It’s been a while since we as Penn State football fans have faced an offseason full of great expectations for the upcoming season. At the very least, this is the first time since 2009, when the Nittany Lions were ranked in the Preseason Top 10 in both the AP and Coaches’ polls coming off their Big Ten title in 2008, that gossip of winning the B1G and possibly even competing for a national title have permeated the offseason talk.
Really though, you probably have to go back to 1999 to find a similar level of preseason hype that’s been bestowed upon the 2017 edition of PSU football. Much like this year, PSU returned the majority of its starters on both sides of the ball, especially on a defense anchored by the likes of LaVar Arrington, Courtney Brown, Brandon Short, good enough for Sports Illustrated to rank the Nittany Lions number one in their annual college football season preview and get the PSU faithful’s hopes up about winning a national championship [Ron Howard voice: They didn’t].
Naturally, with expectations being cranked up to 11, you are likely to notice a few changes in how the team is covered and how the fan base handles things:
1. Seeing Penn State players on the cover of every football magazine
The link provided above to LaVar Arrington appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated is just one example of how things change when expectations are high. Personally, I found great pleasure in walking through the magazine aisle in my local Wegman’s and noticing several football preview magazine covers showcasing Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley as PSU’s dynamic duo poised to wreak havoc on the B1G once again. It’s been a while since such was the case for PSU, but now that it’s happening again, it’s quite the sight. If things go according to plan this season, expect to see more of their faces all over the Internets.
2. Endless Optimism
15-0 or GTFO jokes aside, if you’re like me and consistently lurk (or maybe even post) on your favorite PSU message boards, you’ve probably noticed a lot more enthusiastic threads/comments whether it’s that killer 2018 recruiting class James Franklin and Co. are building up, or the new wrinkles in the offense Joe Moorhead will throw in with a more experienced roster, or the fact that the offensive line could be one of the team’s biggest strengths for the first time in the post-Paterno era, you will find no lack of Kool-Aid chugging during this time of the year. This endless optimism can be a double-edged sword however, since it can also lead to...
3. Increased Concern Trolling
It will happen at some point during the season: The offense has back-to-back lackluster drives, maybe the defense gets torched for a touchdown or two, maybe Akron or Georgia State even draws first blood scoring-wise. Whatever it is, you can surely bet that #PSUTwitter, the message boards, maybe even that group text you’re in will be blowing up with doom-and-gloom. Suddenly, the team you thought could upset Ohio State for the second straight year will now struggle to get by Rutgers or Maryland. Feel free to tell said concern trolls to take a chill pill, but understand right now that they will be more prevalent than usual this season.
4. Thinking About Bowl Game Travel Plans Well in Advance
With great expectations of course, comes the idea that Penn State will find itself at the very least, in one of the New Years’ Six bowl games (the Orange and Fiesta Bowls are the most likely destinations if PSU has a high enough ranking but misses out on the playoffs), which means those of you who have the time off/money/lack of family commitments are probably already thinking about which warm-weather city you potentially could be booking a trip to this holiday season. Maybe you’re even feeling daring enough to secure a hotel room in Atlanta for the second week of January. Whatever the case may be, you’re already thinking about this much sooner than you normally would. Such are the perks of expecting greatness from Penn State football.