With Saturday’s win over Maryland, Penn State sits at 8-2 on the season with two games left and is just outside the top 10 in all three of the major rankings.
Both losses came to teams currently in the top three in the country in Michiganand Ohio State.
Much will always be made about coach James Franklin’s record against those two schools, and deservedly so. While it’s frustrating to fans for the Nittany Lions not to get over the Ohio State and Michigan hump regularly, it’s truly not the end of the world.
With that said, it’s time to give Penn State a little respect.
DIAZ DIALS IT UP
There isn’t a hire anywhere around the country that’s paid off quite like Franklin’s hiring of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
In a position once held by Brent Pry, one of Franklin’s closest friends, Diaz came in and not only picked up where Pry left off but has made the defense markedly better.
Diaz has been dialing up the pressure and utilizing the skillsets of guys like PJ Mustipher, Dani Dennis-Sutton and Chop Robinson. It’s paid off in huge dividends to this point. Robinson recorded two sacks against his former team Saturday afternoon, and the Nittany Lions tallied seven sacks altogether.
Penn State also racked up nine tackles for loss in the shutout effort that brought the points allowed per game average down to 19 for the season. In the eight wins, Diaz’s defense is allowing a paltry 13.5 points per game, skewed by the 31 points given up to Purdue in the opener.
Since then, the Nittany Lions have not given up more than 17 points in any of their victories.
Diaz has done a phenomenal job thus far, but will he be one and done after this season?
TWO PEAS IN A POD
Hyped-up prospects seldom live up to the lofty expectations bestowed by fans and media because of the number of stars they had beside their name during their recruitment.
For Penn State, not only have freshmen running backs Kaytron Allenand Nick Singletonlived up to the hype, they’ve blown the hype out of the water, creating one of the best backfield one-two punches in the country.
Singleton rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns against Maryland. It was his third 100-plus yard performance on the ground and his fourth multi-touchdown game this season.
Not to be outdone, Allen is having a stellar year in his own right, having rushed for more than 70 yards in six of Penn State’s 10 games while adding eight touchdowns.
Entering the season, the record for rushing touchdowns for freshmen in a single season was eight, which is sure to be destroyed by both this season.
A formidable run game adds a layer to the offense that didn’t exist last season and is more than a welcome sight for all involved. Oh, and as freshmen, they’re only getting started. The hard part now will be to keep them both happy and in the same backfield for years to come.
The weakest spot outside the run game entering the season was supposed to be the offensive line.
Now, 10 games into the year, that line is a strong suit for Franklin and company.
All apologies for the lack of faith in offensive line coach Phil Trautwein. He has those guys dialed in both on the surface with those who start and with the backups who come in and don’t miss a beat when guys like Landon Tengwall or Olu Fashanu are out with injuries.
The offensive line has been a major weakness for Penn State over the course of Franklin’s tenure, but it seems as though they’ve found the right recipe on the recruiting trail and in the coaching department.
Continued growth up front is what will take the Nittany Lions to the next level, and it seems like they’re well on their way.
JAMES FRANKLIN’S HOT SEAT METER
Right now, the meter is off.