The official Associated Press preseason poll has been released, and the Penn State Nittany Lions did not make the cut. Despite having two winning seasons in the face of NCAA sanctions and great excitement around the hiring of new head coach James Franklin, the voters do not see the Nittany Lions as a top-25 team to start the 2014 season.
When the Big Ten Conference added new members Rutgers and Maryland this year, the Nittany Lions were placed in the new East division. That means they will have to face some of the toughest teams in the conference, including two teams in the top-25.
Four Big Ten teams are in the preseason poll.
Ohio State leads the way for the conference at No. 5, Michigan State is No. 8, Wisconsin is No. 14 while Nebraska is No. 22. The Buckeyes and Spartans are all on Penn State’s schedule this year. Two other Big Ten teams received votes for the poll, but fell just short. Michigan and Northwestern, who both face the Nittany Lions this year, landed just outside the poll.
Penn State’s first opponent of the season, the UCF Knights, also received votes, but landed just outside of the poll.
Defending champion Florida State sits at the top of the poll, followed by Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma.
While the Nittany Lions are not in the poll, based on their schedule, they could climb into it after a few weeks. Victories over the likes of UCF, Northwestern, Michigan and Ohio State will look very good to the voters.
The Nittany Lions return a some experience this season at important positions, including Big Ten Freshman of the Year Christian Hackenberg at quarterback. Coach Franklin has garnered a lot of excitement among fans for the upcoming season and many are looking forward to seeing Penn State take the field on August 30 in the Croke Park Classic in Dublin.