Nine days before kicking off the 2012 football season, the staff of BSD put together our predictions for the season on the field. You can find our original predictions in their entirety here; in looking back, it seems most of us were pretty accurate with what we said.
Preseason prediction: 8-4
What he said then: "I'm going with 8-4...but that's all contingent on the first game...If Penn State can get by Ohio without looking terrible in the process, I'll stick with my 8-win prediction...I'm oddly confident in Bill O'Brien's ability to get [McGloin] ready to be
a good quarterback for Penn State this season...If opposing quarterbacks have no time to throw, the scary-thin secondary might not be the liability everyone assumes it will be..."
What he says now: Told you I'd be back. Penn State finished 8-4, just as I predicted, even though the Ohio win was a loss and Wisconsin a pleasantly surprising win. We won't discuss the Virginia... thing. On that Ohio game, if you'll check out the preseason predictions, I was far from confident Penn State would win. If you had told me at the end of 2011 that Silas Redd and Justin Brown were going to bolt, it would have been OMG time. But as Bill O'Brien introduced himself, and we saw what the team was doing over the summer months--without Redd and Brown--I became much less concerned that this team would implode.
Following the Virginia loss, the thought actually crossed my mind, "my God, if this is any indication of what this team can do, Penn State won't win three games." But it was only for a minute. It was a fluky loss, not unlike the Ohio loss. Penn State wasn't a bad team. It just had no idea how to win. Once the wins came, I thought, things would get better. And they did. Before we knew it, Penn State was vying for the division title. Even though things didn't shake out quite how we had hoped--the losses to OSU and Nebraska were brutal, if only because Penn State could have and should have won them, respectively--I haven't been this optimistic about the direction of the program since the end of 2005. Penn State has a fantastic new coach, with a great staff. The team has stuck together, and it looks as if the recruiting could hold up as well. Everyone except Mac, Mauti, Hodges and Hill come back. What's not to love about this team or its coach?
I can't believe I'm saying this, but Mark May was right, Penn State just finished "the best 8-4 season in the history of college football."
Preseason prediction: 9-3
What he said then: "Looking at the schedule, there is no reason Penn State shouldn't have a season where it wins the games it is supposed to win and loses the ones they are probably going to lose. With that being said, give me a 9-3 record with losses to OSU, Nebraska and Wisconsin."
What he says now: I predicted 9-3 with losses to Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Considering how those first two weeks of the season started out, I'll say that only being one game off on that prediction isn't too shabby. It was a great year with breakout players on either side of the ball. I hope that Zwinak and Robinson and Hull and Amos and all those guys will keep that momentum rolling into next year and that Steven Bench (or Jake Waters if he comes) allows the offense to maybe only miss half a beat and have another above-average season as half of time consumed by sanctions comes to an end.
Preseason prediction: 7-5
What he said then: "The spirit is willing, but over a season the body is prone to break down. While this team has the talent for a much better record, I'm not sure they'll make it through the marathon...A successful season may end up having little to do with football, so it should fit right in with everything else lately."
What he says now: I undershot on the record; overall, this team was fortunate with injuries. Zwinak was able to emerge out of Belton's setback and the defense didn't have to endure a long absence by any of the key guys. In the end, this season started changing the conversation and the way the school is perceived. Every question doesn't revolve around IT, but until next season the players will still be asked if they're staying by the media and other coaches. Next year, focus can legitimately be on football and not tangentially drag football into conversations it was involved simply to fit grandstanding.
Preseason prediction: 9-3
What he said then: "This offense easily could illicit memories of the 2004 season. They also have the potential to surprise everyone by showing a vast improvement over the last few years...The inexperienced receivers will have to collectively step it up and prove themselves...The line is young, but the potential is there to become a much more consistent unit, especially if they can reap the benefits of the new strength and conditioning program. The front seven should be one of the best in the nation...The secondary will be thin and inexperienced, which could result in total disaster."
What he says now: I've never been more happy to be incorrect about something as when I stated the 2012 offense could be reminiscent of the 2004 unit. I still wake up in a cold sweat after dreaming of the 6-4 debacle against Iowa. This year's offense was easily the most fun offense to watch since the 2008 squad. There are plenty of reasons for optimism looking forward, especially if BO'B can quickly groom another quarterback. The front seven was outstanding. Jordan Hill picked up where Devon Still left off, just I had imagined. The secondary definitely exceeded my expectations. Stephen Obeng-Agyapong was the most improved player on the team from the start of the season. They will be thin again in 2012, but Da'Quan Davis and others seem poised to take the next step. I predicted a surprisingly satisfying 9-3 season, but ended up with an even more satisfying 8-4 season.
Preseason prediction: 8-4
What he said then: "For the first time in decades, we have an offense that is dependent on its quarterback to make good decisions, and Matt McGloin will be the guy to make them. The defense will be very good. The front seven will be spectacular. The secondary is talented, but shallow and young. On offense, McGloin is going to have to avoid bad picks and get the ball into the hands of Allen Robinson and Bill Belton."
What he says now: In August, I projected 8-4 with an outside shot at 10-2 if things broke our way and 6-6 if they broke the other way. I also suggested that the season hinged on McGloin making good decisions in the new offense and getting the ball in the hands of Allen Robinson.
Not bad, eh?
Oddly, this team should have been 10-2 at a bare minimum. Ficken's kickin' cost the team a game against a very mediocre Virginia team, and the officials may have cost the Lions a win at Nebraska. There were two true losses on this schedule. At the beginning of the year, Ohio was a more organized and disciplined team. Ohio State was simply better.
Even with four losses though, it would be difficult to find a more satisfying year. The win over Wisconsin was perfect, and being in that crowd was a special moment for this program. What you have to hope for is that the leadership these seniors showed has influenced the underclassman, particularly guys like the "Supa 6" - all young men who will have to play large roles in keeping this program afloat during this time.
Preseason prediction: 4-8 or 11-1
What she said then: "I just don't have a read on how the team will do this year. We have the talent and coaching staff to be a top tier team, even without the players who left; but I'm not sure if the off-field issues will be a distraction, or a point to rally around."
What she says now: I'm a woman, so I'm allowed to be non-committal. I had said back in August that I would get a better gauge after September 8 where our season was going, because the team shows the most improvement between the first and second weeks of the season.
Would it be shocking if I said that after the Virginia game, I was actually optimistic about the season? Even though that was a loss, I saw distinct improvement in all aspects of the game on the field that day, and I left Charlottesville soaked but confident. My confidence then was borne out, as everything came together and clicked for much of the rest of the season.
The "distractions"--if you could call them that (I'm not so sure, after the season) seemed to bring the entire team closer together, and we looked like a talented, top tier team by the end of the season like I hoped we would. If this staff and these players stick together--and I see no indications that they won't--I see Penn State weathering the sanctions fairly well (much better than most of us thought after the MASS EXODUS)
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