It’s no secret that we here at the Empire didn’t think much about Penn State football to start the season. We had them ranked 8 in our first power poll of the year, and I myself voted them 9. Well as much as it pains me to admit this...we were wrong about Penn State.
At one point this year, I referred to Penn State as “the 3rd best FBS team in Pennsylvania”. Guess what? I was wrong. Not only did the Nits avenge last year’s loss to Temple, but they cemented themselves as the 2nd best FBS team in Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, James Franklin has long been criticized on OTE as “Coach Hype”; the loudmouthed dude who is good at recruiting, but would rather tweet recruits and slam Monster energy drink than make halftime adjustments. Well would a bad coach beat Tracy Claeys by nearly 4 points, I ask you? Would a bad coach hold a team with Jabrill Peppers on it to under 50 points?
Back to our preseason poll though. 8th place. We had Penn State in 8th damn place. Now here we sit in December, and Penn State is at least the 5th best team in the conference, if not the 4th best.
Penn State shut out a Rutgers squad averaging 9.5 points/game in conference play. They held what is probably the worst Iowa offense in my lifetime to 14 points. Michigan only beat the Lions by 39, which, you know....Harbaugh. This is the kind of season legends are made of
Just think of where PSU was a few years ago. The sanctions laid on them by the NCAA put them in the same tier as Rutgers, Maryland, Indiana and Purdue for a time. Then the sanctions got lifted. They still weren’t any good because Franklin was obviously held back by a team full of Bill O’Brian’s scrubs that he couldn’t work with. Now several years later the Lions are finally back up to where they belong in their division: The tier below Ohio State and Michigan but just above everyone else. This miraculous turnaround alone is worthy of our praise.
This Penn State football team is for real. They aren’t the best team in the conference. Or the second best. Or even the third best. But that doesn’t matter because the Lions won a 2-way share of the Big Ten East title. They wouldn’t have won half of the title if it weren’t for the Iowa Hawkeyes improbable victory over Michigan, but thanks to said improbable victory, the Nits did in fact win (a share of) the division title.
So once again, we’re sorry Penn State fans. James Franklin isn’t the worst coach in the league, he’s like the 8th worst or whatever. Your team achieved the impossible by finally rising back to the mean and getting lucky with a bunch of fluke games throughout the league that allowed you to be one of two co-champions in your division.
It doesn’t matter that Wisconsin is the clear-cut better team and will probably take you to town on Saturday. Nothing can take away from how amazing this above-average year was for you. Look at it this way: Wisconsin’s offense isn’t good enough to run up the score, whereas Nick Saban would probably hang 60 on you and then scream at his team for playing like absolute shit. Penn State isn’t good enough to be a playoff contender anyway, but you get the point.
So from all of us at OTE, to all of you who have spent the last 3 years making excuses for everything: Congratulations on your football team turning around and finally becoming 5th best again.