College Football 2024 Preseason Rankings: Where Does Penn State Stand? (2024)

Penn State will be in the College Football Playoff in 2024. At least that’s the way the preseason prognosticators, including the top two sports books, see it.

That’s right now, anyway, with spring practice over, the transfer portal closed, spring semester completed and a paltry 118 days until Penn State kicks off its season on the road at West Virginia In rowdy Morgantown.

The CFP expands to 12 teams in 2024, and among 10 key preseason prognosticators, including the oddsmakers at DraftKings and FanDuel, James Franklin’s Nittany Lions are a pretty solid pick to finish the regular season ranked, on average, No. 10. And, in 2024, that would get PSU into the CFP for the first time.

Penn State’s path will not be easy: In addition to WVU (181 miles, Aug. 31), the Nittany Lions have road tests at USC (2,573 miles, Oct. 12) and Wisconsin (714 miles, Oct. 26), as well as back-to-back, sure-to-be chilly November road dates at Purdue (538 miles, Nov. 16) and Minnesota (963 miles, Nov. 23).

Ohio State, a consensus No. 2 pick leading into the 2024 season, visits Beaver Stadium on Nov. 2, and Washington — the national runner-up last season that must replace its head coach and about a billion starters —comes to Happy Valley the next weekend.

Many of the following predictions were made before the conclusion of spring drills nationwide and, specifically, the departure of Penn State WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith to Auburn — though they do account for the Nittany Lions’ addition of former Ohio State WR Julian Fleming. A breakdown, from top ranking to bottom, follows:

ESPN SP+ — No. 7
This ranking is data-heavy and is based on returning production (pre-KLS departure; 126-1721-11), recent recruiting and recent history. Big Ten: Ohio State (2), Oregon (3), Michigan (5), Penn State (7), USC (23) and Iowa (26). “A reminder on SP+: It’s a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency. It is a predictive measure of the most sustainable and predictable aspects of football, not a résumé ranking. Along those same lines, these projections aren’t intended to be a guess at what the AP Top 25 will look like at the end of the season.” Read it here.

ESPN — No. 8
ESPN’s rankings are via respected veteran writer Mark Schlabach and are, admittedly, “way-too-soon.” Penn State is eighth, after Ohio State (2) and Oregon (3), and ahead of Michigan (13). “The Nittany Lions couldn’t leap past Michigan and Ohio State in the Big Ten East last season, and things will only get more difficult with Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington joining the league. Coach James Franklin hired Kansas offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki to provide a spark in the passing game, which ranked 80th in the FBS with 215 yards per contest. Quarterback Drew Allar has to open things up, and he has some nice players around him in running backs Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen and tight end Tyler Warren. Former Indiana coach Tom Allen takes over what should be a very good defense after former coordinator Manny Diaz left to become Duke’s head coach. Adding transfers Jalen Kimber (Florida) and A.J. Harris (Georgia) was important after lockdown cornerbacks Kalen King and Johnny Dixon left for the NFL.” Read it here.

247SPORTS — No. 9
Brad Crawford has the Nittany Lions ninth overall and fourth in the Big Ten, behind Ohio State (1), Oregon (4) and Michigan (7). USC (21) rounds out B10 teams in the Top 25. “Penn State is a unanimous top-10 team for 2024 and it’s staying that way despite the spring game performance from the first-team offense leaving much to be desired. By design, sometimes it looks that way in April. The proof of an improvements there comes in, when the Nittany Lions take the field with a new play-caller and the promise of explosive plays for the first time in several years. That’s what it will take to be an expected force in the Big Ten alongside other elites. James Franklin made changes to a 10-win team he felt were necessary to get over the hump and into the expanded playoff next season.”Read it here.

ON3 —No. 9
This one came out following the CFP finals, and has Penn State ninth, behind Ohio State (2), Oregon (3) and Michigan (8). “The expanded playoff setup is meant for programs like Penn State, which has struggled to break through the crowded top of the now-defunct Big Ten East. The Nittany Lions have a pair of new coordinators in Andy Kotelnicki from Kansas and ex-Indiana head coach Tom Allen, replacing Duke head coach Manny Diaz. Drew Allar returns for his second season as a starter, and while PSU’s defense is sending several standouts to the NFL, Abdul Carter is back to lead a likely Top 10 unit again next fall.” Read it here.

