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Big Ten: Penn State Nittany Lions 2013 Season Review
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15 Jan 2014 03:32 PM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Allen Robinson makes game-saving catch against Michigan. (Image Source: FrankHyatt.com)

Here’s a quick recap of the 2013 Penn State Nittany Lions:

Preseason Expectations: There was a pretty clear-cut pecking order heading into the season in the Leaders Division. Like OSU and Wisconsin, PSU fell into line, third in the division, as most prognosticators predicted.   

Overachieve/Underachieve: The 2013 Nittany Lions lost a pair of games they were “supposed” to win (vs. UCF, @ Indiana) and won a pair of games they were “supposed” to lose (vs. Michigan, @ Wisconsin). In hindsight, the loss to Central Florida wasn’t as bad as many believed it was, nor was the win over Michigan as impressive. Overall they finished 7-5, including 4-4 in conference, behind OSU and Wisconsin in the Leaders Division, pretty much meeting expectations.  

Pivotal Game: At Wisconsin. “Better than a bowl game,” offensive lineman John Urschel told me when we spoke in New York. It was their most impressive win of the season and probably of the Bill O’Brien era. True freshman QB Christian Hackenberg set a career-high with four TD passes and fell one yard shy of his career-best in passing yards with 339. The victory allowed them to finish with a winning record overall and avoid a losing record in Big Ten play.

Leaders Division Season Reviews: Ohio State | Wisconsin | Indiana | Illinois | Purdue

Offensive MVP: WR Allen Robinson: The junior pass catcher put up some prolific numbers (97 receptions, 1,432 yards) and a case could be made he was the best wide receiver in all of college football this season. He’s an outstanding route runner and a reliable pass catcher. What Robinson does best is make plays after the catch in the open field and go up and get the football.

Defensive MVP: DT DaQuan Jones: In what was a mostly down season for the Penn State defense, DaQuan Jones really stepped up as their top defender in 2013. The senior defensive tackle paced the line with 56 tackles and he led all Nittany Lions with 11.5 tackles for loss (three sacks). He’s a true space eater at 318 pounds who took on double teams on a regular basis while showing the strength to get a good push up the middle.

Trending: With one fewer win overall and two less Ws in conference play—PSU was 8-4 (6-2) in 2012—Penn State took a slight step back in 2013. Normally that would be a very disappointing season in Happy Valley. But considering the reduction in scholarships and their bowl ban, coach O’Brien did a very nice job of staving off a catastrophic free fall and is considered by most to have down exemplary work.

Looking to 2014: Even if the NCAA lessons the sanctions a second time (they’ve already reduced the bowl ban and scholarship restrictions), in all likelihood Penn State will not be going bowling in 2014 for a third-straight year. Depth will continue to be an issue for the immediate future and another seven or eight-win campaign would probably be viewed as a success. The two keys are how new head coach James Franklin handles his first season on the job and the type of progress second-year signal caller Christian Hackenberg makes without BOB’s tutoring.  

Big Ten Links:

Big Ten Football Final Power Rankings: Michigan State Represents in the Rose Bowl

One-On-One With Penn State Offensive Guard John Urschel

One-On-One: MSU LB Max Bullough Talks About Winning the Big Ten Championship

One-On-One: Michigan State’s Max Bullough Talks Playoffs & Defines Spartan Dawg

Q&A: Iowa’s James Morris Talks About the Perception of the Big Ten & Upcoming Playoffs

Q&A: James Morris Talks About Corralling the Program & New Year’s Day Bowl

Q&A: College Football Hall of Famer Orlando Pace, Ohio State Buckeyes

Q&A: College Football Hall of Famer Percy Snow, Michigan State Spartans

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. 

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