Over the last several weeks, we took part in a grand public experiment, in which you, the readers, collaborated on what Penn State’s record would be at the end of the 2021 season.
Let’s take a walk back through memory lane, shall we?
In the first 3-week batch of games of at Wisconsin, vs Ball State, and vs Auburn, an incredibly narrow vote saw the Lions go 3-0. 44% of pollsters voted for PSU to start the season undefeated, while 41% said they’d go 2-1. Regardless of margin, the Lions got through the first round of voting at 3-0.
In the second 3-week set of games, vs Villanova, vs Indiana, and at Iowa, voters were just a tad less optimistic. Another close vote saw 48% of voters predict a 2-1 record against these three teams. The second most likely outcome, per the polls, had the Lions going 3-0, with a 45% result. In any case, at the halfway point of the season, the Lions are predicted to be 5-1, as they head into the bye week.
The third quarter of the season, vs Illinois, at Ohio State and at Maryland, had a very decisive vote. With 62% of the votes, people predict that Penn State will go 2-1 in this stretch. The second place option was 3-0, but with only 30% of the vote. The Lions turn toward the last few weeks of the season sitting at 7-2 overall.
By the largest margin to date, 87% of respondents picked Penn State to go 3-0 in the final three weeks of the 2021 season. The second place vote was 2-1, holding just 10% of the vote. That means, by public opinion, the Lions should go 10-2 on the year, and may be in prime position to return to a New Year’s Six bowl.
Truth be told, this is not exactly how I thought this exercise would play out. The decision to run this series of articles stemmed from a conversation in the BSD writter Slack channel, wherein I posed the question: how does your confidence for the rest of the season change with a Penn State win in week 1? Or a loss? How does the team build off of a win, or respond to a loss?
The general sentiment was a close win or a close loss doesn’t change much. A blowout win means 15-0 or GTFO baby, a blowout loss means FIUR FRNAKLIN.
With that in mind, when the voters picked Penn State to go 3-0 in the first three games (again, by a very narrow margin), I expected the second vote to be 3-0 as well. No one would fault the voters for a 2-1 vote against OSU, but when the first poll had that win over Wisconsin in there, I thought we’d be sitting here a few weeks later, looking at an 11-1 record.
10-2 is nothing to sneeze at, don’t get me wrong. And if that first week victory is a close one, then sure, perhaps the team doesn’t get too uppity, and just chugs along at more or less the expected win rate. I’d like to think, though, that a big win, week 1, with fans in person, on the road in a hostile environment, after the poor showing in 2020, would catapult the Lions to a pretty special 2021 season.
That being said, 10-2 is probably more likely than 11-1. At their best, in 2017, Penn State couldn’t manage 11-1. It’s probably silly to think that they’ll do better than 10-2, in fact.
But man, if that first week is a victory - and especially if it’s a SOLID victory - look out!