While Penn State awaits its postseason destination, we’ve all played out 164 different scenarios and what sort of impacts it would have on bowl selection for the Lions.
But that got me wondering: what counts as success for Penn State?
Coming into 2022, Penn State was 11-11 over its previous two seasons, including a losing record in 2020, and an underwhelming 2021 that finished with a ReliaQuest Bowl loss to Arkansas. Brent Pry had left to be the head coach at Virginia Tech after one of the most defensively dominant seasons the Lions had had in some time. The offense couldn’t run the ball.
Things generally were not great for Penn State, and the over/under for wins for the Lions was set around 8.5. A better production than the previous two years, to be sure, but a far cry from the 4-year run the Lions had had from 2016 through 2019, which saw the team go 42-11 , including three 11-win seasons, a Big Ten Championship, and three New Year’s Six bowl appearances, with two wins in said bowls.
Fast forward 3 months, and Penn State is 10-2, ranked #8 in the country, and is all but a lock for another New Year’s Six bowl. The defense has been just as dominant as last year, and hey look, they can run the dang ball. The only losses the team has incurred are to two teams currently in the top 5 of the rankings, against both of which they had second half leads.
And yet I’m hearing a good bit of teeth gnashing.
The offense still operates in fits and starts.
The defense occasionally relaxes for a series or two and lets opponents have a breath of life.
The special teams sometimes misses a field goal or results in a bad punt.
The Lions coulda, woulda, shoulda lost to Purdue, were lucky that Auburn was terrible, shouldn’t ever have been in the games against OSU and Michigan, and only looked good against the bad teams on their schedule.
They’re unworthy of a NY6 game. If they do make a NY6 game, they’ll lose and it will hurt the Lions’ image. Playing a beatable G5 team in the Cotton Bowl would be horrific. But also the Citrus would be a disaster because they shoulda been in a NY6 game.
Look, I’m from the northeast. Pessimism runs in my veins as sure as coal runs through them thar mountains. I’m almost constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop in any game the Lions are in. I expected the huge, deflating plays that cost the games against Michigan and Ohio State.
But I’m finding it hard to look at the 2022 season as anything other than an unmitigated success.
It’s not a national championship season, but, fellas, Penn State hasn’t competed for a national championship since the year I was born. Maybe I’ll give you a discount and throw 1994 in there, in which case we’re talking 28 years. This sort of season has been the highest form of success I can legitimately remember as a fan.
Franklin is doing good work, and honestly the 2023 team could be really special.
But right now, this team is 10-2. Top 10. New Year’s Six bowl (probably).
To call that anything other than a success (with room for improvement, aka MOAR success), seems a bit selfish to me. And unrealistic, given where Penn State has been the previous two years, and where they’ve been since at least 1994, if not 1986.
So, let’s enjoy this success, and starting in January, let’s turn our eyes to what could be even MOAR success in 2023.