankly, most Penn State fans felt the same. The Nittany Lions still had 6th-year QB Sean Clifford under center; there were too many questions at critical spots, such as offensive line, linebackers, running backs, and more.

Worst of all, Penn State’s offense — on paper at least — had worsened from the previous year. The Washington Commanders drafted Jahan Dotson — the Nittany Lions’ star wideout and focal point of the 2020 and 2021 offenses. Somehow, Penn State’s 90th overall offense from 2021 was looking even worse, and much of its elite defense had also left.

I don’t mean to pile on, but I am going to anyways. Penn State football was also bringing in a new defensive coordinator — Manny Diaz from Miami (FL) — to replace long-time DC Brent Pry. Most thought 8-9 wins was generous; many picked Penn State to finish 7-5 again and no higher than 4th in the Big Ten East division.

After Penn State’s spring game, not many were convinced that Penn State football was going to be much better — there were a lot of mistakes, bad throws, etc., and it gave little hope that Penn State would be ready come September 1st when the Nittany Lions were set to face off against Purdue.

The worst part about the schedule heading into the year was that Penn State needed more time to prepare its young team; Penn State football was slated to face off against Purdue (Big Ten West Champions) and Auburn within the first three weeks of the season. Additionally, the Nittany Lions had to face Michigan (Big Ten Champions) for their 6th game of the year and Ohio State for their 8th.

It felt doable to some; however, the 2020 and 2021 seasons gave Penn State football fans little hope for the season. Another 8-win season (at best) and a bowl game loss felt expected in year nine of James Franklin.

These feelings were all flooding in less than a year ago; the contrast between then and now is astounding.

Penn State football changes its fortunes

Week 1 of the 2022 season came and went, and while Penn State did not play its best game, the Nittany Lions managed to start on the right foot. Penn State football went into Ross-Ade Stadium and beat Purdue with a last-minute game-winning drive assembled by none other than Sean Clifford.

While the Nittany Lions’ 35-31 win at Purdue was not enough to get Penn State ranked by any means, it still established that the 2022 Penn State football team was not of the same breed as the last two teams.

In Week 2, Penn State again flexed its muscle with a 46-10 win over the Ohio Bobcats — a win that seems a far bigger deal in hindsight. Ohio went on to win the MAC East division with a 9-3 record; it was not a ranked-caliber win, but it was a solid win to add.

Week 3 was the real turning point for the Nittany Lions as they faced their biggest test to that point: on the road at Auburn. The year before, Penn State football defeated Auburn by eight points in the infamous White Out game; however, in 2022, Penn State needed to make the trip to Alabama.

No Big Ten team had ever played in Jordan-Hare Stadium — a graveyard for SEC programs like Alabama, Georgia, and more — however, Penn State had little trouble. At halftime, the score read 14-6, yet Penn State returned to State College with an astounding 41-12 victory all said and done.

It was a turning point for how people viewed Penn State football; gone were the days of the “same old Nittany Lions,” and in was a revamped Penn State team.

While PSU saw its ups and downs in 2022, one thing was for sure: Penn State got back on track. Sure, the 44-31 home loss to Ohio State was no fun, nor was Penn State’s 41-17 loss at Michigan. That being said, those were the Nittany Lions’ only two losses, and both came against College Football Playoff teams.

Fans also witnessed some massive Penn State wins; a 35-16 win over Michigan State, a 45-17 win in the White Out, a 45-14 win at Indiana, a 30-0 shutout of Maryland, and more. Penn State’s 10-2 record was good enough to earn a bid to the 2023 Rose Bowl game — Penn State’s second Rose Bowl berth and fifth New Year’s Six game since 2016.

Unlike the 2016 team, Penn State dominated this year’s Rose Bowl and ran No. 8 Utah (PAC-12 Champions) out of the stadium. All said and done, Penn State football walked off with a 35-21 victory and its second-ever Rose Bowl win (first since 1995).

2023 is a crucial turning point for Penn State football

As the page turns from Penn State’s incredible 11-2 Rose Bowl-winning season, the Nittany Lions are facing their biggest test of the James Franklin era: get to the next level.

