Nittany Lions with highest preseason ranking since 1999

Penn State is ranked No. 6 in the preseason Associated Press poll, the same ranking it received in the coaches poll and the program’s highest preseason ranking since 1999 (No. 3).

The Nittany Lions return 18 starters from last year’s Big Ten championship team, which finished 11-3 and ranked No. 7 in the AP poll. Penn State is ranked in the preseason AP top 10 for the 24th time in program history.

The Lions barely missed being ranked No. 5, with their point total of 1,196 coming up just short of Clemson’s 1,201.

Alabama is No. 1 in the AP poll, followed by Ohio State, Florida State, USC and Clemson. After PSU, Oklahoma is No. 7, then Washington, Wisconsin and Oklahoma State round out the top 10.

Michigan is No. 11, giving the Big Ten four teams ranked in the top 11. The East Division has three of those teams (Ohio State, PSU and Michigan), making it the most top-heavy division in college football, according to preseason rankings.

Among others receiving votes in the AP poll: Northwestern is No. 31, while Pitt is No. 32. The Lions will play both of those teams, as well as Nebraska (No. 40) and Michigan State (No. 44.).

Johnson transferring

Redshirt freshman defensive back TJ Johnson has left the PSU football team and plans to transfer, reported Monday.

Johnson was a three-star recruit from Cleveland who redshirted last season. He chose PSU over Syracuse, Illinois, Kentucky, Cincinnati and Buffalo.

What are the odds?

Penn State is favored by 33 points in next week’s season opener against Akron, according to Bovada.

Looking further ahead at some season odds:

• The over/under on PSU’s regular-season win total is 9.5 (betting odds for over -135; under +105)

• Ohio State is a -120 betting favorite to win the Big Ten. Penn State is +550

• PSU is +400 to make the College Football Playoff, compared to -700 for not making it

• The Lions are +1600 to win the national title

More captains

QB Trace McSorley, LB Jason Cabinda and special teams ace Nick Scott already were named PSU captains for this season. Five more players were selected in a team vote over the weekend: RB Saquon Barkley, S Marcus Allen, PK Tyler Davis, CB Grant Haley and WR DaSean Hamilton.