Penn State Among Favorites in Early 2017 Rankings

By RLR Staff on January 10, 2017 at 3:57p
Dec 3, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) celebrates with teammates after catching a touchdown pass against the Wisconsin Badgers in the second half during the Big Ten Championship college football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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We are not even a full day into the college football off season, following Clemson's thrilling 35-31 victory over Alabama. But, that is no reason to avoid looking forward to this fall and some way too early college football rankings. As expected, Penn State is getting plenty of love coming off of an 11-3 season that ended with a Big Ten championship, and thrilling Rose Bowl appearance.

Sports Illustrated - No. 3

Three years into a full allotment of scholarships, the Nittany Lions will be deeper and better.

CBS Sports - No. 6 

What does James Franklin do for a Big Ten encore? Perhaps win the league again. Once again, the Nits will battle Ohio State in the Big Ten East. Trace McSorley is a gunslinger. Saquon Barkley is simply one of the best tailbacks in the country.

USA Today - No. 8

The Nittany Lions’ biggest post-regular season development was offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s decision to return in 2017. That, along with the return of quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley, will ensure this offseason will be even better next season. Recapturing this year’s magic won’t be easy, but there’s zero reason to think Penn State is poised to take any step back.

The Big Lead - No. 12 

Penn State came out of nowhere in 2016, which is why our formula is doing some brake pumping. Most of the offense besides receiver Chris Godwin returns, including Trace McSorely and standout running back Saquon Barkley. The offensive line, which started three freshmen in the Rose Bowl, should progress. Penn State’s defense brings a veteran core back but loses both starting DEs. We did not knock the Nittany Lions down for McSorely’s trademark home run/salute celebration. But, we should have.

ESPN - No. 4

The Nittany Lions' dramatic turnaround in 2016 -- they won their final eight regular-season games and beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game -- should serve as a big springboard to 2017. Leading receiver Chris Godwin opted to leave early for the NFL draft, but most of Penn State's starters on offense will return, including star tailback Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley. Both will be top Heisman Trophy candidates. Plus, PSU will get back a few offensive linemen who were hurt for the stretch run. Four of the defense's most productive players are departing -- defensive ends Evan Schwan and Garrett Sickels, linebacker Brandon Bell and strong safety Malik Golden -- but everyone else is expected back. The Nittany Lions will have to navigate their way through a difficult Big Ten road schedule that includes trips to Iowa, Northwestern, Ohio State and Michigan State.

Kirk Herbstreit - No. 4

SB Nation - No. 5


16 returning starters from a conference champion, and another year of experience for a number of key young players appears to have caught the attention of the national media. Only 235 days until Akron Akron Akron Akron.

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