Post-Michigan State Reactions For Penn State Football

Well, Penn State football is officially a 7-5 team.

The Nittany Lions capped off a brutal second half of the 2021 season with a 30-27 loss to Michigan State at Spartan Stadium in the snow this past Saturday. After starting the season 5-0 and climbing to as high as No. 4 in the AP Top 25 Poll, James Franklin’s group finished the season by dropping five of its last seven contests.

Besides the nine-overtime Illinois loss, Penn State played fairly solid games against some talented Big Ten opponents down the stretch. Still, there are some hot takes swirling around the Nittany Lions as we enter December.

‘This Team Is Just A Few Plays Away From A New Year’s Six Bowl’

Will Pegler: There’s no excuse for going 7-5. That’s just a bad record. However, it’s obvious that the Nittany Lions are just a couple of moments away from a much better record. They’re a missed coverage away from beating Michigan, which just took down mighty Ohio State, and quite honestly a Sean Clifford injury away from beating Iowa. Plus, if Clifford doesn’t take that knock against the Hawkeyes, who knows what happens against Illinois? Again, I am not trying to make excuses for James Franklin’s team. But it’d be lazy not to consider all of what took place this season into that record.

Sam Brungo: While this may be very accurate, a team that repeatedly can’t make those crucial plays doesn’t deserve to be in a New Years Six bowl. If Penn State were able to execute late in games, sure. But shoulda, woulda, coulda. Hypotheticals can’t make this team the national champion. That’s why they’re hypothetical.

Ryan Parsons: I mean, probably. This is a hard issue. On one hand, Penn State has undeniably hung with every opponent it’s played. It’s had a chance to win every game it lost and would have an incredibly impressive resume if it just cleaned up just a few mistakes. On the other hand, good teams win close games like that. If the Nittany Lions deserved to win those close games, they would have. At the end of the day, you’re only as good as your record says. 7-5 is not good.

‘We’ve Seen Several Stars Play In Their Last Penn State Games’

Will Pegler: We don’t know anything on this front at this point, but I wouldn’t be surprised if multiple guys sit out Penn State’s bowl game. For players like Jahan Dotson and Jaquan Brisker, possibly among others, it might not be worth it to risk injury and hurt their draft stock in a random bowl. However, Dotson quite literally carries a football with him everywhere he goes, so I’d honestly bet he plays in whichever postseason game Penn State gets.

Sam Brungo: This is not an overreaction. Dotson, Brisker, and maybe even Clifford may sit out their final game as Nittany Lions in order to avoid injury and protect their draft stock. Watching No. 5 play on Saturday was very bittersweet, but I wish those guys the best and look forward to watching them succeed at the next level.

Ryan Parsons: Per usual, this will be under wraps until Penn State finishes its “exit interviews” at the end of the season. Although Jahan Dotson is clearly the Nittany Lions’ most NFL-ready prospect, I feel like he’ll still probably play in the bowl. He’s expressed interest in playing in a bowl in the past and only caught three passes in the 2019 Cotton Bowl. However, I could see someone like Jaquan Brisker sitting out to avoid injury, especially since he’s been banged up all year.

‘It’s Time For A New Offensive Line Coach’

Will Pegler: The offensive line has to be one of the hardest position groups to judge in football — or at least it is from my vantage point. The Nittany Lions have spent just two seasons with Phil Trautwein, while Matt Limegover was the offensive line coach for just four seasons before that. Things haven’t been great under Trautwein thus far, but it feels like an overreaction to part ways with a guy after such a short amount of time. Let’s see how things go with some of the big prospects Penn State has climbing up the ranks, namely Landon Tengwall.

Sam Brungo: Although Trautwein is relatively new, since he has been in Happy Valley, the line has been atrocious. I hate to talk about another man’s job, but shit or get off the pot.

Ryan Parsons: This might be an overreaction. The offensive line has undoubtedly been bad this season, but firing the coach seems like more of a bandaid fix. Pass protection has been poor for basically all of Franklin’s tenure, which makes me believe the problem goes deeper than just the position coach. Trautwein is a young coach and seems like someone Penn State would be better off working around and building with than firing and gambling on a new guy.

‘Parker Washington Will Fill Jahan Dotson’s Role With Ease Next Season’

Will Pegler: Jahan Dotson is awesome, so there’s no way to say anyone will fill his role “with ease.” However, did you see Parker Washington’s catch on Saturday? The wide receiver room is in good hands (literally and figuratively).

Sam Brungo: It was a big question mark who would fill in when Godwin left, but Hamler did just fine. Same thing with Dotson when KJ left for the NFL. Now it’s Parker Washington’s turn, and I don’t see why he can’t fill that role. The biggest question will be if KeAndre Lambert-Smith and Malick Meiga can fill the much-needed supporting role.

Ryan Parsons: Jahan Dotson’s production will likely not be immediately be replaced by Washington, but I could see him becoming “the guy” next year. When KJ Hamler left, no one really had faith in Dotson to step up. The wide receiver room was a big question mark, but the Nazareth, Pa. native exceeded everyone’s expectations. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Washington makes a similar jump in his third year.

‘The 2020 Season Isn’t As Much Of A Fluke As We Thought It Was’

Will Pegler: The Nittany Lions have now gone 11-10 over the past two seasons. COVID-issues and injuries certainly had a hand in last season’s debacle, but a lot of the issues we saw last year are still rearing their ugly head this fall. We’re still seeing inconsistencies on offense, namely on the offensive line, and Penn State still can’t make the big play when it needs it most. Last year was weird, sure. But based on what we’ve seen this season, it’s fair to say it wasn’t as “flukey” as we may have thought it was last December.

Sam Brungo: I still think it was a fluke. Losing to Indiana, Nebraska, Maryland, and Iowa last year, along with Ohio State, was much worse than losing four top-15 matchups — three on the road — and a fluke loss to Illinois. This team fell far from its potential, but it is not a bad team by any means.

Ryan Parsons: Again, you’re only as good as your record says it is. Penn State was 4-5 in Big Ten play in 2020 and was 4-5 in Big Ten play in 2021. On paper, last year was not a fluke. However, it’s hard to deny how much the on-field product has improved. Sean Clifford looks much better, the defense is sick, and Jahan Dotson is a superstar. But I think it’s safe to say at this point that the COVID-related issues Penn State experienced last year might have been overexaggerated. The Nittany Lions didn’t get blown out by Maryland and Iowa like they did last year, but they once again struggled to put together results many folks would be happy with.

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