During the 2021 college football season, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa were widely considered the top powers in the Big Ten. This coming season, the conference seems to be primed for a far more competitive year.
According to ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, one Big Ten program could be a "sleeper" to contend for this year's conference title.
Herbstreit believes James Franklin and the Penn State Nittany Lions could be in for a big season in 2022. He sited returning quarterback Sean Clifford as a main reason for the program's expected success.
“Penn State, people seem to be kind of indifferent on Sean Clifford,” said Herbstreit. “I like him. Obviously, he’s going to have to make more consistent decisions.
“This is a team, they were No. 2 in the country when he went down in Iowa City. If he stays healthy, who knows what could have happened to Penn State’s year… Look out for Penn State, they’re still out there.”
Penn State finished the 2021 season with a 7-6 overall record — closing out the year with a bowl game loss to Arkansas. As mentioned by Herbstreit, the Nittany Lions were ranked No. 2 in the nation before dropping six of their final eight games.
Penn State did not crack this year's AP preseason top-25 poll, but the program received the fourth most top-25 votes out of all non-top-25 teams.
The Nittany Lions will kickoff their 2022 season with an away matchup against Purdue on September 1.