Penn State Football: Why Nittany Lions Can Call 2012 a Success

Barry Leonard@@barryleonardjrAnalyst IIINovember 20, 2012

October 6, 2012; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions safety Jordan Lucas (14) celebrates during the game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE

Saturday's 2012 finale against Wisconsin marks the end of a difficult, yet successful, season for Penn State Football.

Nobody really knew what to expect on the field this year.

No program in history had ever gone through the turmoil that the Nittany Lions experienced prior to the start of the season.

A win against the Badgers would give Penn State a final record of 8-4, a tremendous feat in light of all that has happened.

It all started in November 2011 with the shocking news of the charges against Jerry Sandusky. Within a week of that, legendary coach Joe Paterno had been fired, and the Penn State community was left angry and confused.

In January, while searching for a new coach, the school decided to go away from a "Penn State Guy." Bill O'Brien was hired as the man who would replace Paterno at Penn State.

O'Brien's hiring was very unpopular and brought ridicule from fans and former players.

As if the situation wasn't tough enough for O'Brien, the NCAA levied damaging sanctions on the program in July. The sanctions came after the release of the Freeh Report, an independent investigation that claimed a cover-up of the Sandusky situation.

Had the sanctions not included a clause that allowed current players to transfer schools without penalty, the Lions would have fielded a pretty solid and experienced team for 2012. However, just weeks before the first game, the coaching staff was left scrambling to replace key starters who decided to jump ship.

Running back Silas Redd, wide receiver Justin Brown and kicker Anthony Fera were the biggest names to leave.

When the season started, the trouble continued.

The Nittany Lions watched starting running back Bill Belton get injured and a double-digit halftime lead evaporate in the season opener against Ohio.

Week 2 saw the Lions lose by one point at Virginia. 

Though Penn State dominated the game, kicker Sam Ficken missed four field goals and had an extra point blocked in the loss.

Instead of throwing in the towel at 0-2, O'Brien and his team fought hard and reeled off five-straight wins, putting up impressive offensive numbers in the process.

Penn State is currently ranked second in the Big Ten in pass offense and fourth in total offense.

Now sitting at 7-4, 2012 can be labeled as nothing but a success.

Many individuals have had breakout and personal best seasons. Senior quarterback Matt McGloin is the top passer in the Big Ten, and sophomore Allen Robinson is the leading wide receiver in the conference.

Freshmen Kyle Carter, Jesse James and Deion Barnes have all emerged as starters and give hope to the future of the program.

Even the coach has earned national recognition.

It was announced Monday that O'Brien is a semifinalist for Coach of the Year.

Penn State fans and players have to be thrilled with how 2012 turned out. With all of the negativity and an 0-2 start, the season could have quickly gotten away.

Instead, the coaches and players turned it around and have made all who are associated with Penn State proud.