Sure, the next four seasons don't really count for Penn State, but try telling that to the players, especially the seniors who stuck around despite all of the adversity. After a Week 9 home loss to Ohio State ended a five-game winning streak, Saturday's game at Purdue (3-5) is a must-win for the Lions.
With four games remaining in 2012, this team still has an opportunity to continue what has already been a special season. At 5-3, the Lions have a good shot at finishing well above .500.
If the Lions hope to finish 2012 with a winning records, they must defeat the Boilermakers on the road.
A loss would put them just one game above .500 with games against Nebraska, Indiana and Wisconsin remaining. The Indiana game should be winnable since it is at home, but the Nov. 10 game at Nebraska and Nov. 27 home game against Wisconsin both present challenges.
After an 0-2 start to the year, Penn State rolled off five straight wins and looked very impressive doing so. The Lions put up at least 24 points in all of those wins and were being discussed as one of the top teams in the Big Ten.
Ohio State came into Beaver Stadium and ended that talk by completely outplaying the Nittany Lions in all areas of the game.
Penn State needs a win at Purdue in order to get back any momentum that was lost in Week 9.
USA Today has the Lions favored by three-and-a-half points over the Boilers. If they were to lose, the talk about how bad things are at Penn State would surely start up again.
The Lions will probably be underdogs in Week 11 at Nebraska and could be staring at a three-game losing streak if they are unable to escape West Lafayette with a victory this week.
Sure, this team is already going to be remembered for the wins that it was able to get in spite of everything. Penn State fans will talk about Michael Mauti, Matt McGloin and the group of seniors who chose to stick around because of their Penn State pride.
Those seniors deserve to end the year on a high note and with a positive record. A win on Saturday at Purdue will go a long way toward continuing the rebuilding process at Penn State.