The time is now.
Five games into the season Penn State is sitting comfortably ranked #10 with an undefeated record and potentially the best defense in the Big Ten. There is undeniably enough talent in the locker room to win a championship and the players and coaches are hungry for one. Nittany Lion fans are just as hungry if not more. Every little detail over the past five games has been observed under a microscope and scrutinized by the anticipatory fan base because they know, just as well as the team knows, what Penn State is able to accomplish this season.
Penn State has had a dominant start to their season regardless of what you read on the internet. Above all else, through the first five games, Penn State has outscored opponents 235-37. They haven’t allowed two touchdowns to be scored by an opponent yet this season. Penn State is averaging (though be it a skewed) 47 points per game and it isn’t even wrong to feel more comfortable with the defense on the field. Sure, there are things to clean up after every game — that’s a given with every team ever… but this 2019 Penn State team is special.
The next three games can tell a wide array of stories. There is a road trip to Iowa, a night-time white-out battle versus Michigan, and a visit to Michigan State. Penn State will be favored in all 3 of these games. They can realistically go 3-0 and surge to 8-0 on the season with Rutgers, Minnesota, and Indiana on the horizon. They can also realistically drop to 5-3 if they don’t step up to the competition and they lose all confidence in themselves for the remainder of the season.
The next three games are against similar opponents, who match up to Penn State fairly well and forecast some close, fun contests ahead. Like Penn State – Iowa, Michigan, and MSU all have elite level defenses but with offenses that can be hit or miss. The competition has taken a major step up; no more are the days of Iowa and Maryland. To win these games, PSU will have to have excellent QB play, solid blocking, and for their defense to play as they have this whole season.
To prepare for the upcoming Saturdays, and to anticipate emotions, here is how I think we will be feeling Oct 27th with every scenario:
- 3-0: Penn State is a national championship contending team. They are top six in every poll and are going to be heavy favorites for three of the next four games. Going 11-1 is nearly guaranteed, and if they can pull off a win in Columbus, this young Penn State team will finish the regular season 12-0. At this point fans will be scoreboard watching OSU games and hoping that Michigan or Wisconsin can get a win against the Buckeyes so Penn State can be Big Ten East Champions again.
- 2-1: Dropped a tough game during this stretch. Can still be a national championship contender if PSU can go to Columbus and pull off a win. Likely sitting top 12 in the nation right now. 10-2 is the safe regular season record prediction which would be really solid for such a young team. Even with no Big Ten Championship, Penn State is sitting in a great position to make a New Years Six bowl game. Exceeding most expectations for the year.
- 1-2: Tough stretch of games, lost at least one road game against a tough opponent. More or less dropped from Big Ten Title contention and now the focus has shifted to winning out and hoping to steal a game from the Buckeyes. Likely ranked in the top 22. 9-3 is a safe season record but could easily go 8-4 if they drop both remaining road games to Minnesota and Ohio State. Winning the games that they are favored in will put them in good position to go to an upper level bowl (like the Citrus Bowl) and with some help from higher ranked teams, maybe a New Years Six. It’s scoreboard watching season.
- 0-3: Yikes. Brutal three games have knocked Penn State out of the rankings for the first time since 2016. Penn State’s offense couldn’t find a way to score versus tough defenses and the season has been basically wasted. Best case scenario Penn State goes 8-4 but at this point the fan base is so defeated that they feel anything can happen. Will we win another game ever? James Franklin hot-seat/USC talks are up in the air, and fans are upset when AD Sandy Barbour announces that she will not be firing him. Let’s just go somewhere warm this December for the bowl game.
The difference in optics and the overall excitement for this program for the 2019 season hangs in the balance of the next three games. The scary part is that Penn State has the talent and the inexperience to win-out or lose-out. These games will be a must watch and fans should celebrate every single win we can get because each one makes a humungous difference for this program not only this year, but in terms of momentum and recruiting for years down the line.
There is a real shot at championship level football in Penn State’s horizon and everybody knows it. The only thing we can do is wear white, head to the games, and watch the Nittany Lions tear it up. We are.