No. 9 Penn State

 Midway through last season, the Nittany Lions were struggling through a 2-2 start and were headed for a loss to Minnesota at home. Just when the Penn State beat writers started to get their "coaching search'' faces on in searching for potential replacements for Penn State head coach James Franklin, everything changed.

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Penn State pulled off an overtime win against the Gophers and did not lose the remainder of the regular season, which included a win over eventual Big Ten champion Ohio State. Only a wild 52-49 loss to USC in the Rose Bowl soiled the comeback. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Fast forward to this season. Sixteen starters--10 on offense--return, including quarterback Trace McSorley, who threw for a school record 3,614 yards and 29 TDs and running back Saquon Barkley. Four starters return on the offensive line. That should be enough to overcome any holes the defense has as Franklin looks for replacements on the defensive end and linebacker.

The schedule--outside of a back to back meeting in October with Michigan and Ohio State should produce at least nine wins, with a road game at Ohio State on October 28 the biggest obstacle.

Add all of that into the mix and the Nittany Lions could be back in the Rose Bowl--in a national semifinal game--in January.[/membership]