Top 25 Countdown

No. 10 Penn State

Tuesday, August 25, 2009; 12:00 AM

Last Season: 11-2 (lost to Southern California in the Rose Bowl).

Returning Starters: 9 (5 offense, 4 defense).

Key Game: Ohio State, Nov. 7.

Why They're Worth Watching

The Nittany Lions' surged last season with their "Spread HD" offense, and some key components from that breakneck system are returning. Quarterback Daryll Clark, a first-team all-Big Ten performer last season, is an efficient passer, a capable scrambler and a locker room leader. One of the more intriguing stories this season in Happy Valley is the evolution of defensive end Jack Crawford, who played in every game last season as a true freshman (one of only three Penn State true freshman to do so). Crawford grew up in England before moving to New Jersey at age 16, and he didn't play football until his junior year of high school. He could help fill the void left by Aaron Maybin, a first-round NFL draft pick.

Player to Watch

Evan Royster, Jr., RB

In his first year as a starter, the Westfield High graduate rushed for 1,236 yards and 12 touchdowns. With the departure of key receivers, Royster should be the focal point of Penn State's offense and could emerge as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Why They're Vulnerable

Penn State has important skill players returning, but does not have strength in the trenches. Maybin and his 12 sacks from last season are gone, as is troubled defensive tackle Abe Koroma, who plans to transfer to Western Illinois after registering 26 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season. Koroma was part of the regular rotation last season, but was also suspended for three games after he was charged with marijuana possession. There also is concern on the offensive line after the departures of leaders A.Q. Shipley, Rich Ohrnberger and Gerald Cadogan. The linebacking corps took a hit after promising sophomore Michael Mauti tore his ACL in practice.

-- Mark Viera

© 2009