Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, December 23, 2015
Penn State remains a work in progress, but James Franklin continues to make progress in his second season. He has the program in a bowl for a second season in a row. But personnel shortcomings are apparent as the effects of probation are still being felt from a depth standpoint.
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The offensive line remains an issue, as the front is unable to get a consistent push for a unit that has some promising skill talent in quarterback Christian Hackenberg, receiver Chris Godwin and running back Saquon Barkley. Penn State was 13th in the conference in total offense (344.0 ppg) and just 11th in the Big Ten in scoring (23.7 ppg). Franklin fired coordinator John Donovan at the end of the season and hired Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead.
Bottom line: Penn State basically beat who it was supposed to beat and lost to who it was supposed to lose to. The program needs to take another step in its evolution next season.
Record: 7-5 overall; Big Ten: 4-4/4th East
Bowl: TaxSlayer vs. Georgia
High point: After opening with a 27-10 loss at Temple, Penn State ripped off five wins in a row. Yes, none of the victories were over a ranked team. The best victory was a 37-21 win over San Diego State, which went on to win the Mountain West title. Still, the streak gave the Nittany Lions some mojo as they headed to Ohio State to play the No. 1 Buckeyes. Another high point was a 39-0 annihilation of Illinois on Halloween, as Christian Hackenberg hit 21-of-29 passes for 266 yards with two TDs and also caught a scoring pass.
Low point: Getting drubbed by Temple in the opener was a downer, as it was the Nittany Lions? first loss to the Owls since 1941. But Temple turned out to be pretty good. Let?s go deeper into the season for the low point. Penn State saw a 7-2 start melt into a 7-5 final regular-season mark, as a three-game losing streak sullied the end of the season. The bottom fell out in a listless 55-16 loss at No. 5 Michigan State in the finale, as the Spartans clinched the East Division crown on Senior Day. Four turnovers doomed the Nittany Lions, who got outscored 21-6 in the fourth quarter and were dominated in the game.
Offensive MVP: RB Saquon Barkley. He posted the most prolific rushing season for a true freshman in school annals, running 165 times for 1,007 yards and seven TDs. His numbers could have been even better had he not missed two games with injury and had a combined nine carries in two others. Still, he was named BTN.com Freshman of the Year.
Defensive MVP: E Carl Nassib. The senior enjoyed a storybook finish to a career that began as walk-on and ended with All-American honors in a 2015 season that also saw Nassib claim the Lombardi and Hendricks awards as well as Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. Nassib led the nation with 15.5 sacks and was second in TFLs with 19.5.
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