James Franklin has set Penn State back on a path it once occupied, right at or near the top of college football.

The coach, entering his fifth season at Happy Valley,  is coming off of back-to-back 11-win seasons, both of which culminated in New Year’s Day 6 bowl games.

The Nittany Lions won the Big Ten championship in 2016 and followed that act last year with a season that, if not for a squandered lead against Ohio State, would have led to another trip to Indianapolis for a defense of that title.

Even in one of college football’s toughest divisions, Penn State is poised for another season in the national conversation thanks to the B1G’s best quarterback, a strong offensive line and whatever contributions the program gets from the fifth-rated recruiting class in the FBS.

This concludes our series on the league’s favorites; we previously highlighted Wisconsin, Ohio StateMichigan StateMichigan and Iowa. Here are 5 reasons Penn State can win the B1G:

Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Trace McSorley

He enters his senior season aiming to continue where he left off at the end of 2017. In Penn State’s 35-28 victory over Washington in the Fiesta Bowl, McSorley had a career-high 32 completions (including 12-for-12 on third down) for 342 yards and two touchdowns. That brought his career total for touchdown passes to 59, a school record by 11. McSorley brings a streak of six consecutive multiple-touchdown games into the 2018 season and is 1,089 passing yards away from breaking Christian Hackenberg’s school mark in that category, too.

Strong receivers

Juwan Johnson is back to lead this group and draw some attention, and not just because of his sweet backpack. The junior is coming off of a 54-catch, 701-yard season and joins senior DeAndre Thompkins (28 catches, 443 yards) as the veteran core in this unit. Freshman Justin Shorter, one of PSU’s most heralded recruits in the Class of 2018, is one to watch, as McSorley himself will attest. “They’re honestly pretty similar,” the quarterback said of Shorter and Johnson. Thompkins also has been a dangerous returner; he brought back 24 punts for 319 yards (13.3-yard average) and a score in 2017.

Defense young but talented

Shareef Miller led the team in sacks last season with five and is back at defensive end. This side of the ball is where the question marks loom for Penn State, because only two starters return on a defense which finished sixth in the nation in scoring and 17th in yards allowed. Freshman Micah Parsons, Penn State’s top recruit in the Class of 2018, might make a splash right away on the line.

Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Tough, experienced offensive line

Junior right tackle Ryan Bates, above, leads a unit which helped the Nittany Lions rank 19th in the nation in total offense and seventh in scoring in 2017. Granted, superstar running back Saquon Barkley is gone and that kind of production is hard to replace no matter how well you recruit. But Bates, center Connor McGovern, left tackle Will Fries and left guard Steven Gonzalez might well have a hand in making a notable name out of the next Nittany Lions starting running back, to say nothing of how much easier McSorley’s life should be thanks to them.

Schedule breaks well

If Penn State is going to make a run at a College Football Playoff berth, this might be the best season to do it so far. Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin all have to come to University Park. a trip to Pittsburgh is the only nonconference challenge and the biggest road hurdle for PSU is at Michigan on Nov. 3. This group should be favored in every game except in Ann Arbor and, maybe, against the Buckeyes (depending on how OSU looks by then in the wake of the current Urban Meyer mess). The Nittany Lions have the talent, leadership and schedule to be very dangerous.