The Nittany Lions are officially two-thirds of the way through the 2019 season, and are 8-0, ranked #5 in the country.
Heading into the season, everyone had a three game stretch circled as the undoubted tough portion of the schedule: at Iowa, home vs Michigan, at Michigan State.
Most people, myself included, estimated that that three game stretch would be what defined the Lions’ season. I expected the team to go 2-1, and then drop another game at Ohio State, putting them at 10-2 on the year. A solid campaign, one to build on for 2020 and beyond.
Now that PSU has gotten through that stretch of games, it was supposed to be time for a breather. First, the second bye week of the season, then two easier games at Minnesota and home against Indiana, before the big showdown in Columbus.
Yet, here we are, facing a second gauntlet.
First, we have Minnesota, currently sitting #13 in the polls, a fellow undefeated team. The Gophers had a rough start to the season, but have hit their stride in dominating wins over Illinois, Nebraska, Rutgers, and Maryland. And no, those teams are not a murderers’ row, but Minnesota has steadily improved each week, playing their best football in the weeks leading up to the game against the Lions.
Second, we have Indiana, a perennial pushover, whose only skill is playing Penn State tough in Bloomington. Yet the Hoosiers have already amassed seven wins on the season, and are on a three-game win streak over Rutgers, Maryland, and Nebraska. Again, not the toughest teams out there, but make no mistake, the Hoosiers are far from incompetent, and very well may be ranked when they come to Happy Valley in a few weeks.
Oh, and just for fun, both of those teams play Penn State after a bye week.
That, of course, brings us to the penultimate game of the season, the playoff-elimination game against Ohio State in the Horseshoe.
After surviving Iowa, Michigan, and Michigan State, the Lions were supposed to have close to a month of easier games to prep for the Buckeyes.
Instead, the team will have to continue to bring its A game for seemingly the rest of the season . . . or at least until November 23rd.