By Annie Ross
So, boys and girls, just how good is Penn State?
Nit-heads would have you believe they are as good as Saturday night’s stunning victory over No. 2-ranked Ohio State at Beaver Stadium.
But cooler heads prevail as they prepare to play Purdue this Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind.
Then, Iowa’s tough-as-nails defense comes to State College on Nov. 5 before the Nits finish at Indiana and Rutgers and back home against Michigan State. They’ll likely be favored in all five games.
If Penn State wins out, the Nittany Lions will have their first 10-win campaign since 2009. It will also have an outside shot at the Big Ten East Division championship, if it can get some major help.
Basically, because of tiebreakers, the Nittany Lions will need Michigan to lose two of their next five games, at Michigan State, vs. Maryland, at Iowa, vs. Indiana and at Ohio State. Win their next five and get that kind of help, and Penn State would punch an unlikely ticket to Lucas Oil Stadium to face the West champ.
Even if it doesn’t get that help, No. 24 Penn State is nationally ranked for the first time since Jan. 1, 2012, when it entered the TicketCity Bowl against Houston ranked No. 22, and its most prestigious bowl bid since the NCAA lifted the bowl ban it imposed on the Nittany Lions as part of the 2012 sanctions.
Of course, Penn State is also a team greatly helped by two blocked kicks in a game the Buckeyes otherwise statistically dominated, and head coach James Franklin said the Nittany Lions weren’t looking much further down the road Saturday than what was sure to be a raucous party in its own locker room in the hours following the win.
“I just want to soak this all in,” an exasperated Franklin pleaded after the game. “I understand the significance of beating the No. 2 team in the country. … But I want to enjoy it until (Sunday) afternoon after we break the film down, because after that, we’ve got to move on to the next game.