What Penn State's Preseason Rankings Mean for the 2010-2011 Season

Sean StebnerContributor IAugust 22, 2010

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 1: Daryll Clark #17 of the Penn State Nittany Lions leaves the field with the MVP trophy following the 2010 Capital One Bowl against the LSU Tigers at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on January 1, 2010 in Orlando, Florida. Penn State won 19-17. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Associated Press released their preseason rankings this weekend and Penn State should feel slighted.

After being slotted at No. 14 in the USA Today Coaches preseason poll, the Nittany Lions were deserving of just the 19th spot, according to the writers of the AP.

The men of Happy Valley, placed in the AP preseason list for the 38th time under Coach Paterno, are the lowest ranked of the four Big Ten teams awarded a place in the poll behind No. 2 Ohio State, No. 9 Iowa, and No. 12 Wisconsin.

Ohio State, generally considered head and shoulders above the rest of the Big Ten, received three No. 1 votes.

Looking at the discrepancy between the rankings, you might think, "What gives?" (That means 'WTF?' for all you youngsters) But consider these two ideas: First, how often are the Lions underdogs? Second, they're ranked higher in the Coaches poll, which is arguably more important.

Penn State isn't used to the idea of being the underdog. Like I said, they're in the preseason AP poll for the 38th time under JoePa. And it's not like this team isn't talented.

Sure, there's plenty of question marks, but there are also 36 letterwinners, 13 returning starters and 10 others with starting experience.

If the quarterback and linebacker play are no more than acceptable, the surrounding talent can push them to victory against anyone (yes, even Alabama).

And while there is always a target on the back of a program with Penn State's history, it might not be as big as other years.

It's not impossible to think that the Nittany Lions could be underestimated by Alabama, Iowa, Ohio State, or even Michigan. With a few overachievers on both sides of the ball, maybe a third-straight top 10, 11-2 season isn't as lofty of a dream as we thought. 

Now, for all the fans who have national championship expectations every year, the No. 19 is probably disappointing. But it's in the AP.

Remember that since the NCAA doesn't crown its own national champion (I know, I know...deep breaths), it's up to the BCS to do that for them. So while the AP technically names a champion, the BCS shows no consideration to the AP's poll when determining its formula.

What the BCS does consider are the Harris and Coaches polls. The same Coaches poll which Penn State ranks 14th.

The same Coaches poll which has four Big Ten teams in the top 15 and two more receiving votes, but falling just short of the top 25.

It's obvious the coaches think more of the Big Ten than the AP and that's fine by me. It should be fine by any of you Nittany Lions fans, too, because it wasn't the Associated Press's crystal football Nick Saban held over his head last year.

And if Joe Paterno and Evan Royster have any say, he won't be holding anyone's crystal football over his head this year.