Left by prognosticators to rot in mediocrity, Penn State has responded—leading to very high expectations in Happy Valley—ridiculously high. Nearly 53 points a game will do that—no matter whom you play.
Still, Penn State has yet to face adversity, with Oregon State being the only bowl team the Lions have faced this year. With five bowl teams about to knock on Penn State’s door over the next five weeks—we’ll see how these Lions respond—with a roar or a fading meow.
Five Keys to Penn State’s Season Ending with a BCS Berth:
Maximize the Talent and Depth of the D-Line
With six losses due to injuries, suspensions, and cuts, Penn State’s defensive line is thin, yet talented. If Maurice Evans (last year’s sack leader) returns from a suspension, that will be a big help, but if not, veterans like Josh Gaines will have to continue to step up their game and lead this unit.
Offense Needs to Remain Efficient and Unpredictable
The offense, reminiscent of the 2005 Nittany Lions, is led by mobile quarterback Daryll Clark, but will also feature sophomore gunslinger Pat Devlin. Penn State’s offensive line has been a major strength, allowing time for the quarterbacks while opening holes for running backs Evan Royster and Stephfon Green. Let’s not forget the talented senior wideout trio of Derrick Williams, Deon Butler, and Jordan Norwood.
Find A Way to Beat Ohio State at Columbus
One little stat courtesy of Phil Steele says it all: “PSU hasn’t won in Columbus since a 19-0 shutout in ’78, 0-7 since with an average loss of 21 points per game.” That about sums it up.
Find A Way to Beat Michigan
It’s Michigan—a team Penn State has lost to nine straight times, dating back to 1996. This is as good a chance as any for Joe Paterno to break Penn State’s curse against Michigan.
Continue to Excel on Special Teams
Winning the field position battles will go a long way in potentially knocking off opponents such as the Badgers and Buckeyes on the road. Penn State has a bevy of weapons on special teams, with punter Josh Boone (Big Ten leader in 2007), veteran kicker Kevin Kelly, and speedsters AJ Wallace and Derrick Williams returning kicks and punts.
While the Big 12 and SEC occupy eight of the top 10 AP poll slots, there’s a good chance these conferences will beat each other down as the season progresses, likely leaving very few standing, if any. That leaves the others lurking in the grass, with Penn State included in that pack.
Offense may be sexy, but defense wins championships—and special teams sets up both for success. Penn State has all three.
Because of this and more, the Nittany Lions not only have what it takes to win the Big Ten, but also make a run at the national title. Tune in to see if the BCS gets painted blue and white, or if the Lions simply remain black and blue in the Big Ten.
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