Why Penn State Needs To Win The TaxSlayer Bowl
The TaxSlayer Bowl matchup between Penn State and Georgia is a game between two teams that did not live up to their preseason expectations. Penn State, in particular, has a couple of reasons why they must win this game against Georgia.
Signature win for James Franklin
The James Franklin era at Penn State has seen success in the recruiting realm, but little improvement in the win department from the Bill O’Brien campaign. While Franklin led the Nittany Lions to bowl eligibility for the second time in his tenure, his team failed to perform against the top teams they faced this year. The Blue and White lost four games by double digits this season, including a humiliating 39-point loss to Michigan State. Over the past two seasons, Boston College and San Diego State are Penn State’s best wins, which is not very good for a team aspiring to get back to the top.
Christian Hackenberg’s ability to win big games
Christian Hackenberg has been one of the most talked about quarterback prospects this season. While Hackenberg’s stats show that he is not ready for the National Football League, his game film shows a prospect that can make strong throws when given protection, something he has not had the past two seasons. The Penn State offensive line has allowed Hackenberg to be sacked 82 times over the past two seasons, the most of any quarterback during that span. The lack of protection this season against quality competition has made Hackenberg struggle, as he has thrown four interceptions and failed to complete 60 percent of his passes. Hackenberg had a phenomenal performance against Michigan his freshman year, and a performance like that by Hackenberg against a tough Georgia defense would show NFL scouts that the junior can play on Sundays.
Coach Franklin has never had a problem recruiting players to come to Penn State as the 2015 class was No. 16 in the nation and the 2016 class is the sixth best class so far. Franklin has done a remarkable job over the past two seasons, but he has lost ground to Michigan in New Jersey, one of Penn State’s best recruiting states and home to defensive stars Austin Johnson and Jason Cabinda.
Four of the top seven players from New Jersey in the ESPN 300 have committed to Michigan and the Wolverines are looking to make it five in defensive tackle Rashan Gary, the top high school player in the nation. Gary is not the only undecided prospect that Penn State needs to impress, as cornerback Damar Hamlin has Penn State as one of his top three schools along with Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. A Penn State victory over Georgia could sway Gary and Hamlin to commit to Penn State.
The Nittany Lions are underdogs against Georgia and an upset victory would be a huge boost for the program as Penn State has failed to defeat a Power-Five team with more than seven wins this season.
Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.