A week ago today, I penned an article asking you to convince me why Drew Allar should not start over Sean Clifford.
The merits of one quarterback over the other have been discussed ad nauseum, and I won’t rehash them here.
What I want to discuss is perspective.
Way back before the season started, I predicted a 10-2 record on the season.
I optimistically predicted a win over Michigan, but then threw in a random head-scratching loss to Michigan State. At the time, MSU was a preseason top 25 team, so not as random a loss as you might have thought at the time.
At the bye week, I predicted a 10-2 record on the season.
I updated when the losses would happen based on the fact that Michigan looked better than I expected, while MSU looked worse. I said, and I quote:
The Lions stumble twice in October before closing the season strong in November, with eyes on a New Year’s Six bowl.
With the Lions a 2-score underdog to Ohio State this coming weekend, it appears that my prediction was rather prescient.
So why, then, did I (and many others) flip their lid after the Michigan loss? Even with that loss, and one penciled in this coming weekend, my 10-2 prediction is right on track. So what happened?
I think it was the way the Lions lost to Michigan. There’s no doubt the Wolverines are a good program - they made the playoffs last year after all, something Penn State has yet to do. But I expected PSU to be competitive, when they simply weren’t.
Oh, sure, you could look at the play-by-play and see that the Lions went up 14-13 in the second quarter and 17-16 in the third quarter and say that they were competitive. But having watched that game, it was like watching Private Mellish wrestling with the German near the end of Saving Private Ryan - a competitive wrestling match at first in which the good guy was simply overmatched, and you could see the knife inching closer and closer, the ending inevitable.
The Lions got trounced against Michigan, with the defense seemingly out of alignment on every snap and unable to tackle, and the offense completely ineffectual. Seeing your team -a top 10 squad, mind you - get so thoroughly embarrassed causes some kneejerk reactions.
Yet here we are a week later, and most people would have been giddy if you’d told them the Lions would be 6-1 heading into the OSU game. The goal this year was always a return to national prominence after the letdown in 2021 and whatever 2020 was.
10-2 and a New Year’s Six game is exactly what we all were hoping for - and bear in mind, I was on the more optimistic side! Many people predicted 9-3 or 8-4. That’s not to say the Lions still couldn’t lose a couple more times this season, but simply that for the most part, they’ve taken care of business.
In a word - perspective.
I’m just as guilty of losing it as anyone.
So I guess I’ll amend my stance on the quarterback situation. I simply would like Penn State to win as many games as possible, given their opponent on any given week, how they’ve done recruiting, etc. If Sean Clifford is the best quarterback for the job, so be it. If he gets supplanted by Drew Allar, so be it.
I’d just like the Lions not to be national laughingstocks if at all possible, but realistically, if you get to 10-2, you aren’t a national laughingstock. 7-6 with your coach signing a Mega Millions extension? Yeah, perhaps. 4-5 in a COVID season after starting historically bad? Yeah, probably.
Not at 10-2 (or, to avoid getting ahead of ourselves, 6-1 and ranked in the top 15).
So I’ll offer a mea culpa for last week, and try to simply enjoy the ride the rest of the way. This is a good football team, if not playoff-caliber.
But ya know, after the last two seasons, just being back to “good” is a nice change of pace. Let’s get back to “good” before we worry about “great” or “elite.”
For now, I’ll take it.