Penn State football ranked inside the top 10 in “way too early top 25”

The roster isn't quite yet complete for the 2024 edition of the Nittany Lions, but one national site views Penn State as a top 10 team in the country, though still a notch below the upper echelon of the Big Ten.

Penn State quarterback Drew Allar (15)
Penn State quarterback Drew Allar (15) / Dan Rainville / USA TODAY NETWORK
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For the first time since Ohio State in 2015, the Big Ten climbed the mountaintop of college football and Michigan came away with the national championship. Penn State, on the other hand, watched the playoff from home for the 10th straight year. 

With the 2024 College Football Playoff officially completing, attention has quickly turned to the 2024 season with “way too early” top 25s. Across the country, rosters aren’t finalized yet and coaches are still scouring the transfer portal for talent, hence the “way too early,” but we have our first unofficial college football rankings for next season popping up all over the place. 

So, where does Penn State rank in a few notable too-early top 25s? 

ESPN

The worldwide leader tasked Mark Schlabach with ranking the top teams in college football a mere seven months from kickoff. Schlabach included three Big Ten teams in his top 10 but left the Nittany Lions out at No. 12. 

The ESPN senior writer ranked Oregon at No. 3, Ohio State at No. 5, and the reigning champs at No. 6. 

Of the No. 12 Nittany Lions, Schlabach wrote, “It seemed the Nittany Lions missed a chance in 2023 to challenge Michigan and Ohio State in the Big Ten East with one of the better defenses in the FBS. But Penn State's passing game wasn't good enough -- it ranked 80th in the FBS with 215 passing yards per contest.” 

However, he does have some optimism for the offense with the addition of Andy Kotelnicki and the return of Nick Singleton, Kaytron Allen, Tyler Warren, and Drew Allar. He also believes that Tom Allen will be able to rebuild Penn State’s defense despite the departure of Kalen King and Johnny Dixon at cornerback.

Schlabach is down on the Nittany Lions relative to their No. 10 finish in the CFP rankings in 2023, and what’s worse, No. 12 would leave the Nittany Lions out of the expanded 12-team playoff unless all six automatically qualifying conference champions were ranked ahead of the 12th team. 

USA Today

Paul Myerberg and Erick Smith may not be fan favorites in Happy Valley after their edition of the too-early top 25. The USA Today duo is the lowest on James Franklin’s team of the popular college football pundits. 

They also included three Big Ten teams inside the top 10 with Michigan ranked third, Oregon at No. 7, and Ohio State ninth. The writers acknowledged that their ranking of Michigan hinged on the return of both Jim Harbaugh and J.J. McCarthy, which both seem unlikely at this point. 

Penn State, the fourth-highest-ranked Big Ten program, checked in at No. 15, one spot behind Missouri. 

The duo wrote, “The factors that will determine Penn State’s offense in 2024? What the Nittany Lions will get (if anything) at WR, how well they break in a rebuilt offensive line, and whether QB Drew Allar will blossom under new coordinator Andy Kotelnicki, who worked wonders in the same role at Kansas.”

They seem to suspect that not everything will break right for the Nittany Lions, a fair assumption considering James Franklin’s track record in big games but did concede that the ceiling for Franklin’s team is a Big Ten title. 

PFF

Now, not everyone is a fan of the Chris Colinsworth creation known as Pro Football Focus, but Penn State supporters may begin to hold it up as the standard for college football prognostication. 

Of the major publications, PFF has the Nittany Lions ranked highest in the way too early top 25 at No. 8, and to the surprise of many, it’s because of their quarterback. 

“Unlike the (likely) three Big Ten teams above them on this list, the Nittany Lions won’t need to replace their starting quarterback. While Drew Allar often drew the ire of the PSU faithful, he was far from the biggest problem with Penn State’s offense this year. The sophomore’s 87.1 PFF grade was a top-20 mark among FBS quarterbacks while the Nittany Lions finished outside the top-55 teams in both receiving (81st) and pass-blocking (60th) grades this year.”

PFF believes that James Franklin has addressed those two problems with the additions of Julian Fleming and Nolan Rucci, two former No. 1 ranked recruits in Pennsylvania

Penn State is still the fourth-best Big Ten team according to PFF, ranked just behind No. 7 Oregon, No. 6 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan.

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