Penn State checked in at No. 14 in the preseason coaches poll released Thursday. Penn State was ranked No. 9 to begin the 2018 season.
Defending national champion Clemson tops the list. The Tigers received 59 of 65 first-place votes with the other six going to No. 2 Alabama.
The Nittany Lions received the third-highest ranking of Big Ten teams. Including Penn State, seven Big Ten programs earned preseason rankings: Ohio State (No. 5); Michigan (No. 7); Wisconsin (No. 17); Iowa (No. 19); Michigan State (No. 20); Northwestern (No. 25).
Nebraska fell just shy of making the top 25 with 152 votes, while Minnesota received one vote.
The Nittany Lions are scheduled to play four teams — Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa and Michigan State — ranked in the Amway Coaches Poll.
Penn State opens its 2019 season on Aug. 31 against Idaho.
Thursday’s Coaches Poll drew mixed reactions from college football experts. USA Today’s Paul Myerberg listed Penn State as one of his five overrated teams from the poll. Myerberg also included No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 16 Auburn, Wisconsin and Northwestern.
Myerberg wrote, “That Penn State stands a distance behind No. 5 Ohio State and No. 7 Michigan reflects the perceived gap between the Big Ten’s two unquestioned favorites and the second tier of the East Division. However, given the team’s general concerns — the overall lack of experience and question marks at the skill positions — the Nittany Lions’ preseason ranking represents the sort of benefit of the doubt previously not afforded to James Franklin and his staff. Nonetheless, it would take at least nine regular-season wins and a high-profile victory to justify a spot at No. 14.”
While Myerberg pegged the Nittany Lions as overrated, The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel listed Penn State as one of the poll’s underrated teams, along with No. 22 Syracuse and No. 24 Iowa State.
“If my hunches about Ohio State and Michigan prove correct, then someone else in the Big Ten East will have to rise up. Everyone seems to be sleeping on the Nittany Lions after last year’s wholly expected 9-4 rebuilding season. But James Franklin’s defense, led by stars Micah Parsons and Yetur Gross-Matos, has the potential to rank among the very best in the country,” Mandel wrote.
Mandel listed Ohio State and Michigan among his overrated teams.