Can Penn State get over the hump, challenge Clemson in the CFP?

Can Penn State get over the hump, challenge Clemson in the CFP?


Can Penn State get over the hump, challenge Clemson in the CFP?


Clemson will once again be the team to beat when the 2020 football season begins. At least that is what some preseason polls think, such as Athlon Magazine, which has the Tigers ranked No. 1 in its rankings.

It is a good place to start a season. However, Clemson will have a few teams it will have to keep an eye on that potentially could keep its dreams of winning another national championship from coming true.

The Clemson Insider has already taken a look at North Carolina, Notre Dame, LSU, Georgia and Florida as potential challengers.

Only Notre Dame is on Clemson’s 2020 schedule. The Tigers and the Irish clash in South Bend on Nov. 7. However, there is a possibility Clemson could face the Tar Heels in the ACC Championship Game and the Bulldogs, LSU or Florida in the College Football Playoff.

How about the Big Ten? Is this another year Ohio State runs through the conference or will someone else step up and seriously challenge the Buckeyes?

The last team to win the Big Ten was Penn State. The Nittany Lions won it in 2016, but they failed to make the CFP due to two losses.

Does Penn State have what it takes to make the CFP for the first time, and will they be able to challenge Clemson or Alabama if they make the playoff? The Nittany Lions, who Athlon has at No. 5 in its preseason poll, have recorded three 11-win seasons in three of the last four years, so the program is in position to make a run.

They have a new offensive coordinator in Kirk Ciarrocca, who will have the services of returning quarterback Sean Clifford at his disposal. Penn State also welcomes back tight end Pat Freiermuth, wide receiver Jahan Dotson and a deep group of running backs to go along with four starters back on the offensive line.

Defensively, the Nittany Lions return starting linebacker Micah Parsons, defensive end Shaka Toney and defensive backs Tariq Castro-Fields, Jaquan Brisker and Lamont Wade. Last year, Penn State allowed just 16 points per game, which ranked second in the Big Ten and eighth nationally.

James Franklin’s team travels to Blacksburg, Va., in Week 2 for a big matchup at Virginia Tech. They also have conference games at Michigan, at Indiana and at Nebraska to navigate through. The biggest game on the schedule is of course their Oct. 24 showdown against Ohio State in Happy Valley. If they win that one, the Nittany Lions could have the inside track at another Big Ten Championship and maybe matchup against Clemson in the CFP.

Clemson and Penn State have met just once on the football field. The Tigers beat the Nittany Lions 35-10 in the 1988 Citrus Bowl to end the 1987 season. It was Joe Paterno’s worst bowl defeat during his coaching career.

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