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Penn State Nittany Lions 2017 College Football Preview, Schedule, Prediction, Depth Chart

Penn State Nittany Lions 2017 Preview

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The Penn State Nittany Lions were one of the biggest surprises in the country last season with 11 victories and a strong case for the college football playoff. The season was easily the most successful since PSU went through the Joe Paterno mess. The question now is can James Franklin follow that up with a spot in the playoff this season?

Should be an interesting year in Happy Valley.

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Penn State Nittany Lions 2017 College Football Preview, Schedule, Prediction, Depth Chart

USA TODAY Sports

Here’s the Penn State Nittany Lions 2017 college football preview.

Offense: Trace McSorley could be the best quarterback in the Big Ten after finishing his final three games with 12 touchdown passes and throwing for over 3,600 yards on the season. McSorley is the best QB Penn State has had in quite some time and he gives this offense a whole different feel. Saquon Barkley returns at running back after rushing for nearly 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns, leading the Big Ten in touchdowns. Mike Gesicki is probably the best tight end in the Big Ten heading into the season, and a combination of DaeSean Hamilton and DeAndre Thompkins finished last season with 61 receptions and over 900 yards. The offensive line is also experienced and deep, which will be led by Ryan Bates, Andrew Nelson and Brendan Mahon. Penn State finished the last seven games scoring at least 38 points and with majority of those players returning, the Nittany Lions could be the most dangerous offensive team in the Big Ten.

Defense: Penn State returns seven starters from a defense that ranked 37th in the country last season in yards allowed per game. As usual, PSU will have a pair of linebackers who are tough to deal with in Jason Cabinda and Manny Bowen, a duo that produced 149 tackles last season. The Nittany Lions are also set at cornerback with John Reid, Amani Oruwariye and Grant Haley all returning after making key contributions. Safety Marcus Allen also is back after leading Penn State with 110 tackles last season. The defensive line will be led by a pair of tackles in Curtis Cothran and Parker Cothren, both redshirt juniors. Defensive end is where the Nittany Lions defense has questions, but Shane Simmons was a 4-star recruit in 2016 and guys such as Daniel Gibson and Yetur Matos were also top-300 players in their class who could see the field often. Penn State will once again be tough on the defensive side of the ball with so much experience and talent returning.

Special Teams: Tyler Davis returns at kicker after making 22 of 24 field goals and all 62 extra points. Blake Gillikin returns at punter after averaging 42.8 yards on 61 attempts.

Outlook: Penn State showed last season just how dangerous this team can be and majority of the key pieces are back. Remember, the Nittany Lions won nine of their last 10 games and that included a win over Ohio State and a Big Ten Championship. Penn State can score in buckets and the defense should be even better than it was a year ago. Also, Franklin is the type of coach who motivates well and will have this team fired up each week. Not the easiest schedule in the world with road games to Michigan State and Ohio State, but the Nittany Lions have as good of a chance to win the Big Ten as any team within the division. Penn State is a good futures bet to win the title if you’re looking for a sleeper with larger odds.

Schedule:

Sept. 2: vs. Akron 

Sept. 9: vs. Pittsburgh 

Sept. 16: vs. Georgia State 

Sept. 23: at Iowa 

Sept. 30: vs. Indiana 

Oct. 7: at Northwestern 

Oct. 14: BYE 

Oct. 21: vs. Michigan 

Oct. 28: at Ohio State   

Nov. 4: at Michigan State 

Nov. 11: vs. Rutgers 

Nov. 18: vs. Nebraska 

Nov. 25: at Maryland

Dec. 2: Big Ten championship game 

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