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Predicting Penn State's 2022 football season

That’s how nearly every preseason evaluation Penn State coach James Franklin makes of his 2022 football team ends.

“I like where we are now, but you guys will tell me very clearly where we are on [September 1].”

Franklin began his ninth season as Penn State head coach on September 1 at Purdue, a game that could define the course of the season. We said OK because the Lions started last year with a 5-0 win over Wisconsin, finishing 4th in the AP Top 25, and then went on a dramatic free fall,

The 7-6 season included the most disappointing end to Franklin’s head coaching career, and no matter how hard the Lions try to bury it, the season has already bleed into 2022. Therefore, Franklin qualified each evaluation with a “you” clause.

While Franklin may be reluctant to make predictions, we won’t. Here’s our take on the best and worst of 2022.

Penn State offensive MVP

Quarterback Sean Clifford Germany

. The fourth-year starter may not be participating in a Kenny Pickettske-style season, but will end his college career with glory. A healthy Clifford should throw for 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns and lead the comeback to victory.

Penn State Defensive MVP

Linebacker Curtis Jacobs

. Switching to Will linebacker will allow Jacobs to demonstrate his speed and lateral movement closer to the line of scrimmage. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will find some creative ways to hire Jacobs.

The greatest strength of the team

Secondary. The group has two, possibly four, NFL draft picks led by safety Jill Brown and small cornerback Joey Porter. Again, Diaz has plenty of options, including playing more fives with corner powerhouse Hardy, Johnny Dixon or Marquis Wilson.

The biggest question mark in the team

Offensive line

. We’ll keep talking until things change. Franklin is still looking for his first All-Big Ten first-time lineman at Penn State. He’s also looking for a route to consistently and decisively lead the 4-minute offense in the fourth quarter.

Penn State’s leading charge

running back Nicholas Singleton . Get ready for another backcourt rotation, at least against Purdue. Running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider said all four scholarship backs will play against the Boilermakers. These include freshmen Singleton and Kaytron Allen. Ultimately, though, Singleton will be the breakthrough player on Penn State’s offensive end. He will also end Penn State’s streak without a 100-yard rusher entering 16 games of the season.

Players you don’t know now, but will be in October

safe Zaki Whitley

. During spring drills and training camp, the redshirt freshman leads the defense in takeout. Wheatley played point guard and midfield in high school, so he knew how to find the ball.

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Maximum Shoes to Fill

Punter Barney Amor. The sixth-year senior will replace Jordan Stout, a top-10 pitcher of the year selected by the Baltimore Ravens. Amor’s last bet was at Colgate in 2019, where he earned two undergraduate degrees. Special Teams coach Stacy Collins has been a huge Amor fan since joining the program.

The Unsung Hero of Penn State

Linebacker Jonathan Sutherland

. Another sixth-year senior, Sutherland has started three games as a defensive player. But he’s captained the team four times, has earned respect in the locker room, and is playing a role that seems to suit him. Sutherland could be a breakthrough player for Sam’s guard.

The next coach is most likely to be the head coach

Diaz is the obvious candidate, but we’ll go with safety coach and co-defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter . He came close last year at his alma mater Virginia, and this offseason will spark more interest.

Coach in hot seat

Offense Line Coach Phil Troutwin

. He’s a great guy with great control over the nuances of the ball of line. But last year was Penn State’s weakest year under Franklin. If nothing changes in Trautwein’s third year, Franklin will be scouting.


on Nov. 26 against Michigan State. Saving the best for last, Penn State ended the regular season with a senior-day victory, which begs the question: How many seniors skip the bowl game?

Most frustrating loss

October. 22 vs. Minnesota. Another 5-0 start will send the Lions to Michigan for a top-10 matchup on Oct. 15. After Michigan’s win, Penn State returns to host Minnesota. Minnesota’s PJ Fleck and offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, who worked at Penn State in 2020, renewed their call to step down Franklin by winning at State. It marked the annual game where everything went wrong for Franklin and his team.

Penn State Record Projection

9-3. The Lions have the potential to win 10 regular-season games and possibly even host Ohio State in October. But after winning early road games against Purdue and Auburn, the October strikes gave Penn State a three-game losing streak. Michigan-Ohio’s curse continues (Franklin beat them 4-12).

read more

7 key storylines that will determine Penn State’s season

“Super humble” Lions build low-key confidence in training camp

Who is Penn State’s offensive starter this season? Our Picks

Predicted Penn State’s starting defense in 2022

AllPennState is the place for Penn State news, views and opinions on the network. Publisher Mark Wogenrich has covered Penn State for more than 20 years, tracking three coaching staff, three Big Ten titles and a slew of great stories. Follow him on Twitter @MarkWogenrich. And consider subscribing (button on home page) for more great content through the network.



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