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.
Which brings us to the final stanza. The last three games of the season are vs Michigan, vs Rutgers, and at Michigan State. How did everyone feel about these three games? Here are the results:
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!