The 2021 Georgia Bulldogs were spoken about in terms of “all time” due to the consistency with which they played each game last year. No matter the opponent, Georgia came out, took care of business, and moved on to the next opponent. But even that Georgia team laid an egg in the SEC championship game. In their worst game of the season, the Bulldogs allowed more points to Alabama than they had all season.
And that’s the tricky part about college sports. Even a team that many considered generational in quality would ultimately have a bad game and succumb to a team willing and able to take advantage. Penn State is no different.
In 2016, the Nittany Lions went on the road to face a Pitt team that was motivated to show state supremacy, at least for that year. In 2017, a game in terrible weather saw the Lions play sluggishly enough to lose, even if they were the more talented team. The Nittany Lions would play the same kind of game, against the same team, in 2018. In 2019, the Lions couldn’t get out of their own way en route to a road loss against Minnesota. Then there’s 2020. And, lastly, a still-salvageable season cratered in what is possibly the most inexplicable loss of them all, a nine-overtime slugfest that legitimized Illinois’ season.
All throughout Saturday, teams who should have made quick work of their opponents struggled to the very end. The aforementioned Georgia team needed everything and then some to put away a Missouri team that itself had lost a heartbreaker the week before. LSU needed a defensive spark to come away with a victory at Auburn. Clemson got everything it could handle from NC State, before taking over for good.
Other teams, however, were not lucky to come out on the winning end. Will Levis, who, as we all know, didn’t get a chance at Penn State for reasons, not because he didn’t perform, single-handedly cost his team the win against Ole Miss. Texas A&M and their “most talented class in the history of history” got worked against Mississippi State. Pitt, dear old Pitt, lost to a Georgia Tech team that just fired both their coach and AD for how awful they were. Minnesota, just when they started rowing the boat, got sinked by the Purdue Harbor, at home.
So here sits Penn State, a team in the former group of top teams that had to fight for their win, when, as of late, it seemed like every time the Lions found themselves in such a situation, they came out on the wrong end of the contest. And that’s something to be glad about.
So much went wrong with this game that there isn’t going to be a shortage of teachable moments to correct in the bye week. The Lions escaped with a win, but they that the mother of all scares right at the perfect time. The toughest stretch of the season is upon us, and Penn State gets to prepare for it not by smelling their own flatulence, but by getting a stark reminder that it can all go awry very quickly, and, unlike Northwestern, the next three opponents can easily put the Nittany Lions away if they play the way they did, weather be damned.
Stats and Storylines
5 - That’s a lot of turnovers.
1 - Touchdown passes by Sean Clifford. The veteran quarterback did not have his best game in this one.
31 - Rushing yards by Northwestern. Maybe if the Wildcats could run the ball, the outcome would have been different.