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MMQB: What Needs to Change for Penn State to Become a Legit National Title Contender?

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What is the key for Penn State to take that next step forward?

Penn State v Northwestern Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Penn State. A little over a week ago, Penn State sat at #2 in the nation with a chance to control its own destiny to make the College Football Playoffs, even flirting with the opportunity to be ranked #1 overall.

Since then Penn State has suffered two devastating losses in the closing moments against Ohio State and Michigan State, thus crushing any chance of reaching the College Football Playoffs for the first time in program history. The losses magnified deficiencies within the program that sets it apart from the teams that have become perennial powers. While Penn State is awfully close, it’s quite obvious they are not quite there yet.

With that in mind, what is the key for Penn State to take that giant leap forward to reaching the playoffs and becoming a perennial contender?

I believe the answer is straightforward- full and continued development on both sides of the line.

The offensive line is still recovering from the sanction years, where the team was forced to use converted defensive tackles and still did not have enough bodies to have two different units for the Blue-White Games. They now have depth and talent for the first time in years, but are depending on many young players- something that can be done, but makes it difficult to compete at the highest of levels. Fortunately, four starters will return in 2018 and (likely) three in 2019. This is without mentioning the several four and five-star prospects in the pipeline.

The defensive line has struggled to get consistent pressure throughout the season, and are also depending on a young group of defensive ends. To add to that, the team has also had to shuffle defensive tackle Kevin Givens to the outside after losing starter Torrence Brown in week two, and then his replacement, Ryan Buchholz against Ohio State. Newcomers such as Shaka Toney and Yetur Matos-Gross are playing well, but not at the level needed to be a true legit national title contender. However, the pipleline is full of highly recruited prospects, and it’s not a stretch to believe that Penn State will soon have one of the very best defensive lines in college football in the near future.

Get better in the trenches and those tight games against quality opponents are much more likely to go the other way.

So what say you, BSD reader? What is the one thing that needs to be addressed for Penn State to take the next step forward? Is it a matter of building and being patient? Winning close games (keep in mind the Nittany Lions are a couple plays away from standing at 9-0)? Or do you believe there are more deep-rooted issues that will hold the program back into the future?