Where Penn State foot­ball stacks up in the 2019 way-too-early top-25 rank­ings

Centre Daily Times (Sunday) - - Sports - BY JOHN MCGONIGAL jm­c­go­ni­[email protected]­tredaily.com

For 128 FBS teams, the page turned to the 2019 sea­son weeks, for some even months, ago. But all eyes weren’t fo­cused on next sea­son un­til Clem­son put the fin­ish­ing touches on an Alabama beat­down in Mon­day night’s na­tional ti­tle game.

Now that’s over, it’s of­fi­cially the col­lege foot­ball off­sea­son. And with it comes way-tooearly top-25 rank­ings.

Na­tional out­lets re­leased their 2019 pre­sea­son pro­jec­tions in the hours and days after Clem­son-Bama IV, and the Nit­tany Li­ons found them­selves in all the ma­jor top-25 lists. How­ever, with Trace McSor­ley and a crop of un­der­class­men leav­ing Happy Val­ley, there’s uncer­tainty sur­round­ing Penn State in 2019, and that showed with a range of rank­ings.

THE ATH­LETIC’S STE­WART MAN­DEL

Rank­ing: No. 21

Big Ten teams ahead: No. 4 Ohio State, No. 12 Michi­gan, No. 16 Iowa, No. 19 North­west- ern

Rea­son­ing: “WR KJ Ham­ler, LB Micah Par­sons and DE Ye­tur Gross-Matos are proven stand­outs. But next sea­son will test James Franklin’s re­cent re­cruit­ing classes after five Nit­tany Li­ons turned pro early, most no­tably RB Miles Sanders. Is for­mer five-star Ricky Slade next in line? Fifth-year QB Tommy Stevens has long been ex­pected to suc­ceed Trace McSor­ley but is re­cov­er­ing from re­cent surgery.”

ESPN’S MARK SCHLABACH

Rank­ing: No. 17

Big Ten teams ahead: No. 4 Ohio State, No. 11 Michi­gan

Rea­son­ing: “Life after McSor­ley be­gins for the Nit­tany Li­ons, who must re­place the school’s all-time lead­ing passer and win­ningest quar­ter­back. It’s not go­ing to be easy after a mass ex­o­dus of un­der­class­men to the NFL draft.”

CBS SPORTS’ DEN­NIS DODD

Rank­ing: No. 12

Big Ten teams ahead: No. 6 Ohio State, No. 10 Michi­gan

Rea­son­ing: “The Li­ons con­tinue to con­tend for Big Ten ti­tles un­der James Franklin. There is some re­tool­ing to be done with the exit of Trace McSor­ley. But re­mem­ber this name: Tommy Stevens. Watch out for road games at Michi­gan State and Ohio State.”

SPORTS IL­LUS­TRATED’S SCOOBY AXSON

Rank­ing: No. 14

Big Ten teams ahead: No.

4 Ohio State, No. 7 Michi­gan

Rea­son­ing: “Pro­gram leg­end Trace McSor­ley is gone, but the fu­ture still looks bright in Happy Val­ley. ... Sacks leader Ye­tur Gross-Matos (eight sacks, 20 TFL) is back, and the sec­ondary should again be a strength after hold­ing its last five op­po­nents un­der 200 pass­ing yards.”

ATHLON SPORTS’ STEVEN LASSAN

Rank­ing: No. 13

Big Ten teams ahead: No. 5 Ohio State, No. 8 Michi­gan

Rea­son­ing: “The Nit­tany Li­ons are trend­ing up un­der coach James Franklin after three con­sec­u­tive sea­sons of at least nine vic­to­ries. How­ever, Franklin and his staff will have a busy off­sea­son to main­tain its place near the top of the Big Ten. ... KJ Ham- ler is back after an im­pres­sive fresh­man cam­paign to lead the re­ceiv­ing corps, with tight end Pat Freier­muth likely to be an even big­ger fac­tor in the of­fense next fall.”

YA­HOO! SPORTS

Rank­ing: No. 14

Big Ten teams ahead: No. 4 Ohio State, No. 9 Michi­gan

Rea­son­ing: “Has James Franklin re­cruited well enough that Penn State has be­come a pro­gram that doesn’t have to re­build, but sim­ply reload? In 2018, PSU in­te­grated a lot of new faces and ended up as a dis­tant third in the Big Ten East. ... The de­fense lost a few linemen to the NFL as well, but has the po­ten­tial to be one of the bet­ter units in the con­fer­ence. Micah Par­sons is the player to watch at line­backer.”

ABBY DREY [email protected]­tredaily.com

Penn State wide re­ceivers KJ Ham­ler and Mac Hip­pen­ham­mer walk off the field after the Jan. 1 loss to Ken­tucky in the Cit­rus Bowl at Camp­ing World Sta­dium in Or­lando, Fla.

ABBY DREY [email protected]­tredaily.com

Penn State coach James Franklin com­forts Trace McSor­ley as he walks off the field after the loss to Ken­tucky in the Cit­rus Bowl on Jan. 1. Franklin will need to find a new quar­ter­back be­cause McSor­ley is headed to the NFL.

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