Most people will tell you Penn State's 2012 football season is meaningless. Most people will be wrong.
Yes, the Nittany Lions, much like their Big Ten adversary Ohio State, can't make a bowl this year. Because of that, the amount of wins they rack up during the regular season will have the same effect on the rest of the college football world whether that number is zero or 11.
But that doesn't make it a meaningless season.
Penn State is still rebuilding toward a brighter future, thus making every second and every play of every 2012 contest a paramount one.
With that being said, let's take a look at the best takeaways from this fascinating, mostly unexpected solid season.
Bill O'Brien Can Coach
You can lose all the scholarships and Silas Redds in the world, but if you have a leader who knows how to, well, lead, you are still going to find a way to win ballgames.
The Nittany Lions have learned that with O'Brien at the helm in 2012.
Coming in after one of the most tumultuous offseasons in college football history and with a dearth of scholarship talent, O'Brien has done as good of a job as could be asked, leading Penn State to a 7-4 record and a second-place standing in the Big Ten Leaders division.
There have been rumors about O'Brien departing to the NFL after this year, but they don't have a ton of legs.
As long as the talented head coach stays in Happy Valley, recruits are going to want to come to Penn State. Even with a lack of scholarships to dole out, it's clear that O'Brien will churn out talented squads no matter who he has to work with.
There were worries—more like extreme panics—about how Penn State's offense would fare with electric running back Silas Redd gone for USC, but Matt McGloin and Allen Robinson have Nittany Lion fans saying, "Silas who?".
Silas who? #PennState Soph. WR Allen Robinson has been a catalyst offensively for the Lions this year. 7 rec, 145 yds, 3 TDs today alone.— Dion Caputi (@nfldraftupdate) November 17, 2012
On the year, McGloin has completed 61.4 percent of his throws for 3,071 yards, 23 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
Robinson has pulled in 73 catches—which is more than double anyone else on the team—for 983 yards and 11 scores.
McGloin is set to graduate at the end of the year, but the sophomore Robinson is going to be arguably the most dangerous wide-receiver threat in the Big Ten for as long as he stays in college.
Penn State wouldn't be a Big Ten team if it didn't have a tough, physical defense, especially in the trenches.
But the Nittany Lions have gone above and beyond those expectations. They rank second in the conference in yards per rush attempt allowed, fourth in rushing touchdowns allowed and first in sacks (17th in the nation) with 30.
Key contributors to that success like Michael Mauti, Jordan Hill and Ethan Hull will be graduating, but linebacker Glenn Carson will return as a senior, and the freshman duo of Deion Barnes (nine tackles for loss, four sacks) and Anthony Zettel (three sacks) is going to be scary in the future.
The past may be muddied for Penn State, but the bright future is clear.
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