When it comes to college football, I probably have a bit of a problem. Each Saturday throughout the fall you can find me in my basement staring into a wall of three televisions from the time Lee Corso puts on the head gear until the conclusion of a PAC-12 or Mountain West game around 2 a.m. If that wasn't enough, I usually throw another game on the laptop while scrolling through my iPad for updates of the other games to make sure I'm not missing out on anything. Fortunately, I have a very understanding and loving wife who puts up with this nonsense, along with my other varied shortcomings.
This all started way back in 2004, when my college roommate, a die-hard Michigan fan, would bring his TV down to the living room and use a splitter so we could each watch our teams when they had the same kickoff time. It didn't take too long before we realized this was a much more useful way to enjoy a day of college football. Over the years, two TVs became three and continue to become larger with much better clarity.
But something had been missing the last few years. While there have been many fun-filled Saturdays full of football, beer and greasy food, it just wasn't the same without Penn State being terribly relevant in the overall national landscape. I could enjoy a game between LSU-Florida, Washington-USC or Notre Dame-Michigan State and be completely entertained for three hours. But it's been missing the additional emotional oomph because the results never had any bearing on Penn State's season.
That all changed following the Nittany Lions stunning upset against Ohio State on Oct. 22. For the first time in nearly five years, Penn State was ranked in the AP poll, coming in at number 23- meaning I now had 22 teams to passionately root against in the hopes of Penn State climbing further and further up the polls.
And climb they did. After a chaotic few weeks, Penn State has shot up to 8th in the nation for continuing to win each week while those ahead of them faced upset after upset. The most obvious example was Iowa's upset over Michigan this past Saturday. If this had occurred last year with Penn State trudging towards another 7-6 season, it would have been just been merely an entertaining defensive battle. We would have made a few jokes at Michigan's expense on social media and moved on. But not this year. Thanks to the Hawkeyes besting the Wolverines, Penn State now has a reasonable path the the Big Ten Championship Game, and yes, the College Football Playoffs.
This week brings more games that could continue propel Penn State. Louisville is already set to drop after being dismantled by Houston on Thursday. Should a pesky Indiana team topple a deflated Michigan squad, Penn State would control their own destiny in the division race by defeating Rutgers and Michigan State. Should the Spartans pull an upset against Ohio State at noon, the Nittany Lions would inch closer to the top four. The same could be said should Arizona State defeat #6 Washington, or Purdue toppling #7 Wisconsin (OK, so that last one won't happen).
As the days grow shorter, the air cooler and the college football regular season beginning to slowly slip away, take the time to enjoy the most wonderful part of the year where our Saturdays are filled with teams battling out on the gridiron. While you patiently wait for the Nittany Lions to kick off at 8 p.m., soak in the many other games that could impact Penn State. Before you know it, the season will just be a memory and we'll be counting down the days until Akron comes to Happy Valley to start the 2017 campaign.
It's been a long and tumultuous journey, and we have no idea how the remainder of the season will play out. Either way, just enjoy the fact that the Nittany Lions are part of the big show once again.