Since winning the Big Ten in 2016, Penn State has typically been ranked just inside the top 10 in most preseason polls. However, enthusiasm for the program dropped following the 4-5 season in 2020.
The Sporting News has released its most recent college football preseason top 25, and the Nittany Lions barely make the rankings - coming in at #25. Penn State comes in just behind Coastal Carolina and Army - two programs that have enjoyed recent success, but aren’t typically found ahead of the Nittany Lions.
The Sporting News had this to say about Penn State’s upcoming season:
Penn State hit the reset button after a disastrous 2020, but James Franklin has more than enough talent on the roster to make a run at the Big Ten’s East division. Mike Yurcich takes over at offensive coordinator after spending the last two seasons at Ohio State and Texas, respectively. He’ll take over an offense with Sean Clifford returning at quarterback and Devyn Ford and Keyvone Lee forming an interesting 1-2 punch at running back. Jahan Dotston is one of the best receivers in the Big Ten. But the offensive line needs to improve, as does the defense. which allowed 27.7 points per game in 2020. There is a lot to prove, and the gap with Ohio State continues to widen.
As completely expected, Ohio State is the top-ranked team in the Big Ten, coming in at #3 behind Alabama and Clemson. Indiana is the next conference foe to show up at #15, followed by Iowa (#18) and Wisconsin (#20). All four of the ranked Big Ten squads appear on the Nittany Lions schedule in 2021. Additionally, Penn State will host #22 Auburn, who will come to Beaver Stadium in week three.
Penn State will kick off the 2021 season on September 4 in Madison to face the Wisconsin Badgers.