Only one spot in the AP Poll separates the team that Joe Paterno brought to the No. 3 ranking during the 2008 season and James Franklin’s Nittany Lion squad that stands at No. 4 in the nation after one week of play, the program’s highest ranking in nearly nine years.
However, an eternity separates the two Penn State teams via the program’s fallout, an era of brutal sanctions, four different head coaches, a deluge of bad press, a Renaissance of football in Happy Valley, and everything else that the course of a decade brings.
The last time Penn State was ranked this high….
1. James Franklin was an assistant at Maryland.
2. Speaking of Maryland…
The Terps were still in the ACC, Nebraska was still in the Big 12, and Rutgers was (surprisingly) competitive in the Big East, not to be confused with the Big Ten East, in which the Scarlet Knights hold a 4-21 record.
What did Nittany Lion fans do with their spare time when they weren’t listening to constant “F*** Penn State” cheers?
3. Saquon Barkley was 11 years old.
Even then, Barkley gave defenses fits.
4. Penn State’s hockey team was still called the Icers, played at Greenberg Ice Pavillion, and competed in the ACHA as a club team.
All these years later, Penn State has undergone a similar ascension on the rink as it has on the gridiron, winning the Big Ten last March and making its first NCAA Tournament appearance.
5. There was no We Are sign.
It was installed on the corner of Curtin Road and University Drive in 2015.
The sun is shining down on Happy Valley.
— Onward State (@OnwardState) April 4, 2017
6. But there was a Joe Paterno statue.
Nittanyville was also still named Paternoville. No asterisk necessary.
7. T.I.’s Whatever You Like was the No. 1 Song on The Billboard Hot 100.
Penn State’s return to the elite ranks of college football is most certainly what I like.
8. Because the Big Ten champion for football was decided without a championship game, Penn State and Ohio State shared the conference title.
The postseason format may have changed, but the contention between the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes certainly hasn’t.
9. Snapchat, Instagram, and Tinder didn’t exist yet.
Archives show that even just a short time ago, students actually met and interacted with each other in person.
10. The first Onward State article was a week away from being published.
Nearly 20,000 articles chronicling the evolution of Penn State over these past nine years have been posted since November 2008.