At about the time most rational Penn State fans were sitting down on Saturday night to take in the Nittany Lions' game against Iowa, I was storming up Cardiac Hill in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood after watching Pitt beat Florida International at Heinz Field earlier in the afternoon. When Robert Bolden was stuffed on fourth and a yard, I was standing outside the Petersen Events Center watching on the giant screen in the lobby of the building. And as the football game ended, I was listening to Steve Jones and Jack Ham muddle through the final minutes while staring at the Cathedral of Learning on my way home.
If anyone had a reason to be ticked off about Penn State's performance, it was me. I'd have relished nothing more than walking out of Oakland with my head held high, and my dignity intact, but alas, it wasn't in the cards. Instead, I moped home, peeved, and about prepared to sit down at the old laptop and rip the offensive line a new one and pen another whiny "Evan Royster didn't step up" rant.
Then I fell asleep. Probably the best thing that happened to me all day.
When I woke up, I was met with the refreshing feeling of proper perspective. Sure, watching Pitt's Ray Graham roll for 277 yards then suffering through Penn State's struggle to get to 50 yards as a team was frustrating, but c'mon people. It was Iowa.
BHGP nailed it with this.
More, even going back to Ferentz's first year at Iowa, it's been evident that he and Paterno basically run the same type of program: play to your strengths, win between the hashes, use the athleticism you've got, don't neglect the special teams. Paterno's a pretty safe bet to stay above Ferentz in just about every possible career category, of course, so we'd never suggest that Ferentz is a better coach overall.
But results speak for themselves, and here they scream that JoePa is being beaten at his own game by Ferentz. PSU's linemen are usually nasty. Iowa's linemen are usually nastier. Penn State usually establishes a ground game. Iowa usually establishes it better. Penn State usually has a talented quarterback. Iowa usually fields the more effective quarterback. And Iowa usually wins.
Anyone who's ever played youth sports knows the coach's kid is never the best kid on the team, but he gets the most playing time because his dad thinks he's good, and if you're going to get any of his playing time, you're going to have to be significantly better than him to do it. That's the situation Penn State is in with Iowa. You could argue that many of the Penn State teams that have lost to Iowa have been good enough to beat the Hawkeyes and/or better overall, but because of the matchup advantages the Hawks have in the key areas (Strong D-line is=Daddy coach), Penn State is going to have to be much better than Iowa to ever beat it. Sometimes that's just the way it goes.
That's why it's hard to me to get too worked up about this loss. Iowa is a royal pain in the backside, but it's also a damn good football team, which is why when I see stats like this from Cory Giger, I throw my hands up.
What he will turn over when he eventually retires is a program that likes to boast of how it has gone 54-15 since 2005, which ranks eighth nationally in winning percentage, and 11-2 each of the past two seasons.
What the program doesn't tout is the 3-10 record against top 10 teams since 2000. Or the 0-8 mark against top five teams in that span.
Now, if I had an intern to look up stats like that for me, I'd ask him to find me any 10 year period in Paterno's tenure where Penn State had a winning record against top five teams. Then I'd ask him to find me Texas or Alabama or Florida's record against top five teams over the same time. Better than Penn State's? Probably. Something you're going to feature in your media guide? Probably not. That's why I wonder what people like Giger are really expecting this program to be. How can a stat like that be damning when most everyone has a similar record?
Bob Flounders decided to take it a step further with this, though, which we already touched on in the links.
This weekend will mark the five-year anniversary of a very special in Penn State football history.
It's the five-year anniversary of the last time the Nittany Lions beat anyone worth a damn.
I can understand where Giger is coming from by pointing out that Penn State has not, by and large, been ready for prime time against the nation's best, even during this recent five year renaissance, but how do you quantify "worth a damn."? We've said around these parts that 2005 is never going to be replicated barring another walk in the suck desert, though now, it appears not only the people inside the athletic department are hell bent on recreating that game every week with the bells and whistles in the stadium, but people in the press seem to think that's what Penn State football should look like all the time, too.
The worst part, though, is that these writers seem to not only expect Penn State to lose in big games like they have this year because the track record suggests it will, but expect Penn State to lose, even when the track record suggests it'll rebound against the middle and lower tier of the conference in the weeks to come, hinting at a 7-5 season or worse.
Make no mistake, I'm not fool enough to believe this young Lions team is home free on the way to another New Year's Day bowl game. There are pretty clear deficiencies in a lot of areas, but let's not forget who's been exploiting them.
At this time last year, I remember panicking over Michigan's Tate Forcier. He and the Wolverines got off to a quick start, and with a trip to Ann Arbor looming after another dreadful loss against Iowa, a defeat looked about as likely then as it does right now. A funny thing happened on the way, though. Michigan crapped the bed and finished 1-7 in the league. The same thing have happened this year with UM off to another quick start behind Denard Robinson. Fun stat, though. Michigan gave up 480 yards passing to Indiana's Ben Chappell last weekend. 480. Are we seriously confusing a defense that can give up that kind of cheese to Indiana with Iowa or Alabama?
The next few weeks leading up to Ohio State aren't going to be easy. They're going to be real tests, and putting any of them directly into the win column is irresponsible. Let's just remember that great teams make good teams look bad, and that things are never as bad (or good for that matter) as they appear. Just because Penn State might not be a championship level team in 2010 doesn't mean it's a mediocre team, it just mean's it's not a championship level team. We'll learn a lot this week against Illinois, and I think we'll learn some things we'll really like.