For the first time in eight years, Penn State’s Nittany Lions will open the season as a consensus top-10 program.
Coach James Franklin’s transition from hunters to hunted took another big step Monday, when the Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll slotted the defending Big Ten champions as No. 6 nationally.
The Lions were ranked No. 6 in the first coaches poll, released August 3.
It’s the first time Penn State opened the season in the top 10 of both major polls since 2009, when the Lions were ranked No. 9 in the AP poll and eighth by the coaches.
It was the Nittany Lions’ first appearance in the AP preseason poll since 2010, when they opened the season at No. 19, and the highest preseason AP ranking for Penn State since 2009.
Penn State would climb to as high as No. 5 that fall and capped an 11-2 campaign with a 19-17 win over LSU in the Capital One Bowl.
The Lions, funny enough, actually did wind up ninth in the final poll of 2009 — the first time that had happened in the storied history of the program since Rip Engle’s 1962 squad:
— Mike Poorman (@PSUPoorman) August 4, 2017
Monday was also the first time a team coached by Franklin, 25-15 over his first three seasons at State College, opened a season among the AP Top 25.
And the pieces are in place for it to be one of his best. The Lions return nine starters on offense and six on defense from the 2016 team that finished 11-3 (8-1 conference) and notched the program’s first Big Ten title since 2008 — including all-conference tailback Saquon Barkley, quarterback Trace McSorley, tight end Mike Gesicki, linebacker Jason Cabinda and safety Marcus Allen.
Penn State’s 2017 slate includes tests against ranked foes, and East division rivals, in back-to-back weeks: The Lions host Michigan (No. 9 coaches) on October 21 and visit Ohio State (No. 2 coaches) on October 28.
The program was a part of every AP preseason poll from 1968-2000 and was ranked in 44 of the wire service’s 61 preseason polls dating back to 1957.
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