Penn State is on a tear in the month of November, having beaten its last three opponents by an average score of 43-8, including a shutout victory over Maryland and dropping a 50-burger on Rutgers.
These teams are not overly dangerous in their own right, though each team tends to have some strengths. Maryland is (was) a good offensive team, Rutgers has a sound defense. Indiana sometimes wears pinstripes.
But despite disappointing losses to Michigan and Ohio State, Penn State has done what it has often failed to do - beat lesser teams soundly. Many years, the Lions find ways to win, but don’t always showcase it on the scoreboard. One-score, borderline fluky wins where the good guys let the bad guys hang around for too long.
Not this year.
As Eli pointed out yesterday, the recruiting classes finally appear to be stacking, and despite a plethora of injuries, the team is still marching on.
Which leaves us with just one regular season opponent remaining.
I’d like to point out first and foremost that if you ask me to, I could find something to kvetch about for pretty much any Big Ten team. That’s what happens with familiarity, eventually I have enough reasons not to like you.
Michigan and Ohio State are obvious.
Iowa is easily #3 on my list, despite them being in the West (for now). May they lose every game ever.
And then there’s Michigan State.
While I always want to beat MSU, for the sake of the LASERZ, I never really disliked them. Then it started in 2008.
Penn State would win the Big Ten (no CCG yet) with a 49-18 thumping of #17 Michigan State in the cold and snow of Beaver Stadium.
Why does this game draw my ire? Because Mark Dantonio, the petty child that he is, burned all three timeouts in the waning moments of the second half when the game was very clearly out of reach. For no reason other than to prolong the suffering of everyone in attendance, and to delay the conference championship celebration, Dantonio made everyone sit in the cold for just that little bit longer than necessary.
Then, when Penn State was mired in sanctions, Ohio State was under sanctions of its own, and Michigan was having a few off years, the Spartans struck. 13-1 in 2013 with a Rose Bowl win. 11-2 in 2014 with a Cotton Bowl win. 12-2 in 2015 with a spot in the playoffs!
The worst part of the 2015 season was the game against Michigan State, because Dantonio, again a petty child, not only ran the score up against Penn State, but late in the game ran a trick play which culminated in an offensive lineman scoring a touchdown.
2017, Penn State had just stumbled against Ohio State, 39-38, when they took on Michigan State. In a monsoon, including a multi-hour rain delay, the Spartans put the nail in any playoff hopes for the Lions.
2018, Penn State had just stumbled against Ohio State, 27-26, when they took on Michigan State. A dropped game-winning interception later, and Michigan State for the second time in as many years gave the Lions their second loss of the season.
2021, Penn State got in a hole early against MSU, and despite clawing their way back, couldn’t quite complete the win, falling to a MSU team bereft of talent aside from what was gleaned through the transfer portal. Can’t build a program yourself, have to find some other way to try to make ends meet.
So now 2022 is upon us, and Penn State needs to beat Michigan State in the season finale if they hope to make a New Year’s Six bowl game. The Spartans are hefty underdogs, but need a win themselves if they want to make a bowl game at all.
It would do my heart good to not only put the kibosh on any postseason hopes for the Spartans, but to secure a NY6 game in the process. James Franklin has shown that he’s not above being petty. James, if you’re reading this, I want you to combine Penn State’s offensive output against Rutgers with the defensive effort against Maryland.
Give me a 55-0 thrashing of a team that has been helmed by a petty man for years, could only succeed when every other good team had their hands tied behind their backs, and played spoiler for the Lions when they finally had their hands untied.
Call it revenge if you want, I’m not beneath that label. Send the Spartans to an early end to their season, and let them watch the good teams from their couches this December.