Many times since 2016 has, Penn State been in this situation. In 2016, coming off the heels of a Big Ten Championship, Penn State was in this spot; the same can be said for Penn State’s 2018 and 2020 offseasons.

Yet so far, Penn State football has yet to capture this momentum and take that next step. Its only win over Ohio State and conference title came in 2016; the same can be said for the closest it has come to making the College Football Playoff. I hate to be a broken record — I genuinely do — but Penn State needs to take advantage of this momentum.

After 2016’s 11-3 finish, Penn State had one of the best rosters in program history yet again fell short of its preseason goals. I am not saying an 11-2, top-10 finish with a Fiesta Bowl win is anything to complain about; however, more was expected of that team.

The same can be said for Penn State’s 9-4 season in 2018, its 11-2 season in 2019, and both the 2020 and 2021 teams.

The Nittany Lions have had their ups and downs, but Penn State needs to take the leap at some point. In 2021, Michigan went from being a 10-win team to a 12-win squad — the Wolverines have now made back-to-back trips to the College Football Playoff, won two-straight Big Ten Championships, and continue to dominate Ohio State on the field.

It’s Penn State’s turn to take that leap — the talent is there, now it’s time to deliver.

The Nittany Lions have the tools in 2023

No more excuses in 2023 for Penn State not to be in contention for the Big Ten Championship. The defense should be elite-caliber, just as in 2021 and 2022; the offense is loaded with talent out wide, in the trenches, and in the backfield, not to mention Penn State retains its same coaching staff.

Under center, a former No. 1 overall prospect — Drew Allar — will be throwing to a revamped receiving corps. Behind Allar is an elite duo of rising sophomore running backs: Kaytron Allen, Nick Singleton, and more.

It’s time to put up or shut up; can Penn State hold onto this momentum and take the same leap that Michigan did in 2021? If Penn State expects to become an elite program like Michigan and Ohio State, it must capitalize on this offseason momentum and change its fortunes even further in 2023. If not, we could be in a similar cycle as we faced in 2016-2021.


Penn State opens the season at No. 5 in preseason poll

The Nittany Lions are ranked at No. 5 in a major preseason poll.



Penn State football preseason poll
Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Harrison Wallace III (6) makes a catch against Utah Utes safety R.J. Hubert (11) in the second half of the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, PA — On Tuesday, 247 Sports released its 2023 college football preseason top 25 poll. 247 lists three Big Ten programs in the top-5 and four Big Ten programs in the top 25. Among the top teams in the nation is Penn State football, who checked in at No. 5 on 247’s preseason poll.

Penn State football ranked at No. 5 in major 2023 preseason poll

The Penn State football team had an incredible season in 2022, going 11-2 overall, finishing the year at No. 7, and winning the Rose Bowl game against No. 8 Utah. If that was not enough, the Nittany Lions return a ton of talent, including some old faces like Chop Robinson, Nick Singleton, Kaytron Allen, Abdul Carter, and more. On the other hand, Penn State will also have some new faces starting, such as rising sophomore Drew Allar, who will be taking over as Penn State’s starting quarterback for the first time this fall.

Heading into the new season, Penn State’s win total is set at 9.5 — the only two Big Ten teams listed above Penn State are the Michigan Wolverines (10.5) and Ohio State Buckeyes (10.5) — these two are both ranked ahead of Penn State football in the 247 preseason poll as well.

Here are the four Big Ten teams ranked in 247’s preseason poll and where they rank:

What does 247 say about the Nittany Lions in their preseason poll?

247’s ranking system is based off of cumulative points, of which Penn State football has 114. The team ahead of the Nittany Lions — the Alabama Crimson Tide — has 131. In comparison to Michigan (141) and Ohio State (137), there seems to be some work to be done in order to catch up. Here is what 247 had to say about Penn State ahead of the 2023 season:

“Ranked as high as No. 5 by 247 Sports and as low as No. 9 (The Sporting News), there’s a bit of a preseason variance associated with the Nittany Lions, who welcome back a pair of standout freshmen ballcarriers and former five-star quarterback Drew Allar, who assumes the starting title. Getting through Michigan and Ohio State is the primary task at hand for Penn State, who won 11 games last season but failed to conquer the Wolverines or the Buckeyes.”

