After Shocking The World, What’s Next?
I wrote an article a lot like this one after the loss to Pitt. Needless to say, things have changed quite a bit since then.
I took a very pessimistic approach to that article a month ago, because frankly, there wasn’t too much to be optimistic about. Things have changed a lot and this win over Ohio State gave me a ton of confidence about this football team.
After that game, we learned a few things about the James Franklin’s Nittany Lions that will certainly come into play the rest of the season. The offensive and defensive lines have come a long way since that Pitt game, and proved they are among the some of the top units in the Big Ten. Saquon Barkley is still one of the best running backs in the nation coming, and coming off a few phenomenal showings, could be in line for a huge stretch starting with Purdue.
Trace McSorley has gotten his turnover woes under control, is gaining confidence in the new system, and should only improve moving forward. Getting Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell healthy and starting again gave Linebacker U its teeth again and completed an already-strong defense under Brent Pry. Finally, special teams is starting to become a strength again for Penn State, just like it always was for Joe Paterno’s teams.
Penn State will likely be favored in each of their remaining games, and for good reason. The Nittany Lions are at long-last back in the AP Top 25, checking in as the nation’s 24th-best team, and the toughest opponent it will face is either Iowa or Michigan State at home. It all starts in West Lafayette this Saturday, which is more intimidating than it looks.
The Boilermakers just fired its head coach Darrell Hazell two weeks ago after another poor start, but it still gave undefeated Nebraska a few fits on Saturday. This upcoming noon clash may be a trap game for Penn State coming off a very emotional win over J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes. Franklin knows this, and has banned the words “Ohio State” at practice so hopefully this works and the position groups only look forward to accomplishing their jobs.
Next comes a night game against the Iowa Hawkeyes, who may be the second best team in the Big Ten West. We all saw what happened at the last night game in Happy Valley, and I don’t think this one will be any different. With the support of the crowd, anything is possible for Penn State, and though Iowa is a solid team, the Nittany Lions should pull off the win.
Probably the toughest test in November will come in the form of a very underrated Indiana squad that has caused problems for a few great Big Ten teams like Ohio State and Nebraska. The Hoosiers beat Michigan State and keep losing close ballgames, so Penn State may have its hands full when it arrives in Bloomington on Nov. 12.
For lack of a better term, Rutgers is a dumpster fire. The program is winless in Big Ten play and was absolutely destroyed by both Ohio State and Michigan. We know they think we’re rivals and strange things happen in college football, but Penn State should beat B
utgers Rutgers handily.
Penn State finishes the season against Michigan State, another program in complete disarray. The Spartans are a weird football team and can always do damage, so I wouldn’t count them out against the blue and white on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The weather will probably be rough, but if Franklin and company prepare enough and focus, this could cap off an undefeated season at home.
10-2. Let that sink in. Penn State has a great opportunity this season — the opportunity to finish with double-digit wins for the first time since 2009. Also, with some help from others, it could potentially make the Big Ten Championship. As I’ve said repeatedly, nothing is guaranteed in college football (just ask the Buckeyes), so the Nittany Lions must continue to play with passion and determination like they did last Saturday. But if they do, those young men have a chance to bring Penn State football back into the national spotlight.