Entering year two of the Bill O'Brien era, it could be difficult to keep the Nittany Lions motivated, as the team is still ineligible for any postseason play. However, last year's team, which went 8-4 amidst scrutiny and controversy, set the bar high and gave future teams something to live up to.
Motivation was easy last year, as seniors like Matt McGloin and Michael Mauti carried themselves professionally and helped to restore pride in Penn State. The players performed on the field and didn't complain about the hand they were unfairly dealt.
Last year's team was thrust into a media firestorm and watched as some teammates decided to jump ship to teams that would present easier situations. Despite negative publicity, the 2012 Nittany Lions wanted to show that they were still winners, no matter what outsiders thought.
Entering the 2013 season, as the team heads further from the emotion of the Sandusky scandal, what will O'Brien use for motivation this time?
For starters, pride alone will keep the 2013 Nittany Lions motivated to perform. Watching last year's team be successful in the face of adversity set the standard moving forward. If that team was able to win eight games, the current team will want to better that.
Another motivation for the 2013 Nittany Lions is the fact that there is a lot of talent returning, and expectations are high. If this were a young, inexperienced team, that would be a different story. However, there are several starters returning who will mix with talented freshmen to make Penn State a dangerous team.
The Nittany Lions, who have a great chance at another solid record this season, have been predicted to finish 9-3. The high expectations, added to the pressure to build on what has already been done in Happy Valley, will give fuel to this year's team.
Aside from just playing for pride and for the school, perhaps one of the biggest motivators in college football is the chance to make it to the next level.
Although Penn State won't be going bowling at the end of the season, that doesn't minimize the fact that playing for the Nittany Lions is still big-time college football. The players get a chance to play in front of a packed stadium and face top competition in a major conference that receives a lot of national attention, including that of NFL scouts.
Three Nittany Lions were taken during the 2013 NFL draft, while six others were invited to rookie mini-camps this spring.
Current players such as Allen Robinson, John Urschel and Adrian Amos could all have professional careers in their future, and having a strong 2013 season would help to solidify that.
While it could be easy to feel that the 2013 season is pointless because there's no postseason or championships that can come out of it, that's just not the case. The upcoming season holds much more meaning that just competing for a bowl game berth or a conference title.
Pride in oneself, the chance at playing professionally and the love and support of the 100,000 blue- and white-clad fans who fill Beaver Stadium on Saturdays make the season worth playing for.
The 2013 Nittany Lions will look to build a legacy that will live on in Penn State history.
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