With back-to-back 11-win seasons and a Heisman Trophy candidate returning in quarterback Trace McSorley, Penn State figures to be in the College Football Playoff conversation in 2018. And coaches across the country tend to agree.
The Nittany Lions were ranked No. 9 in the preseason Amway Coaches Poll, which was released Thursday afternoon. This is a tad higher than where Athlon Sports pegged Penn State; the outlet ranked the Nittany Lions at No. 11 in May. Meanwhile, the Associated Press Top 25 Poll comes out on Aug. 20.
Penn State was one of five Big Ten teams to make the Coaches Poll. Ohio State was the conference’s highest-ranked team at No. 3, while Wisconsin, Michigan State and Michigan came in at Nos. 7, 12 and 14, respectively. Northwestern and Iowa were in the “other receiving votes” category, as was Appalachian State — Penn State’s Week 1 opponent.
Of course, Penn State will play all four ranked Big Ten foes in a seven-week span in 2018. The Nittany Lions host Ohio State and Michigan State on Sept. 29 and Oct. 13, respectively, travel to Ann Arbor on Nov. 3 and welcome the Badgers a week later.
Ohio State was the only Big Ten team to get any first-place consideration, with one vote. Alabama — the clear-cut No. 1 — received 61 first-place nods out of 65 voting coaches.
Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia and Oklahoma rounded out the top-five, followed in order by Washington, Wisconsin, Miami, the Nittany Lions and Auburn. Former Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead and his new team, Mississippi State, came in at No. 18.
Moorhead is not a voter, but Penn State head coach James Franklin is. However, it is not known where Franklin placed his Nittany Lions. Voting is private until the season’s final poll.