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An Encore

Penn State ends its season with another 10-2 record.

Penn State Nittany Lions running back Nicholas Singleton (10) scores a touchdown against the Michigan State Spartans during the second half at Ford Field.  David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago, we went through the disappointment. Now, we go through the silver lining. A little over 10 years ago, were were told Penn State wouldn’t see this kind of success for decades. It wouldn’t be until this very 2023 season that the Nittany Lions would even start competing, let alone winning. And, for a few of those seasons, it sure looked like that.

Fast forward 11 years, four New Year’s Six bowl appearances (three wins), five double-digit win seasons, a Big Ten title, and another New Year’s Six bowl appearance on the way, the Nittany Lions have just about risen from the murky waters of mediocrity.

With the landscape changing a season from now, the Nittany Lions will also be measured with a stick teams in other conferences have had the luxury of enjoying for years.

Georgia did not have to play Alabama for a chance at an SEC title game appearance.

Texas only had Oklahoma to worry about for years, and vice-versa.

Clemson didn’t have anyone in the ACC to compete with them. And, after passing the torch to Florida State, they became the team everyone could walk all over.

The Pac-12 has been the Pac-12.

And, starting in 2024, Penn State won’t have to go through both Michigan and Ohio State for a mere chance at winning the conference, let alone making the playoff. Some may view this as a cop out. I view it as being measured by the same stick other teams have been for years. Other teams that, may I remind you, got chances to win national championships as a result of their easier schedules. The Lions will probably still need to beat both teams if they want to claim the Big Ten, and the benefits that come along with it, but were they to meet both in a single season, it may be in the title game.

So back to our would-be playoff clinching 10-2 season. Michigan State looked like a team that would cause trouble early, forcing Penn State to three drives that ended in field goal attempts. The Lions made two of them.

From there, it was all Penn State all the way. The Lions scored touchdowns on five of their next eight drives, turning what looked to be a competitive contest early into the blowout Vegas predicted, putting 42 on the board after a two-point conversion on one of the drives. A bit of trivia: the play for the two-point try looked to be the same they tried against Michigan, but this time it converted.

With the win, and other happenings across the country over the weekend, the Lions are guaranteed a New Year’s six appearance. Now, they wait a week to figure out where they’ll play and who. 10 years ago, that would have been a pipe dream.

Stats and storylines

292 - Passing yards by Drew Allar. That’s the most since the season-opener against West Virginia.

100 - The magical number both running backs eclipsed in this game. Kaytron Allen ran for 137 yards, and Nicholas Singleton for 118.

No change of plans - Speaking of key players, both Allar and Singleton expressed no desire to transfer after the season. Things change, of course, but it’s a relief to hear them say this publicly.