On Saturday, my Nittany Sports Now colleague Joe Smeltzer broke down the latest chapter of “The Sean Clifford Experience.”
In Saturday’s game, Clifford threw two interceptions on Penn State’s first two drives, calmed down, threw two touchdowns, and had Penn State up 21-16 in the fourth quarter against the number two ranked Ohio State Buckeyes — his death star, his nemesis.
He had the chance to prove his naysayers wrong, especially after Ohio State went up 23-21 with 8:51 left. Then he proved why he’s just a regular QB when he fumbled while being sacked and then threw the ball right to a defensive lineman.
Clifford’s a good kid. He’s done a lot for the program, and he doesn’t have to apologize to anyone in Penn State’s fan base for what he has or hasn’t accomplished at Penn State. He gave his blood, sweat, tears, heart and soul for this program on and off the field.
But Drew Allar needs to start. Now.
James Franklin needs to do what is best for the program’s long-term vision and play Allar to get experience for his young quarterback. Penn State can’t afford to keep a five-star, potentially generational talent on the sidelines. I previously wrote that I’d give Clifford the gauntlet of Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio State as his last opportunity because Penn State had—and still has— a lot to play for. But with the latest loss, what is the benefit for Franklin keeping Clifford in when his team has no chance of winning a Big Ten title or going to the College Football Playoff?
Is it worth it to have a 10-win season and play in a New Year’s Day bowl game? Bowl games don’t matter as much to players anymore. That’s why many top NFL prospects opt out of playing— to prevent injury—and players unhappy with their status on the team will enter the transfer portal before the game. Penn State can accomplish any realistic goals that they have for the rest of the season with Allar at quarterback, and letting him show off what he can do now can also help with recruiting.
Franklin needs to do this because he needs Allar to pan out while he has him. The security of that $75 million contract won’t last forever, and his buyout will drop significantly after 2024. Franklin needs to prove that he can beat the “elite” teams in the next couple of years before the Penn State Board of Trustees finds someone who can.
Allar is the type of quarterback Penn State needed to beat Ohio State Saturday. It doesn’t matter if he’s a freshman. He was a five-star recruit for a reason, and he’s been ready to become the man at Penn State. He enrolled early, went through spring practice and skipped his senior prom to get ready to be QB1. Why is Franklin staying loyal to a quarterback that will be lucky to get an invite to an NFL camp next year over a potential top pick in the 2025 NFL Draft?
Is it guaranteed that Penn State will beat Ohio State and Michigan with Allar at quarterback next year? No. But it’s time to get him on the field, see what you have heading into next season, and help Allar be ready by the time Michigan and Ohio State are on the schedule next year.
The “Sean Clifford Experience” needs to end, and “The Drew Allar Experience” needs to commence before it’s too late for Penn State and Franklin.
James Franklin needs to realize starting Clifford is a charity at this point. College Football is a business, and for the business of Penn State, Allar needs to start.