Instead of landing on the chopping block, Franklin and his team rallied. The rally started in the overtime of the Minnesota game, but really gained momentum following the upset of then #2 Ohio State. Staying focused with this new national spotlight appeared to be more challenging than the opponents the Nittany Lions faced in the waning weeks of the regular season. With help, Penn State was able to book a spot in the Big Ten Championship-coming back from a 21 point deficit to beat the Badgers and claiming it’s first outright BIG title since 2005 (co-champions in 2008).
Then we know the story; Penn State fought valiantly in a defeat against USC in the Rose Bowl.
Penn State does return most of their offense; in fact, losing Godwin is the only thing that hurts this offense; losing Gaia at the center position doesn’t hurt. It appears, with Barkley, McSorley, Gesicki, a more talented and experienced offensive line, and a ton of explosive receivers, Penn State is loaded for an offensive output similar to that in 1994.
However, Penn State won’t live up to its offensive expectations unless they can hold onto the football and convert on third downs; two disappointing motifs of last year’s season. Penn State lost the turnover battle in every game they lost this year. There was a clear correlation between turning the ball over and winning last year.
More importantly, Penn State could struggle in 2017 because of their defense. In the secondary, the Nittany Lions, even after losing John Reid for the season, are the more talented than ever before. Because of last year’s injuries, the linebacker corps has a ton of experience, but the skill level isn’t elite after the first string. The worry comes up front. Kevin Givens appeared to be a force in the middle, and a handful of defensive ends showed flashes last season, but can this defensive line control the game? Can they get pressure on the quarterbacks with the best offensive lines in front of them? They weren’t able to against Southern Cal.
Finally, Penn State is back on the map, which is important for recruiting the best athletes, but is much harder to repeat as BIG champs, let alone a Playoff berth, when you can no longer sneak up on teams.