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Athlon Sports Picks Penn State to Finish Fourth in East Division

The Nittany Lions will need to prove themselves after two disappointing seasons.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 27 Penn State at Michigan State Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The days of penciling in Penn State only behind Ohio State in the preseason predictions are over for now. Following two disappointing seasons, Athlon has Penn State moving down the pecking order in the Big Ten East Division.

Athlon picked the Nittany Lions to finish fourth in the division in 2022 - behind Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State. This should come as no surpise following a season where Michigan finally beat Ohio State, helping propel them to a playoff berth. Michigan State came out of nowhere to finish #9 in the nation thanks to an 11-win season. And Ohio State is still Ohio State, stocked with blue chip talent that makes them the evergreen pick to win the Big Ten.

Here is part of Athlon’s outlook on the Nittany Lions for the upcoming season:

Reversing that trend starts on offense. Quarterback Sean Clifford has to play with more consistency, but the senior also needs more help from a shaky offensive line that surrendered the most sacks (44) of any team in the Big Ten. In addition to better pass protection, the line has to improve its run blocking after the Nittany Lions failed to have a 100-yard rusher and managed just 2.96 yards per carry in ’21. Assuming Clifford takes a step forward and the line improves, the skill talent – receiver Parker Washington and talented true freshman running back Nick Singleton headline the key returning playmakers – is there for the offense to improve (25 points a game last fall).

Penn State is predicted to finish ahead of divisional foes Maryland, Rutgers and Indiana. The Hoosiers were picked to finish last in the division after crashing back down to Earth in 2021 with a 2-10 record and not a single conference victory.

Athlon predicts Wisconsin to win the West, with Penn State’s week one opponent Purdue placed second. Iowa is third, followed by Minnesota, Nebraska, Illinois and Northwestern.

Athlon picked Ohio State to ultimately defeat Wisconsin in the Big Ten Campionship Game. Incoming running back Nick Singelton was selcted as the top freshman, and Penn State was determined to be the team that is the most difficult to evaluate heading into the season.