Penn State enters the 2021 season with a number of questions after a disappointing stretch in 2020, despite being just two years removed from an 11-win season and Cotton Bowl victory.

As the B1G rolls into the eighth season as an expanded 14-team conference, it provides a nice benchmark to review how teams have performed. Going back to the 2014 expansion, it also provides Penn State a nice window as the program has played seven full seasons under head coach James Franklin.

Heading into Year 8 with Franklin at the helm, here is a look at the best and worst seasons in Happy Valley since 2014.

Best Season – 2016 (11-3 record, B1G Champs, Rose Bowl appearance)

The best season in this stretch comes down to a trio of 11-win campaigns: 2016, 2017, and 2019, with two of those years ending with a New Year’s Six Bowl win. And while the 2016 season did end with a tough loss in the Rose Bowl, it does have the distinction of being the lone B1G title under Franklin’s watch. Add in the fact that 2016 was also the last time the Nittany Lions beat Ohio State, and it is more than enough to label this Franklin’s best team at Penn State.

Early on in 2016, it appeared that the Nittany Lions were headed for an underwhelming season. The team started the year 2-2 with losses to Pitt and Michigan sandwiched around a lackluster win over Temple. Then, the Nittany Lions went on a nine-game winning streak, culminating with a win over No. 6 Wisconsin in the B1G Championship.

The offensive stars on that 2016 team shined especially bright. Quarterback Trace McSorley accounted for nearly 4,000 yards of offense and 36 total touchdowns. Saquon Barkley was electric with nearly 1,900 yards from scrimmage and 22 touchdowns. The receiving corps was also incredible with a host of stars in DaeSean Hamilton, Chris Godwin, and Mike Gesicki leading five players with over 400 yards receiving.

Worst Season – 2020 (4-5 record)

Unfortunately, it is not hard to spot the worst season of Franklin’s tenure, even with the issues posed by playing during the pandemic and losing Journey Brown before the season. The Nittany Lions faced plenty of struggles in 2020 but still had the chances to perform better than they did on both sides of the ball while starting the game with a five-game losing streak.

Quarterback Sean Clifford showed flashes of impressive play but ultimately threw nine picks, including eight during the five losses to start the season. The early injury to Noah Cain and the aforementioned loss of Brown weakened a running back unit that was expected to be the strength of the team. Factor in the failed Kirk Ciarrocca experience, the questions that remain for the future, and the only losing season since Franklin’s arrival, and 2020 stands alone as the worst season since 2014.

Total record since 2014: 60-28 (38-23 B1G record)

Average record: 8.6-4 (5.4-3.3)