In 2016 no one expected much from the Nittany Lions. They were coming off back to back 7-6 seasons under James Franklin. They were trying out a new undersized quarterback. If things didn’t go well, Franklin could very well be on his way out. Enter the next coach with promises of bringing Penn State back to greatness.
Of course we all know how things played out.
After a 2-2 start Penn State went on a tear that history will not forget. An upset victory over Ohio State snowballed all the way to a Big Ten title and an impressive showing in a losing Rose Bowl effort versus USC.
In 2017 Penn State brings almost all of their key players back. They lost Brian Gaia and Chris Godwin on offense. Garrett Sickels, Evan Scwan, Brandon Bell, and Malik Golden on defense. Experienced corner back John Reid has already gone down with a serious injury, but this season the Nittany Lions have plenty of depth.
In 2016 Penn State needed a little magic and a little luck. This year they might not need either. With quarterback Trace McSorley, running back Saquon Barkley and an experienced offensive line, this team could be difficult to stop. The only question is will they get in their own way?
Sometimes success is just as difficult to handle as failure. I believe this group of Nittany Lions is uniquely set up to handle both. Five years ago the NCAA handed down sanctions following the Jerry Sandusky scandal. They lost bowl eligibility and scholarships. It made it difficult to compete.
The number of players recruited during that time are dwindling, but most have felt the aftermath of the sanctions effects. At Media Day James Franklin said,
“I’m a big believer that you savor all of lifes experiences. The only way you can really appreciate and recognize the good is if you’ve been through the adversity and the challenges.”
This is a group with unfinished business. They brought the program back to national prominence. They helped reshape the schools’ image. They made it all the way to the Rose Bowl…but they lost. Players like Jason Cabinda, Marcus Allen, and Mike Gesicki could have gone to the NFL. Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley have a chance to win the Heisman. I believe these players when they say they don’t care about all that.
It’s college football, anything can happen week to week. They have to play at Ohio State October 28th. Ohio State will be coming off a bye. Penn State will have played Michigan the previous week. They are probably going to lose that game. If they do they’ll need some help getting in the playoff that has already left them out once. Of course there are plenty of other trap games along the way.
After what I saw last season, I’ll show these guys some faith. They’ve been down and broken. They are ready to savor the good.