James Franklin is entering his 10th season in Happy Valley, and thanks to the emergence of sophomore quarterback Drew Allar, the stars might finally be aligning for Penn State Football to make its first College Football Playoff appearance.
Allar, who arrived as the No. 1 quarterback prospect nationally in the in the 2023 class, enters this fall as the catalyst of rising expectations for the Nittany Lions. Including the veteran head coach.
“Although we’ve had some good ones here, that’s probably been the difference between us winning three New Year’s Six bowl games and getting into the playoff and winning a national championship,” Franklin recently told ESPN, “is having an elite quarterback that can make the plays that change games.”
Perhaps even more than in the NFL, an elite college quarterback makes all the difference in the pursuit of playoff berths and national championships.
“Although we’ve had some good ones here, that’s probably been the difference between us winning three New Year’s Six bowl games and getting into the playoff and winning a national championship,” Franklin said, “is having an elite quarterback that can make the plays that change games.”
While Franklin has been criticized for late game meltdowns against Ohio State and Michigan during his tenure, the Nittany Lions have won a Big Ten Championship with three New Year’s Six Bowl victories in four appearances since 2016.
Why Drew Allar Raises the Stakes for Penn State Football
Penn State Football hasn’t had a Caleb Williams, a Trevor Lawrence, a Justin Fields — after narrowly missing getting him onto campus, or even a Stetson Bennett.
Allar is the most physically gifted quarterback to step on campus in Franklin’s tenure, and he does so with arguably the premier backfield in the nation, behind the most talented offensive line Penn State has seen in decades.
Franklin and Penn State Football made it a point to get Allar meaningful snaps as a freshman last season, where the 6-foot-5 and 242 pound mobile and big-armed quarterback completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 344 yards with 4 passing touchdowns and one rushing score.
Allar’s true freshman experience sets the stage for him not to be swimming when fall camp begins, instead primed to lead a talented roster that’s heralded as one of the top-10 teams in the nation as this season approaches.
A season that Franklin, Allar, and Penn State Football have all the trappings to reach heights previously unseen.
“I think what was probably pretty obvious to everybody is, he gets in the game as a true freshman against Purdue to open the season, and he’s just got a sense of poise,” Franklin said. “He’s calm. And you watch him stand in the pocket, and there’s really no panic, and I think that’s when people were like, ‘OK, this guy may be different,’ which is unusual as a true freshman on that stage.”