The 2011 Football Season Will Be One to Remember
It seems like football season is still so far away, yet in only 78 days we will be back in Beaver Stadium under (hopefully) sunny skies watching Penn State pummel Indiana State.
Last year was tough to swallow. From getting blown out in Tuscaloosa in early September to throwing away a victory in the Outback Bowl (literally) on January 1st, last season was marred by growing pains, injuries, and a quarterback controversy that still has yet to be settled.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about 2011. Here’s why I think this football season will be one to remember.
The Rule of 3
When you look back through Penn State history, you’ll find that great seasons usually come every three years.
Look no further than the past decade, where Penn State is a combined 31-7 with two Big Ten titles and two BCS bowl appearances in the years 2002, 2005, and 2008. Two of those seasons came within heartbreaking seconds from an undefeated regular seasons and a possible berth in the BCS Championship Game.
This isn’t by accident. Joe Paterno builds his teams to make a run at the national championship every three years, and 2011 is next in line.
JoePa’s last season?
Yes, this has been said before every season for the past decade or two, but it’s getting closer and closer to being true. JoePa will turn 85 at season’s end, and blah, blah, blah you’ve heard it all before.
My point is, enjoy this season as though it’s his last, because it might be.
Big Ten Division Champs? Vegas says yes.
While Ohio State’s football program crumbles to pieces, Penn State has become the favorite to win the Leaders Division and secure a berth in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game.
Whether or not he wins the quarterback job remains to be seen, but there’s no denying that Rob Bolden’s return will be a good thing for Penn State.
It sounds cliche, but much of this season’s success or failure will rest on quarterback play. Having a talent like Bolden under center will give Penn State the chance to compete with the best of the Big Ten and, with Alabama on the schedule, SEC.
A dream home schedule
2011 will bring three marquee opponents to Beaver Stadium in Alabama, Iowa, and Nebraska. The significance of Alabama is detailed below, so let’s focus on the others.
Beaver Stadium will boil over with rage at the sight of Iowa’s black and gold, and for good reason. The Hawkeyes have repeatedly caused Penn State agony in the past decade, and current Penn State students especially have experienced nothing but heartbreak at the hands of Iowa.
Nebraska comes to town for the first time as a member of the Big Ten as Penn State’s protected rival from the Legends Division. The last time the Cornhuskers came into Beaver Stadium, they were ranked in the top ten before being throttled by Penn State, 40-7, in front of a national audience in primetime.
This game has been talked about since it was scheduled (and since we graciously agreed to postpone the series), and has only gotten bigger as the Tide has grown back into a national power.
Though many of us were disappointed to hear that it would not be played in primetime, there’s no question that this is the biggest non-conference game at Beaver Stadium since the aforementioned 2002 Nebraska game. It will also be the first time Penn State has hosted an SEC team since 1989.
White House and Whiteout(s)
As we already covered above, the home schedule is stacked. Fortunately, it means the return of the White House for the first time in two years when Alabama comes to town on September 10.
In addition, we’ll probably see at least one Student Whiteout, with the Nebraska game an obvious candidate for that. Those are not announced until the week of the game.
Yes, you heard me right.
Beating Alabama seems unlikely, but seven of the first nine games are at Beaver Stadium, and both road games (at Indiana, at Northwestern) are very winnable. Iowa, as always, could be a challenge, but they’ve lost a lot of talent.
While the final three games of the season (Nebraska, at OSU, at Wisconsin) seem daunting, Penn State should be 8-1 at that point with a division title within reach. Here’s hoping that Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez has transferred (or is eaten alive by head coach Bo Pelini), Ohio State has nothing to play for, and Wisconsin plays like they did the last time Penn State visited Camp Randall.
How are you feeling about the upcoming season? Do you think it will be a season to remember, or a season to forget? Why?