Penn State Football: Closer to 7-5 or College Football Playoff?

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin (Mandatory Credit: Mark Alberti-USA TODAY Sports)
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin (Mandatory Credit: Mark Alberti-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Penn State Football
Sean Clifford #14 of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

Road To Glory #3

QB play has to be consistently the best in the B1G every year

This one can’t be a shocker to anyone who has watched Penn State football over the years. Heck, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s watched any upper levels of football at all (P5 FBS and NFL).

If you are not getting consistent, high-end play from the most important position in all of sports, then my guess your team isn’t going to win every game. And if winning every game on your schedule is the goal, or at worst only losing a single game, then this has to happen.

Penn State fans got to witness this several years ago when the best Nittany Lion QB of all time (statistically) hit the field between 2016-2018. Trace McSorley currently holds the following Penn State records:
-Career passing yards (9,899)
-Single season passing yards (3,614)
-Career passing touchdowns (77)
-Single season passing touchdowns (29)

Couple McSorely with one of the most explosive running backs in Penn State history (Saquon Barkley – 2016 & 2017), the all time career receptions leader (DaeSean Hamilton), an NFL star (Chris Godwin – 2016), and one of the best pass-catching TE’s in Penn History (Mike Gesicki – 2016 & 2017) and this made for one heck of a team in 2016 and 2017.

But make no mistake about it, this all starts and stops with the play of Trace McSorely. His decision making pre-snap and post-snap is what helped propel Penn State to the success it had in this short run. McSorely was clearly one of the best QB’s in the B1G.

So how did Penn State fare with McSorely under center in the shotgun from 2016 to 2018? Let’s take a look:
Record: 31-9
Bowl: 1-2 (Fiesta Bowl Win, Rose Bowl Loss, Citrus Bowl Loss)
Against OSU: 1-2

So, with Penn State’s best statistical QB of all time, a once in a generation running back, future NFL players on the offensive line, an up and coming Offensive Coordinator, the best downfield TE threat in the nation, and a plethora of talented receivers, Penn State managed to be in the Playoff discussion one time. Once.

And based on the limited data we have with the College Football Playoff, they were never truly in the discussion as they already had two losses. To make matters worse, they lost against a 3-loss USC team in the Rose Bowl. A game they had zero business losing.

So here’s the bottom line, for Penn State to be an elite program, they will have to have some of the best QB play in the B1G. And even if they do, it still doesn’t mean they will get past Ohio State.