Lions have room for growth

Since the Nittany Lions outscored their three non-conference opponents, 141-14, the answer to this week’s question is obvious.

Or is it?

Certainly Penn State’s 3-0 start has been successful, but whether it fully prepared the Lions for what lies ahead will not be determined until the next few games — starting Saturday at Iowa.

Everybody else among the nation’s top four — Alabama (Florida State), Oklahoma (Ohio State) and Clemson (Auburn, Louisville) — has a marquee victory.

Maybe Penn State’s schedule so far has been too easy. Maybe a 19-point win over Pitt will tell us more later.

So I’m on the fence with a definitive: We’ll see.

Offensively, there are very few quibbles.

Trace McSorley hasn’t been quite as sharp throwing the ball as he was last year, but his pocket awareness, quick feet and leadership have been as good.

The line has been only fair. Maybe part of that is the stand-up blocking style — rather than having all the linemen in a three-point stance and exploding off the ball — seems more effective in pass protection than for straight-ahead rushing.

Time will tell there, although Joe Moorhead’s track record speaks for itself.

You’d think eventually someone, Iowa perhaps, will take Saquon Barkley and the big plays away, and Penn State could be in a lower-scoring game with which it won’t be as comfortable.

But that hasn’t happened for the past 10 games as the Lions have set a school record with 30-plus points during that stretch.

Placekicker Tyler Davis has shown through three games that he’s human, missing more than he did all of last year when he was perfect in 32 field-goal attempts.

Even more of a concern is the fact that the defense hasn’t gotten off the field consistently and has allowed lesser opponents a high third-down conversion rate (36 percent).

That could become a problem because Big Ten teams have a better chance to keep the Lions’ offense on the sidelines.

James Franklin has managed to create some needless controversy with his flippant whack at Pitt, equating the win over the Panthers to the one over Akron, and with his late timeout — for whatever reason — as Georgia State was attempting a field goal with 11 seconds remaining while trailing 56-0.

While Franklin and the Lions can brag about two shutouts, the selection committee is still made up of human beings, and some of them may have been turned off by “timeout-gate” (Franklin’s words) or not believed its explanation.

In that regard, in addition to a defensive front seven we’re not totally sure about, the non-con, despite its 3-0 bottom line, was less than perfect.

Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or nrudel@altoonamirror.com.


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