Highly ranked recruit Justin Fields decommits from Penn State

Highly ranked recruit Justin Fields decommits from Penn State

Penn State football took a hit Tuesday night.

Justin Fields, a dual-threat QB and heralded 2018 college football prospect, revoked his commitment to the Nittany Lions, via ESPN.

Fields made the announcement on Twitter and said Penn State will remain one of his top options.

The Kennesaw, Georgia native is the fourth-ranked 2018 prospect by ESPN and the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback. According to Rivals.com, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Fields has received 38 scholarships offers.

The Harrison High School product originally committed to Penn State in December.

Two hours after Fields' announcement, Penn State head coach James Franklin tweeted:

Penn State went 11-3 last season, won the Big Ten championship and lost the Rose Bowl in a 52-49 thriller to USC.

Penn State stays at No. 2 in AP poll after impressive win over Michigan

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Penn State stays at No. 2 in AP poll after impressive win over Michigan

Penn State looked like a bona fide National Championship contender Saturday in its blowout win over Michigan (see story)

That said, the Nittany Lions remained one spot behind unanimous No. 1 Alabama, who beat Tennessee on Saturday, at No. 2. In fact, the top eight teams remain the same from last week's poll, meaning that No. 3 Georgia, No. 4 TCU and No. 5 Wisconsin round out the top five.

With their statement win over the Wolverines, the Nittany Lions knocked Michigan, previously No. 19, entirely out of the Top 25.

Penn State faces its highest-ranked opponent of the season Saturday, when the Nittany Lions travel to Columbus, Ohio, to play No. 6 Ohio State. 

For this week's full AP poll, click here

Penn State sprung some surprises on Michigan in blowout victory

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USA Today Images

Penn State sprung some surprises on Michigan in blowout victory

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — It was 11:23 p.m. Saturday night — James Franklin, poised to address reporters in the Beaver Stadium media room, knew the time because he checked a cellphone lying before him — and Penn State’s coach said that would allow him exactly 37 minutes to enjoy the 42-13 victory over Michigan (see observations).

After that, it was time to move on, time for the second-ranked Nittany Lions to prepare for the next step down a treacherous path. That involves a visit to No. 6 Ohio State next weekend, with another trip, to No. 18 Michigan State, to follow.

Franklin wasn’t about to discuss the Buckeyes within that precious 37-minute window. There will be time enough for that in the days to come.

But what seems apparent is the Lions have the ability and adaptability to run with the Big Ten’s big dogs — that if they lose next week, it will be because of the Buckeyes’ strengths, not their weaknesses.

On Saturday night, PSU was as good as it has been against a quality team in Franklin’s three-plus seasons on the job, outgaining the No. 19 Wolverines, 506-269, and unleashing Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley for three touchdowns apiece.

“Everybody’s been saying we haven’t been playing anybody this year,” wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton said. “Obviously we played somebody today.”

Somebody who came away pretty, pretty impressed.

“They hit us on quite a few plays that we have defensed well this year,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “I thought their execution was really good tonight, right from the beginning.”

As in, the second play from scrimmage. That’s when Barkley lined up in the Wildcat — a formation the Lions hadn’t shown all year — and zipped 69 yards for a touchdown. He then capped their second possession by scoring on an option pitch, something else PSU hadn’t done much this season.

Franklin had said in the days leading up to the game the Lions had something up their sleeves, that they were waiting to spring some stratagems on the Big Ten heavyweights. The wrinkles, he added Saturday, were things they had worked on during the preseason.

“The fact that we have some recall helps,” he said.

So too did the fact they had a week off to prepare for the Wolverines.

“We watched, probably, seven different games of Michigan film,” Hamilton said. “It really helped a lot.”

Michigan cut the gap to 14-13, but then the Lions ran away and hid. It was difficult to find fault with any aspect of their performance, though Franklin tried. He thought the defense could have handled sudden change better, seeing as Michigan charged downfield for a touchdown after McSorley threw a first-quarter interception.

Barkley tried, too. On a day when he generated 176 all-purpose yards — 108 of them on the ground — the Heisman hopeful fixated on his second-quarter drop of a McSorley pass, on a wheel route down the left sideline.

“Sometimes I overthink and I just put myself in bad situations,” Barkley said. “I should have just caught it first. I was thinking score. I was thinking about catching the ball. I felt the safety. I felt his presence. I wanted to try to make him miss and find a way to get into the end zone.”

He atoned with a 42-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter, though he juggled that one, too.

“I was able to run through it,” he said. “It humbles you again, makes you realize you’ve got to put a little more work in. You’ve got to find a way to make those plays.”

Especially now that the celebration, brief as it was, is over. It’s time to take another step down a treacherous path, time to find out where it might lead.