We're just over two weeks away from puck drop for the 2018-19 season and college hockey's triumphant return, and Penn State once again finds itself considered the underdog in USCHO's latest preseason poll.
Coming in at No. 16, the Nittany Lions will have to fight their way up the ranks to earn respectful looks – just as they've had to do since joining Division I hockey – using this familiar territory as fuel for success. But as it is a preseason poll, it's nothing to get too upset over just yet.
However, the placement of fellow Big Ten opponent Minnesota at No. 13 is raising eyebrows around Hockey Valley – especially when you remember the Golden Gophers fell to the Lions four times in a row late last season in a failure of catastrophic proportions. Guy Gadowsky and co. certainly remember dismembering the Gophers' chances at a national title, and are no strangers to having a chip on their shoulders.
The USCHO poll came out just shortly after the Lions came in fifth out of seven teams in the Big Ten preseason poll, echoing a similar result at the end of last season, where Penn State took fourth place. That being said, the Big Ten conference is absolutely stacked this year, with championship runners-up Notre Dame (No. 2), Ohio State (No. 3), and Michigan (No. 4) all sitting pretty in the nation's top-five teams. It won't be an easy road to the Frozen Four tourney this time around, and that's before you consider the shakiness of the Lions' blue line.
Penn State's offense, one that might posses the most talented top-six in the nation, will easily turn out highlight-reel results, but it's the Trevor Hamilton-less defense that'll play as the team's Achilles heel this season. Junior and sophomore defenders Kris Myllari and Cole Hults, along with junior goaltender Peyton Jones, have their work cut out for them.