By the time Penn State steps on the field Saturday, the Big Ten East may already be decided, and with that so could Penn State’s playoff chances. As we all know, Penn State does not fully control its own destiny right now and is relying on Ohio State to beat Michigan this weekend to keep its hopes alive.
Whether the Nittany Lions walk out onto the field at Beaver Stadium this weekend playing to be Big Ten East Champions or just a share of the champions title, we have to look at this season as a huge success.
We weren’t suppose to be here. We weren’t expected to be ranked, let alone ranked No. 7 in the nation playing for a spot in the Big Ten Championship and a possible playoff berth. In fact, Penn State received no votes in any Top 25 preseason poll. ESPN had Penn State ranked the No. 9 team in the Big Ten in its preseason power rankings. Almost all major sports publications including Fox Sports, BTN, and SBNation also had Penn State finishing fourth in the Big Ten East Division. So how’d they all get it wrong? How’d we get here?
After a week two loss to Pitt, fans were down and out. They were either calling the season a failure or calling for James Franklin to be fired. But then something amazing happened — this team grew, and it grew fast. Ohio State walked into Beaver Stadium 20-point favorites, and the No. 2 team in the nation. The Buckeyes walked out with their first loss. Less than a month after getting stomped by Michigan, Penn State and James Franklin secured the signature win they deserve. The season’s course was drastically altered, and this young team grew and matured into something no one could have imagined early on in the season. Penn State is now the No. 7 team in the nation with a 9-2 record and James Franklin now sits as a frontrunner for Big Ten Coach of the Year.
It’s safe to say Penn State’s comeback is one of the biggest storylines this year. Pundits and fans alike overshot almost every prediction and expectation for this season already, and there is still a lot ahead of us. Not winning the Big Ten East would be more than a disappointment around campus this week, but fans cannot forget that this team outperformed everything that was expected of them. This season is an overwhelming success no matter how you look at it.
When the Nittany Lions take the field at Beaver Stadium this Saturday, remember this: What we watched this season has been something special — it’s been history. No matter the outcome, no matter what happens next, this team will be remembered for bringing Penn State football back and demanding the nation take it seriously. So regardless of what happens, let’s celebrate this team.