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The Remarkable Heart of the Nittany Lions

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Penn State has quickly turned its season around by displaying a massive amount of heart.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in recent memory, the national media is paying attention to what Penn State Football is doing on the field once again. That's what happens when you beat the nation's number two team in dramatic fashion. Just like for many Nittany Lions fans, the victory caught many national media members off-guard. It became obvious they have paid little attention to Penn State as of late, and not that they really had much reason to do so- the team hadn't been ranked in nearly five years, and coming off a 2-2 start it seemed as though another ho-hum season was on the way.

Now all of a sudden, we're collectively realizing how much this team has going for it. James Franklin has done a fine job of adding an incredible amount of speed to the roster- the kind that is needed to become a contender in today's day and age of college football (you know, the type of speed that supposedly only exists in the southern states). They have enough depth that an injury to a key player like Nyeem Wartman-White is no longer catastrophic. They have emerging defensive line and secondary units, that will look to be among the nation's best in the coming years. They have a number of dangerous options in the passing game, and one of the most dynamic players in all of college football in Saquon Barkley.

But there's one immeasurable factor that has made a sudden difference in Happy Valley- the massive amount of heart they display on a weekly basis.

Seven games into the season, the one thing that has stayed constant is that this team- the second youngest team in the nation- will never quit and leave everything on the field each Saturday. They could have quit after an utterly disastrous start on the road at Pitt. Instead, they came out of the locker room fighting, and if not for a dropped pass by a receiver with the surest hands since Jordan Norwood, Penn State would have walked away with one of the most remarkable comebacks in its history. They could have let the season slip away after being dismantled by 39 points to Michigan. After all, it's not at all uncommon for young, battered teams with bruised egos to lose their focus and see their season spiral. But not this team. Instead of giving in, they got back to business and went out and beat three undefeated teams in as many games.

This team's heart isn't just about what you see on Saturdays either. It's obvious this team is giving it their all every time they step into the weight room, film room and practice field. The amount of progress witnessed since the beginning of the season is stunning. In a few weeks time, they have gone from a young team that seemed to still be in major rebuilding mode, to standing toe-to-toe and then outmatching a team that most pundits had penciled in for the playoffs. It doesn't take much to realize the members of this team are putting in some serious work behind the scenes to improve in any way they can to help elevate Penn State back among the national elite.

We're all riding high after Saturday's unlikely victory against the Buckeyes, dreaming of a 10-2 season that leads to the Nittany Lions being a darkhorse playoff contender in 2017. Are we being too unreasonable after the first win against a ranked opponent of the Franklin era? Quite possibly. While Penn State should be favored in its final five games of the regular season, it's still a very young team that is prone to head-scratching moments an unexpected losses. But whatever happens for the rest of the season, I won't be counting out this group of Nittany Lions. They just have too much heart.