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Preseason Coaches Poll Top 25 Debuts Without Penn State

The Lions join the 'Others Receiving Votes' list in the first USA Today AFCA Coaches Poll.

Penn State learned one consequence of finishing a season 2-6, dropping your bowl game and losing eight players to the NFL Draft. You don't make the cut for the preseason college football coaches poll top 25.

Penn State is 27th in the first USA Today Sports AFCA Coaches Poll released Monday, just over three weeks before the season opener at Purdue. The Lions finished last season unranked after reaching No. 4 following a 5-0 start.

Ohio State (No. 2) leads a group of just four Big Ten teams ranked in the preseason top 25. Defending conference champ Michigan is No. 6, followed by Michigan State (14) and Wisconsin (20). Penn State was among four Big Ten teams receiving votes, with Iowa (26), Minnesota and Purdue.

Alabama is the Coaches Poll preseason No. 1, receiving 54 first-place votes. Defending national champ Georgia is third, followed by Clemson and Notre Dame. Texas, at No. 18, received one first-place vote.

Penn State coach James Franklin is among the 66 FBS coaches with a vote in the poll.

Penn State returns 33 letterwinners from the 2021 team that looked like a Big Ten contender early. The Lions went 5-0 and led Iowa by 14 points in the first half before quarterback Sean Clifford and defensive tackle PJ Mustipher were injured.

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The Lions fell to Iowa 23-20, beginning a cascade in which they lost six of their remaining eight games. Penn State dropped three straight, including the infamous nine-overtime loss to Illinois, to fall out of the rankings. They concluded with a 7-6 record, falling to Auburn in the Outback Bowl.

Twelve starters return for the 2022 season, including both Clifford and Mustipher. Franklin said Mustipher is "100 percent" ready to return after his season-ending knee injury. Clifford, meanwhile, has "gone at it like a maniac this offseason," offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said.

Penn State's 2022 schedule features nine bowl teams, including three in the first four weeks. The Lions open the season Sept. 1 at Purdue, which defeated Tennessee in the Music City Bowl. They visit Auburn, which loss to Houston in the Birmingham Bowl, on Sept. 17 and conclude the non-conference schedule Sept. 24 against Central Michigan, which defeated Washington State in the Sun Bowl.

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AllPennState is the place for Penn State news, opinion and perspective on the SI.com network. Publisher Mark Wogenrich has covered Penn State for more than 20 years, tracking three coaching staffs, three Big Ten titles and a catalog of great stories. Follow him on Twitter @MarkWogenrich. And consider subscribing (button's on the home page) for more great content across the SI.com network.