ESPN’s Pete Thamel is high on Penn State football’s chances to make its first college football playoff appearance in 2023.
Colleague David Pollack isn’t so sure.
On a late-April edition of College Gameday, the panel discussed Penn State and whether the team would reach its over/under of 9.5 wins.
”I think it’s the under,” Pollock said. I just… they don’t push people around up front. They’re not physical enough up front.”
Penn State, with one of the best rushing attacks in the nation and a consensus Top 10 pick at LT, doesn’t “push people around” according to @davidpollack47 pic.twitter.com/tIdp4mot3O
— mj_perk (@PerkinsPenguins) April 30, 2023
Thamel feels that Penn State isn’t only capable of winning 10 games— it won 11 last season— but also believes the team can make it to the playoff, which it hasn’t done since the tournament’s inception in 2014.
Thamel also doesn’t agree with Pollock’s view that Penn State’s offensive line doesn’t cut the mustard.
“I think Penn State has a very good chance to make the Playoff this year,” Thamel said. “And I disagree with David. I think, up-front, they have Olu Fashanu at left tackle. He will be a top-five pick in the NFL Draft next year. If he had come out (of college) this year, I think he would have been the first tackle taken.”
From @collegegameday on Saturday. Can Penn State be a 10-win regular season team? Is this the year they break through to the College Football Playoff? pic.twitter.com/EmzGcwOSAI
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) May 1, 2023
Thamel said Fashanu staying in school was “probably the biggest surprise amongst NFL evaluators,” regarding players returning.
He also mentioned projected starting quarterback Drew Allar— a five-star Class of 2022 signee— and how he’ll be supported by Penn State’s running back tandem of Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen, both also sophomores.
“You give him (Allar) a chance to grow up a little bit,” Thamel said. “You give him protection. They have had a bad offensive line at Penn State for the majority of the last five years.”
”The majority of the last five years,” Pollock cut in, “But you just pointed out a guy (Fashanu) that you’re bragging about. And they still stunk last year.”
It’s likely that Pollock’s “they still stunk” comment references Penn State’s offensive line and not the team in general.
No team that wins the Rose Bowl “stinks,” and it’s hard to argue that Penn State’s offensive line did, either. Along with Fashanu, center Juice Scruggs became a second-round draft pick of the Houston Texans this past weekend and Hunter Nourzad provided experience at guard.
Every starter but Scruggs is slated to come back, and Penn State also hopes to have Landon Tengwall— the program’s highest-rated ‘21 signee who started the first five games in 2022– back for a full season.
Penn State’s line was a big reason Singleton (1,061 yards, 12 touchdowns, 6.8 yards per carry) and Allen (867 yards, 10 TD, 5.2 YPC) had the success that they had as true freshmen.
The Twitter reaction from Penn State fans to Pollock’s critique is about what one would expect.
.@davidpollack47 Pete said the majority of the last five years and you try to dunk on him for that? Did you not watch PSU football and see the improvement last year?
This was real bad https://t.co/fmqT3LckwJ
— Hardcore Penn State Football (@HardcorePSUFB) May 2, 2023
Still better than the time he said women shouldn’t be on the College Football Playoff committee.
— Joe Smeltzer (@joesmeltzer775) May 2, 2023
What a terrible look for @davidpollack47. "They still stunk last year." Watch a game, man. https://t.co/8dxe4wGXG6
— Donnie Collins (@PennStateTT) May 2, 2023
Thamel responded to Pollock’s claim by saying he feels Penn State’s offensive line has “grown up.”
“I think they’ve recruited well at that position,” he said, coach Phil Trautwein has gotten them in position where there going to have multiple guys drafted, and they’re ready to go in the trenches with Ohio State and the trenches with Michigan.”