Let me start out by saying that Penn State still sits in a nice position, record-wise. Obviously the
0-2 1-2 (ED Note- See, BTPR is so forgettable -NP) in conference essentially eliminates them from contention for the Big Ten Championship, save a collapse by Ohio State and Michigan State, but all things considered, 4-2 ain't half bad.
At the beginning of the season, the prevailing opinion was that this was probably a four loss team. The popular picks for those losses were Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, and a wildcard (UCF comes to mind). Obviously things changed and the Michigan game became one that should absolutely have been won, but things didn't work out that way. Keeping those preseason predictions in mind makes it a little bit easier to keep believing that this team will figure things out, but there's no denying that James Franklin and his team find themselves at a fork in the road. The remaining schedule is as follows.
Vs. Ohio State
Vs. Michigan State
There isn't much time for the Lions to figure out what their true identity is as a team, as this upcoming bye week is their last chance to catch their breathes and gear up for the rest of the season. Unfortunately for them, every game remaining has a catch to it. There are no more freebies like UMass and Kent State.
Ohio State? Please. They could get pressure on this offensive line by rushing only Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett.
Maryland? The week after what will be an emotional high with the night game whiteout is shaping up to be a tough one for Penn State, and dealing with Stefon Diggs may prove to be too tough a task.
Indiana? Penn State's defense is awesome right now, but even they won't be able to keep the Hoosiers off the board the entire game. Do you have confidence in the offense to put up enough points to win, even against Indiana's atrocious defense?
Temple? The current football kings of Pennsylvania? They're still Temple, but they aren't nearly the doormat that they've been in the past.
Illinois? The Illini will likely be fighting for their first conference win and will be hungry to get a chance at a vulnerable team like Penn State. Not to mention that the writing will be on the wall for Tim Beckman and his future lack of employment, leaving him in full YOLO mode. It's hard to be scared of Illinois after the last couple of years (unless you're a Penn State player trying to get from their dorm to the commons), but this has the potential to be another dangerous game.
Michigan State? Yeah, no.
If Penn State is to go bowling, they will need to win two of those games. Picking out exactly which of those games the wins will come from is a difficult task. It's perfectly conceivable that the last win of the year came when UMass was trudging off of the Beaver Stadium field. The crazy thing about this team however, is that if they can get any semblance of competent offensive line play, they have the firepower and potential to win at least four of those games.
Penn State is not as bad of a team as they've played the last two games, they're really not. The constant pressure in Hackenberg's face has led to an even less diverse selection of play calls, tons of sacks, a non-existent running game, and impatience from the sophomore quarterback. If the line can somehow improve over the course of the season, this conversation could instead be analyzing which SEC team we would most likely play in a warm weather bowl game.
Until we get to that point though, we need to ask the vital question. Will Penn State qualify for a bowl game this season? Who will they beat to achieve the necessary record?