Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Penn State put up 45 points and 574 yards Saturday. That's great.
Those totals also came against Eastern Michigan. While that shouldn't detract from what the Nittany Lions accomplished, it does—or at least should—temper any excitement Penn State fans have about the Lions' prospects once the Big Ten season gets underway in a few weeks.
Penn State's fortunes in the conference will be decided relatively early with games against Michigan and Ohio State both coming in October. The season wraps up on November 30 with a trip to Wisconsin. Despite looking pretty decent against teams like Syracuse and Eastern Michigan, those three games will likely see Penn State as the underdog.
There's also the possibility that a much-improved Illinois team and a Nebraska program still searching for an identity in the Big Ten could prove troublesome.
While eight wins last season was certainly impressive, and O'Brien was awarded a richly deserved Paul "Bear" Bryant Award as national coach of the year, it's incredibly difficult to see how Penn State could ever hope to improve upon last season.
Don't get us wrong: six or seven wins, even eight wins each season would be great for PSU. It would certainly set the program up for a return to conference and even national relevance once the sanctions are an ugly memory. But those scholarship limits around going to be around for awhile, and it's probably time the Penn State fanbase gets accustomed to setting six to seven wins each season as a realistic goal.
Follow @davidrluther on Twitter!