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Penn State is dominating the 2022-23 athletic calendar

Few athletic departments, if any, are seeing levels of success like Penn State right now.



Penn State football, Penn State wrestling
Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) celebrates on the podium after defeating the Utah Utes in the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, PA — Since the start of the most recent school year, the Penn State Nittany Lions have been on quite the hot streak. To kick things off — from September through January — the Penn State football team made an impressive run. Since then, the Lions have seen a great deal of success across many other sports as well, including some men’s basketball, hockey, Penn State wrestling, and more.

Penn State football kicks off incredible run for PSU athletics

At the beginning of the 2022-23 calendar, the Penn State football team came into the season unranked for the first time since the Nittany Lions’ incredible Big Ten title run in 2016. In Week 1, Penn State took down the eventual Big Ten West Champs (Purdue) on the road before destroying the eventual MAC East champs (Ohio) in Week 2, and Auburn in Week 3.

The Nittany Lions’ season started hot, and despite some road bumps along the way (losses at Michigan and vs. Ohio State), Penn State came away with an incredible season to say the least. All said and done, James Franklin and his team finished 11-2, won the Rose Bowl, snapped Penn State’s top 10 losing streak, and finished ranked in the top 10 for the fourth time in the past six full seasons.

Penn State wrestling wins national title

On Saturday, the Penn State wrestling team — led by legendary head coach Cael Sanderson — won its 10th national title in the past 12 tournaments. Sanderson, who took over the program before the 2009-10 season, has turned the Nittany Lions into the greatest college sports dynast of our time, and doesn’t appear to be finished yet. Two weeks ago, Penn State claimed its 7th-ever Big Ten tournament title not long after bringing home the regular season title with a 16-0 overall record and an 8-0 Big Ten record.

During the NCAA tournament, Penn State wrestling tied the program record for All-Americans (8) before winning the 11th national championship in program history just minutes into the first session on Saturday. The Nittany Lions also claimed two individual national titles.

Men’s basketball makes impressive run

Heading into the 2022-23 season, the Penn State basketball program did not appear to be in very good shape. The Nittany Lions had not been to the NCAA tournament in over ten years (2011), and had not won a tournament game in over 20 years (2001). Under second-year head coach Micah Shrewsberry, the Nittany Lions defied all odds and performed well above expectations. Additionally, Penn State basketball broke a few records (such as the Penn State and Big Ten record for most 3-pointers made in a single season), and even appeared in the conference title game against Purdue.

On Saturday night, Penn State basketball was narrowly eliminated from the NCAA tournament by the 2-seed Texas Longhorns; however, this is only the beginning for Nittany Lion hoops. Now, it’s time for AD Pat Kraft and the administration to give Micah Shrewsberry whatever he wants to keep him in State College for the long haul.

Hockey (M) will have a shot at the national title

On Sunday night, the Nittany Lions earned the elusive bid to the NCAA tournament and will compete for the national championship. Seeing as the Penn State hockey team (men’s) is currently ranked No. 10 in the coaches poll and No. 8 in the pairwise, the Nittany Lions will undoubtedly get their bid to the 16-team NCAA tournament. It has been a historic season in Hockey Valley — the Lions have pulled off numerous massive upsets over multiple No. 1 teams and more — though as of late, Penn State has slowly declined a bit.

After dropping in round one of the Big Ten tournament to the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Nittany Lions will look to bounce-back and make a run at the national championship this spring.

Hockey (W) wins first-ever conference title

For the first time in program history, the Penn State hockey team (women’s) won a conference title last month. Goalie Josie Bothun was named CHA Tournament MVP en route to a 2-1 win over Mercyhurst in the CHA tournament championship game — the Lions made the NCAA tournament as well, though fell short to Quinnipiac in round one.

Many spring sports off to a hot start

Thus far, during the 2023 spring/summer athletic schedule, the Penn State Nittany Lions are doing quite well. The Penn State men’s lacrosse team is currently ranked in the top-5 with a 5-2 record, and are heading into a massive game against Maryland next weekend.

The Penn State men’s volleyball team is currently ranked No. 2 in the land with an 18-2 record — the men’s team just upset No. 1 Hawaii in a massive road showdown and will host Ohio State at Rec Hall on Tuesday.

