While the 2018 national champion is still set to be determined on Monday, it’s never too early to start looking ahead to the 2019 season. Athlon released it’s annual “Way Too Early” rankings on Friday, with Penn State coming in at #13, with this to say about next year’s edition of the Nittany Lions:
The Nittany Lions are trending up under coach James Franklin after three consecutive seasons of at least nine victories. However, Franklin and his staff will have a busy offseason to maintain its place near the top of the Big Ten. Three-year starter Trace McSorley departs after a prolific career. Senior Tommy Stevens and sophomore Sean Clifford will battle for the starting quarterback job, but the offense can lean on running backs Ricky Slade, Noah Cain and Devyn Ford and an offensive line that brings back three starters for 2019. KJ Hamler is back after an impressive freshman campaign to lead the receiving corps, with tight end Pat Freiermuth likely to be an even bigger factor in the offense next fall. Helping the transition on offense will be a standout defense that doesn’t lose much after giving up 350.4 yards and 20.5 points per game a game in 2018. End Yetur Gross-Matos and tackle Robert Windsor anchor a talented front, but this unit lost Kevin Givens and Shareef Miller early for the NFL. Micah Parsons was a big-time recruit and certainly lived up to the hype in his first year on campus. He will be counted on to lead a linebacker unit that’s slated to only lose Koa Farmer. Safety Nick Scott and cornerback Amani Oruwariye depart a secondary that allowed only 14 scores in ’18. Michigan visits Happy Valley, but Penn State takes on Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State on the road next year.
Ohio State was the highest-ranked Big Ten team, coming in at #5, while Michigan also came ahead of Penn State at #8. Additionally, Iowa (#17), Wisconsin (#18), Nebraska (#19) and Northwestern (#24) round out the seven Big Ten squads to appear in the top 25.
To no one’s surprise, Alabama was ranked #1 with Clemson at #2.
Penn State will kick off the 2019 season against Idaho on Sat., Aug. 31 in Beaver Stadium. View the full schedule here.