This has been a very disappointing season for Penn State. You simply cannot consider this Nittany Lions team (6-4, 3-3) a success, regardless of what happens these next two weeks.
Let’s just say they beat Indiana this weekend in Landover, Maryland and then lose the following week to Michigan State at home. That’s probably the most logical scenario and would put them at 7-5 for the regular season.
Is that really a success?
I predicted that they would go 7-5 before the season even started. In theory, they would have met my expectations, but in reality they fell extremely short. It’s not the record that matters to me; it’s how they got to that record that bothers me.
Penn State has no marquee win on its schedule. All of their wins have come against average teams. The combined record of the opponents they beat this year is 31-32. The biggest win on the schedule right now is Northwestern or Temple. Since when are those games considered big wins?
The biggest problem I have with the Nittany Lions is the lack of competitiveness against better teams. They were outscored 86-20 in their losses at Iowa, Ohio State and Alabama. When you throw in the Illinois loss at home, all of Penn State’s defeats have been by 20 points or more.
Even if they played one of those games tough (and I don’t mean one good half against OSU), then I would probably change my mind, but the fact is that this team is just very average.
Is Penn State's season a success up to this point?
You can sit here all day and list the excuses. They have a true freshman quarterback. Sixteen players have missed time with injury. They had to replace all three linebackers. That’s fine up to a point, but even early on in the season, when most of their guys were still healthy, they didn’t produce against elite competition.
Penn State’s numbers are alarmingly down this season, especially on defense. They’re giving up 22 points a game—nearly eight points more than their average the previous four seasons. During that span they only allowed 77 yards rushing per contest. That number’s up to 172 this season.
The linebacking corps, along with the defensive line, is normally the strength of the Penn State defense, but teams are running the ball right down the Nittany Lions' throat.
Their streak of 17 consecutive games without an opponent rushing for 100 yards ended at Alabama and opened up the floodgates for the rest of the season. Seven players have rushed for more than 100 yards against the Penn State defense this year. That includes two quarterbacks, Dan Persa (Northwestern) and Denard Robinson (Michigan), and two players who rushed for more than 190 yards (Robinson and Dan Herron of OSU).
Good teams will find a way to win big games, or at least be competitive in them. Unfortunately for Penn State, they haven’t been able to do that. The only way this season can be deemed a success is if they beat Indiana and pull off the upset at home over Michigan State.
Injuries are a part of the game, along with youth and inexperience. It’s time to stop making excuses for this season and hold the team accountable. You have to be held to a higher standard if you are going to compete for Big Ten titles and BCS bowls.
This team has potential down the road to possibly do some big things, but until they can find a way to consistently beat the better teams, they will just be another average team in the Big Ten.