We continue our look in to the 2017 Penn State Nittany Lions football season all week long here at talking10. As reigning Big Ten champions, Penn State sees a level of expectations few thought they would have heading in to this season.
But, what are those expectations and what craziness could unfold in the 2017 season?
We’re here to give you our bold predictions for Penn State.
Joe Moorhead Takes Head Coaching Job at FBS Level
You know you’ve hit the jackpot in terms of a coaching change when things immediately change for the better. Illinois saw that with the hire of Bill Cubit to run its offense under Tim Beckman (too bad the rest of the team didn’t come along for the ride there). We also saw it in 2016 with Penn State’s hire of Joe Moorhead to run its offense.
Things didn’t exactly look good out of spring ball. I mean, there were only questions about a replacement for Christian Hackenberg, a struggling offensive line and plenty of skill position talent waiting to bust loose.
Moorhead found a way to right the ship in between spring and fall camp and the Nittany Lions offense was insanely good last year. What were question marks (quarterback and offensive line) became strengths and the completed package was one scary offense.
Penn State can’t be accused of being boring anymore on offense, and with most of the parts from last season back and more seasoned than before, let’s just say this could be a banner year for PSU’s offense.
It also means a track record at two levels of D1 football, as Moorhead took a dull and damaged Fordham program and made it in to a formidable FCS power by the time he left. That combination will make him very intriguing to a host of schools that will likely be looking for new head coaches. I’m betting a good Power 5 offer comes his way and he bolts for his own gig at the top-level of college football.
Saquon Barkley Doesn’t Win Big Ten Rushing Title…
The easy and smart money is on Barkley to become the Big Ten’s leading rusher in 2017. After all, he was less than 100 yards behind Justin Jackson last season with an offensive line that was still hitting its stride in front of him.
Another year and Barkley would be my easy pick as well. Unfortunately for him, the Big Ten has some stiff competition for the rushing title this season. Justin Jackson is back in Evanston, Rodney Smith should be more explosive in the Gophers’ new offense and things are looking up in Columbus and Madison as well.
Let’s just say the chances of Barkley dominating enough good defenses versus say, Smith at Minnesota or Jackson at Northwestern are significantly less. But, that doesn’t mean all hope is gone for Barkley’s 2017 season.
…But, Barkley Will Be a Heisman Trophy Finalist
Stats matter when it comes to the Heisman Trophy, but so does preseason hype and highlight reel plays. That’s where Barkley has an advantage in the race for the stiff-arm trophy.
While I don’t see him winning the title outright in the Big Ten, I do expect him to be a very close second. What I do expect to see from him are long touchdown runs, some great agility and plays that will stick in the memories of voters.
Penn State will be challenging for another East division title and the Big Ten title. As a result, Barkley’s pretty good preseason buzz will only be amplified by more eyes on his every move. Let’s just say I expect him to win the TD title amongst Big Ten runners, and if he hits off 20 or so, it is going to be tough to keep him away from a trip to NYC.
James Franklin Becomes Highest Paid Head Coach in Big Ten Not Names Jim Harbaugh
Let’s just be honest here…Jim Harbaugh money is just ridiculous money. No one should be touching that kind of dough in the college game. However, James Franklin and Penn State are already in contract negotiations.
I’m guessing this one either happens before or after the season, but either way, look for Franklin to jump in to the top three of coaches salaries in the Big Ten. He’s earned it after last season and leading this program out of the murky recent past. Some would assume it would be below what Meyer is making, but Franklin is a hot name and while Penn State is a great job, it also isn’t the easiest in terms of the political fight that can happen behind the scenes.
Rewarding Franklin handsomely would be a smart way to keep him happy and in the fold for much longer than some expected. Look for his deal to actually jump Meyer in base salary as Penn State shows its financial commitment to Franklin.
It isn’t a great stretch either, as Franklin was making an estimated $4.2 million last season and Meyer was just around $6 million. I’m guessing we’re going to see something around $6-7 million to just put Franklin over the edge of Meyer’s compensation.