Welcome to Week 7 of NittanyNation's power rankings, a top-10 list of Penn State players who are surpassing expectations, and who to keep an eye on.
After Penn State's bye week, NittanyNation decided to make this week's list a little different. Instead of factoring expectations and granting a lot of weight to the last game, we've ranked these players based purely on talent and results.
What players have contributed most to this team's 4-2 record? This week's top 10:
1. LB Michael Mauti
If this pick surprises you, then you haven't been following Penn State very closely. He's arguably the best linebacker in the country right now. The soft-spoken Mauti doesn't say much, but he lets his play do the talking -- and it's had a lot to say this season. He leads the defense in most statistical categories: tackles (57), interceptions (2), deflections (4) and forced fumbles (2). He's carried this defense at times, and the team wouldn't be the same without him.
2. QB Matt McGloin
Say what you will about his arm strength, but McGloin's a winner. He didn't panic when his team trailed Northwestern by 11, and he's getting a little better every week. He tossed 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions so far, and those picks were more the result of receiver errors. McGloin is on pace for a 3,000-yard season and could very well be the top pocket-passer in the conference this year. The offense works because of McGloin, who's greatly improved at progressing through his reads and finding the open target.
3. WR Allen Robinson
For an unheralded recruit who was a third-string wideout last season, he sure has come a long way. For every 10 times McGloin drops back, he passes to Robinson about three times. A-Rob's route-running is the best on the team, and he's been McGloin's favorite receiver in the red zone. Robinson has seven touchdowns, 524 yards, and has left quite few people -- McGloin included -- wondering why he didn't play sooner. Robinson is this offense's playmaker as a true sophomore; imagine what he'll do as a senior.
4.LB Gerald Hodges
He's been a little overshadowed by Mauti, but that doesn't take away from just how well he's performed this season. He boasts more coverage responsibilities this year, and he has more pass breakups (3) and deflections (4) than any member of the secondary. He's contributed toward three turnovers, and he's second on the team in tackles (50). If Mauti wasn't on this team, Hodges could very well be the MVP. As it is, he's still one of the best.
5. DT Jordan Hill
He's performing a little under expectations, but he remains the best defensive lineman on this squad. He's fourth in tackles (38) but has made just 2.5 stops in the backfield. Still, Hill has wreaked havoc on the interior of offensive lines, and opponents often try to neutralize him with double-teams. When they don't, games like Northwestern happen -- 8 tackles, 1 tackle-for-loss. His effect on this team might not show up on the stat sheet, but he's the most valuable player on this line.
6. C Matt Stankiewitch
As the offensive line's only returning starter, big things were expected from Stankiewitch this season -- and he's delivered. Defensive tackles have been slow to penetrate the backfield, and the Nittany Lions are seeing a renaissance of running up the middle thanks to Stankiewitch. He's one of the best centers in the conference and should have a future in the NFL.
7. RB Zach Zwinak
For a player who technically hasn't started a game, he sure has made an impact. He's rushed for more than 90 yards in three straight games and has back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts. He's tough to bring down, tires defenses out and has been a critical part of this offense's success the last three weeks. He's shown improvement catching the ball and should continue to earn carries, even once Bill Belton returns to 100 percent.
8. DE Deion Barnes
He's nearly a lock to be the conference freshman of the year. Barnes has become Penn State's top pass-rusher and leads the team in tackles-for-loss (5) and sacks (4). He instinctively tries to knock the football out, and he brings a lot of speed off the edge. Barnes could be harassing quarterbacks for the next three seasons, and NittanyNation sees a lot of double-teams in his future. He might be the biggest surprise on the defense this year.
9. TE Kyle Carter
This athletic redshirt freshman has helped form a nice 1-2 punch with Robinson. His teammates have raved about some of his one-handed catches, and McGloin could lean on Carter even more as Robinson starts garnering more attention from opposing secondaries. Carter, the No. 2 receiving threat, has almost twice as many catches (23) as the No. 3 (12). He's a player to watch going forward.
10. RB Michael Zordich
NittanyNation couldn't leave a member of the Killer Z's off this list. Zordich is second on the team in rushing and has also been a bit of a receiving threat. He has 10 catches for 95 yards and contributed a lot in the wins against Navy, Temple and Northwestern. He's a vocal leader and a consistent player who Penn State can depend on.