2018 Penn State Nittany Lions Move On From Saquon

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TwinSpires Staff

August 20th, 2018

The Penn State Nittany Lions lost only two games last season but timing is everything in college football. The back-to-back losses, both on the road to Michigan State and Ohio State, were to be expected and knocked . The team rallied, eventually downing Washington in the Fiesta Bowl 35-28 to end the a strong season on a high note. Heading in to this year's campaign, however, the 2018 Penn State Nittany Lions face an incredibly dense division and will have to wage war without their superstar running-back.

2018 Penn State Nittany Lions Odds to win National Championship +1400 Odds to win Big Ten Conference +400 Season Win Total 9.5 (OVER -115 / UNDER -115)

Saquon is gone, Trace isn’t The best running back in Penn State history, Saquon Barkley, now rushes for the New York Giants in the NFL. Losing Barkley is obviously a huge loss to an offense that produced 460.3 yards per game (19th) and scored 41.1 points per game (7th). However, it's not as massive of a blow as it could have been.

Quarterback Trace McSorley has decided to return for his junior season. McSorley, who might have been a Round 3 or Round 5 draft pick if he had left to the NFL after last season, has the tools to be the best quarterback in college football in 2018. He’s only 6-feet tall, but like fellow Big Ten QB Drew Brees, Trace has a nice touch on the ball.

He completed 66.5% of his passes last year. This season, even without Barkley, McSorley should be ready to rumble. The Nittany Lions return 4 starters along a very good offensive line. That means McSorley could have all day to throw the football.

When he does throw it, he’ll most likely target 6’ 4” Juwan Johnson, who caught 54 passes for over 700 yards as a sophomore. Like McSorley, he returns for his junior year. Don’t be surprised if McSorley-to-Johnson becomes one of the big stories in college football this season.

The 2018 Penn State Nittany Lions will eventually find a running back to carry the load in place of Barkley. It will most likely be junior Miles Sanders.

Penn State’s defense should be okay The key for Penn State will be to find linebackers and a solid defensive tackle that can mop up once Penn State’s defensive ends push plays back into the middle of the field.

The Nittany Lions are deep at defensive end. They aren’t so deep at linebacker. Although they must replace the entire secondary, they’ve got a lot of players in coverage where there’s a good chance one or two will emerge as play makers.

It all depends on the linebacker positions. If the Nittany Lions can find a solid group of linebackers, and a good run stuffing DT, the defense could surprise. Fortunately for the 2018 Penn State Nittany Lions, linebacker is the position where this program routinely produces reliable talent.

Schedule favors a Nittany Lions run to the Big Ten Championship Penn State’s schedule favors a run to the Big Ten Championship. The Lions battle both Ohio State and Michigan State at home this season. They also take on Wisconsin at home. The top team they battle on the road is Michigan.

Penn State’s offense should be one of the best in the nation because McSorley, a talented QB, plays behind an experienced and strong offensive line. If the defense can find those one or two players that can help against the rush at the linebacker positions (a solid DT would also help) Penn State has a real shot of upsetting both Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten East Division.

Heck, a run to the College Football Playoff isn’t out of the question for the 2018 Penn State Nittany Lions. After all, they're the sixth favorite on the board in the mix with Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State and Georgia. They were one of the stronger plays in college football betting last year with an 8-4-1 ATS record, and without Barkley they'll be a properly rated regular season bet on the weekly board.