After weeks of voting, the Era vs Era Championship went down, and it was a doozy.
Fueled by immense talent at quarterback, runningback, and pretty much every position on defense, the Current Era team came out swinging. Their modern system put the Late Paterno Era team on their heels, as Nicholas Singleton got the Current Era an early lead, and Manny Diaz’s havoc-inducing defense got an early sack-fumble.
However, special teams proved to be a tough out for the Current Era, as the next drive ended with a missed field goal, and the early momentum slowed with only a 7-0 lead.
From there, the Late Paterno Era defense clamped down relying on the old bend-but-don’t-break approach to keep the Current Era offense just on the fringes of the red zone for most of the game. The field goal woes continued, and the Current Era had trouble scoring the rest of the game.
On the flip side, the Late Paterno Era offense used its greatest strength - the offensive line - to overcome the athleticism and chaos of the Current Era defense. Similar to the 2022 game against Michigan, the rush game eventually began to break through, with Evan Royster notching two long touchdown runs. When the Current Era defense did catch up, Darryl Clark was more than ready to pick them apart in the passing game.
A late surge from the Current Era - including a bomb TD pass from Drew Allar to Keandre Lambert-Smith - made it a closer game than the gameplay would indicate. However, the missed onside kick sealed it, and the Late Paterno Era team won the Era vs Era Championship 24-17.
The Late Paterno Era team is your Era vs Era champions!
The voting went more-or-less as I expected, with the final tally being 68% in favor of the Late Paterno Era team, and 32% for the Current Era team. The biggest knock against the Current Era team was the fact that both sides of the ball are the 2023 units, which haven’t actually played yet. That’s likely my fault, as I included a “what if” team in the original voting, though I do think there’s a high chance that both sides of the ball perform better in 2023 than they did in 2022.
In any case, I thought I’d touch on some of the early-round voting, to see how the voters did in picking the “best” units for each of the Eras teams.
Starting with the Current Era team, the voters basically had the same thought I did - 2020 and 2021 were non-factors, and while it remains to be seen, there’s pretty high hope that 2023 will outperform 2022. 2023 on both sides of the ball got the nod, and I don’t really have any qualms with that.
For the Early Franklin Era team, I also think the voters got it right. The 2017 offense was very, very good, and easily the best of that era. It was a pit of a coinflip on defense, but the 2019 unit was just a hair better, so the overall combo of 2017 offense/2019 defense was the best from that time period.
The Transition Era was never going to be competitive against the other three. Particularly on offense, there just wasn’t much to work with. The 2014 defense was surprisingly stout, a top 10 unit in both PPG and YPG. The combination of 2012 offense/2014 offense outperformed any individual team from the same era by about 10 ranks nationally (that is, the 2012 offense/2014 defense combo had an overall average national rank of 30.5, the best individual team (2012 for the record) had the same national rank of 39.3).
The only era that I actually think the voters got it wrong was the Late Paterno Era. The final combination was 2008 offense/2005 defense, which had an overall average national rank of 13.3, which was certainly the best of all the Era vs Era squads. However, the 2008 team all by itself had an average national rank of 8.5. So, in essence, if the voters had just chosen the 2008 team all by itself, it would have beaten any other “best of” team from all of the other eras.
That’s not to say the 2008 offense/2005 defense combination was bad. Just that I think the 2005 team gets a whole heapin’ of nostalgia piled on top of it, for better or for worse. And make no mistake - the 2005 season is perhaps my favorite season, Paul Posluszny is my favorite Penn State player, and the 2005 White Out against OSU is definitively my favorite sports moment of all time. But when you boil it down to the stats, the voters actually left a little bit of meat on the bone.
Overall, this whole thought experiment went more or less how I thought it would. The Late Paterno Era had a couple really good teams, easily enough to stack up with today’s game. But what hurts me the most is the fact that that 2008 team was that good, and a crap game against Iowa cost them a chance at the national championship, and then they got pantsed by USC in the Rose Bowl to tarnish their memory. Enough, at least, for many people (myself included) to favor the 2005 team in some ways in our minds’ eye.
Thanks for participating! It was a fun little thing to do in the long off-season, and we’ve killed nearly all of it at this point! Just a few weeks to go!