The Penn State baseball team is not ranked, though does boast an impressive 11-5 record on the season. The Nittany Lions opened their home schedule with a 6-1 win over Georgetown on Saturday and followed it up with a 7-2 win on Sunday.

The Penn State softball team is also off to a great start, boasting an outstanding 17-4 record to star the year. The ladies will host Pitt in State College on Tuesday.

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Urban Meyer says the pressure is on for Penn State football in 2023

Does former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer have a point about James Franklin and Penn State?



Urban Meyer comments on Penn State football
Oct 28, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin (left) and Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer greet before the game at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, PA — Recently, former Florida and Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer had some words on the Penn State Nittany Lions. According to the former Buckeye coach — who won a national title and more during his time in Columbus — there is a lot of pressure for James Franklin and his Penn State football team to meet the Nittany Lions’ high expectations this fall.

Penn State football heads into the 2023 season with huge expectations

The past few years have been full of ups and downs for the Penn State football program. After winning the Big Ten in 2016 — the team’s first year back from the sanctions set in 2012 — the Nittany Lions had a solid four-year stretch. From 2016-2019, Penn State football had three 11-win seasons, one 9-win season, won a Big Ten title, and two New Year’s Six bowls. Additionally, the Lions finished ranked in all four seasons, and finished top 10 in three of those seasons.

After going 11-2 and winning the Cotton Bowl in 2019, Penn State slipped into a hole that it took years to climb out of. In Week 1 of the 2020 season, the Nittany Lions fell on the road to Indiana; Penn State’s first loss of 2020 was just one of many disappointing moments that season, which ended up being the Lions’ first losing season under head coach James Franklin.

In 2020, Penn State football started off 5-0 and climbed its way into the top-4 before many key injuries seemingly forced the Lions into a 2-6 finish. Penn State’s 24-10 loss to Arkansas in the Outback Bowl, which dropped the team’s record to 7-6 on the season, was just salt in the wound for many fans. Despite a stellar four-year stretch from 2019-2019, Penn State started the new decade with an 11-11 record though two seasons. That being said, with a young, healthy team in 2022, the Nittany Lions bounced-back against all odds.

In Penn State’s most recent season, James Franklin and his squad came into the year unranked for the first time since 2016. Early-on, it was clear that the 2022 team was special; however, Penn State hit a few road bumps at Michigan and against Ohio State. Despite these two losses — both to CFP teams — Penn State managed to win out and finish 10-2 with an incredibly young roster. The 10-2 record was good enough to send the Lions to the Rose Bowl against No. 8 Utah — Penn State football defeated the Utes 35-21 to snap its top 10 losing streak, bring home another NY6 bowl, and win the program’s second-ever Rose Bowl game to close out the 2022 season.

While this was all great for the program, it also has set some incredibly high expectations heading into 2023.

Urban Meyer claims the pressure is on for the Nittany Lions in 2023

Recently, on The Hard Count (On3), former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer had some praise, and some added pressure for the Penn State football team heading into a new season this fall. While the Lions may be young, Penn State is experienced, has a veteran coaching staff, and is arguably more talented than just about anyone in the nation with star players like Drew Allar on offense and Abdul Carter on defense.

Here is what Meyer had to say about the Penn State Nittany Lions:

“I think it’s an enormous amount of pressure,” Meyer said on The Hard Count. “… In ’16, they had a great year. They beat us. They have to beat the Wolverines, they have to beat the Buckeyes. I’ll tell you what, they’re loaded. They have two running backs that are elite.

“That quarterback that’s going to take over is tremendous. We got to do several of his games. James Franklin has done a really good job. But he’s got to close the deal and, unfortunately, they’ve got to go to The Horseshoe this year. It’s a tough place to play.”

To Meyer’s point: yes, Franklin has done a great job with turning the Penn State football program back into a winner. That being said, the Nittany Lions need to keep climbing the ladder and get from NY6 status to CFP status eventually, and 2023 is looking like a perfect opportunity. Both Michigan and Ohio State are looking stacked this year; but then again, so are the Nittany Lions.

Like Urban Meyer, many Penn State fans are tired of looking to next year for greater success — it’s time that Penn State football finally breaks through its glass ceiling and reaches the next level.

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 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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