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29 Random Thoughts on Penn State’s Near Miss Against Ohio State

Random musings on the weekend that was against the Buckeyes

Syndication: York Daily Record Dan Rainville / USA TODAY NETWORK

At High Noon on Saturday, the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Ohio State Buckeyes engaged in a contest of American football in Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania. After a hard fought, back and forth matchup, the Buckeyes emerged victorious. I have several thoughts, which are set forth ““randomly” below.

  1. New football rule: If you win the middle 44 minutes, the first 8 and the last 8 don’t count.
  2. Right?
  3. It’s hard to have looked at this schedule, with this quarterback, and with this roster, in August, and expected anything other than 6-2.
  4. More likely, to be fully satisfied with 6-2.
  5. It hasn’t been that long since the program has achieved double digit wins. But in a world where this Penn State program had won just 11 games in two years (paired with 11 losses), it certainly feels like forever.
  6. 6-2 by the beginning of November put Penn State square in line for a return to the New Year’s Six and double digit wins. Assuming they accomplish that, that would make 10 or more wins in 4 times in 7 years. And another 9 win season to go with it.
  7. If you told me in August that Penn State would start 6-2, be heavy favorites to close with 4 straight, and might find a trip to sunny Miami waiting at the end of the road, I would’ve told you that Penn State football’s 2022 campaign was a rousing success, that Sean Clifford had made peace with a faction of the fan base who were done with him, and that the future looked bright with Drew Allar, Nicholas Singleton, and Kaytron Allen rising.
  8. But then, of course, they started 5-0. Came back on the road at night in the opener and beat a good Purdue team. Went to the Plains and whipped Auburn. Entered the top 10.
  9. And even after a disaster at Michigan, they picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and sent Minnesota back to their house with a statement-type win.
  10. But Ohio State is Ohio State and everyone in the world expected a loss. Most expected to lose by two touchdowns or more.
  11. The loss they got. But, much like Michigan, it’s the way they lost that turned 6-2 with vibes into 6-2 existential crisis.
  12. You know, though…I get it.
  13. I get it because as much as I like Sean Clifford as a person and as much as I think he’s got guts and courage and leadership that outweighs his talent, there are real flaws.
  14. Those flaws played significant roles in 4 turnovers, handing the most versatile and explosive offense in the country 21 easy points.
  15. I get it because we’ve seen this movie before, multiple times in the last 6 years. Despite a strong game plan and competent coaching, Penn State loses down the stretch to its most significant competitor.
  16. It is easy enough to excuse these kinds of losses. Ohio State is functionally the Big Ten’s Alabama. They are the yardstick by which all teams are measured, and they haven’t lost more than twice in a single season in 11 years. If you put aside the year that a young Luke Fickell spent as interim head coach, Ohio State has won at least 10 games every year except 2004. That spans the tenures of 3 full time head coaches.
  17. Beating them is hard. Of course it is.
  18. But it’s not impossible.
  19. At least it shouldn’t be.
  20. I understand where the Penn State program is in relation to college football. I understand that Ohio State, right now, is a fully formed machine.
  21. But I once heard a coach in Western Pennsylvania tell me that the standard is the standard.
  22. I also understand that it wasn’t long ago where Penn State expected to (and did) win its fair share against the Buckeyes. I understand that under this coach, we were just a few plays away from winning 3 straight (2016-2018).
  23. Those two losses, 2017 and 2018, were of the same ilk as this one. But worse, since they changed the trajectory of both of these programs.
  24. Losses like Saturday’s can be expected. But those expectations are, in and of themselves, disheartening. Penn State isn’t Iowa, or Wisconsin, or Purdue.
  25. I don’t blame anyone else who is frustrated by a loss like this. The standard is the standard. But…
  26. I’m not going to make myself miserable watching a very good (but not great) Penn State team win a lot of football games.
  27. Win November. Get to January. Then let’s try again.
  28. On to Indiana.
  29. We are…