PRO FOOTBALL FOCUS —No. 10
PFF is heavy into analytics, and has Penn State behind Ohio State (2), Oregon (3) and Michigan (7), and ahead of USC (19) and Iowa (23). The Ducks, Wolverines and Hawkeyes are NOT on the Nittany Lions’ 2024 schedule. “Unlike the 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. The sophom*ore’s 87.1 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. Help is on the way in both aspects, as Penn State picked up a couple of former five-star recruits in the transfer portal: wide receiver Julian Fleming (Ohio State) and offensive tackle Nolan Rucci (Wisconsin). The Nittany Lions also have a new offensive coordinator in Kansas’ Andy Kotelnicki to help Allar fully unlock his potential.” Read it here.

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED — No. 10
This is from March, before the spring game and all the portal movement. Ohio State is second and Oregon is fourth. “James Franklin looks to finally make that push in the Big Ten with two new coordinators: Manny Diaz departs for the Duke head coaching job, but his defense, now led by Tom Allen, should still be a force to reckon with. Andy Kotelnicki inherits a five-star quarterback in Drew Allar, who is yet to play like one, but two skilled backs in Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen return to stabilize a talented offense in tandem with Ohio State transfer receiver Julian Fleming.” Read it here.

SPORTING NEWS — No. 13
Complied by Bill Bender, the SN rankings have six Big Ten teams in the top 21, beginning with Ohio State (2), Oregon (4) and Michigan (8). Penn State is followed by USC (19) and Washington (21). “Penn State would have been a regular in a 12-team format during the four-team era, and now the challenge for James Franklin is to make that a reality. Franklin has two new coordinators. He hired new offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki from Kansas, and former Indiana coach Tom Allen is the new defensive coordinator.Lowdown: Last year, the Nittany Lions were an ‘it’ team. This year, they might fall under the buy-low category, and that could be a good thing. Quarterback Drew Allar and running backs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen are back, and the addition of Ohio State transfer wide receiver Julian Fleming should help the passing game. Linebacker Abdul Carter is a first-round talent and is listed as a defensive end going into the spring. Back-to-back home games against Ohio State (Nov. 2) and Washington (Nov. 9) will determine whether the Nittany Lions are in the Big Ten championship hunt, which they should be.” Read it here.

THE ATHLETIC — No. 16
Stewart Mandel is a respected name in the college football community, so his rankings (his second of the spring) carry some weight. His colleague, Bruce Feldman, has even panache, and a direct pipeline to James Franklin, so Feldman’s preseason ranking is maybe TA-1A. Mandel has Ohio State (2), Oregon (4) and Michigan (6) ahead of Penn State (16) and Iowa (22). “Penn State lost a few big names to the NFL (OT Olu Fashanu, DE Chop Robinson, CB Kalen King) but had few transfers exit while bringing in two prominent in-staters who originally got away, Ohio State WR Julian Fleming and Wisconsin T Nolan Rucci. LB Abdul Carter headlines new DC Tom Allen’s unit, while new OC Andy Kotelnicki needs to get more out of QB Drew Allar, RBs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen and the receivers… [Of note, from Mandel]: Just missed: Kansas State, Kentucky, USC, Wisconsin, West Virginia.” The last three are all Nittany Lions’ opponents in 2024, including WVU on the road in the season opener. Read it here.

FANDUEL +2,000 (8)
DRAFTKINGS +2,500 (12)
Betting sites FanDuel and DraftKings control 73% of all legal sports betting in the United States. Odds listed are on Penn State’s chance of winning the College Football Playoff championship game. Both sports books have Georgia No. 1, Ohio State No. 2 and Oregon No. 4.
FanDuel:
Gives Penn State the eighth-best chance to win the CFP. A bet of $100 will pay off $2,000 (plus the initial $100 bet) if the Nittany Lions win the national title. Read it here.
DraftKings: Gives Penn State the 12th-best chance to win the CFP. A bet of $100 will pay off $2,500 (plus the initial $100 bet) if the Nittany Lions win the national title. Read it here.

College Football 2024 Preseason Rankings: Where Does Penn State Stand? (2024)

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