Off to a blistering 7-0 start, the Penn State Nittany Lions are skyrocketing up the national rankings. Can they bring a National Championship to Happy Valley?
Penn State has been here before. In 2005, the Lions were also undefeated entering their battle against the Michigan Wolverines but did not leave Ann Arbor with the same zero in the loss column.
Things are different this time around. Michigan is now in the basement of the Big Ten, and the Lions enter their homecoming game as a 25-point favorite.
Despite the similarities, the 2005 team is not the team this year’s squad is being compared to.
The year was 1994. Penn State was entering its second season as a member of the Big Ten Conference, and opponents did not know what to expect. The Nittany Lions were always a powerhouse on the national landscape, but were they a product of the freedom to pick their schedule as an independent? Could they compete with the mighty Big Ten?
Coming off a 10-2 record and Citrus Bowl win, Paterno was determined to prove his team’s dominance on a national stage in 1994.
With Kerry Collins under center, Ki-Jana Carter in the backfield, and Bobby Engram, Joe Jurevicius, and Kyle Brady as receiving options, the 1994 Nittany Lion offense was among the best in the country—and in Penn State football history.
Averaging 47 points per game, the Nittany Lions dismantled national powerhouses USC, Oregon, Michigan, and Ohio State. Despite obliterating any opponent that crossed their paths, they failed to be selected to compete in the National Championship Game.
Fast forward 14 years, and this year’s undefeated Lions are poised to take care of unfinished business, refusing to settle for anything less than a championship.
Are they good enough to compete with the powerhouses of the Southeastern and Big 12 Conferences? Is the comparison between this year’s offense and that of 1994 warranted?
The faces might be different, but the result is the same. The 2008 Penn State team, featuring the HD spread, is dominating opponents on the offensive side of the ball. Averaging 45 points per game, the team is posting numbers equally dominant to its 1994 cohorts.
While Collins, Carter, Engram, Jurevicius, and Brady are long since gone to the National Football League, this year’s team features an equal abundance of weapons. Daryll Clark, Evan Royster, Stephfon Green, Derrick Williams, Jordan Norwood, and Deon Butler provide offensive depth superior to any other team in the country.
Beating teams by an average of 34 points, the roaring Lion offense is definitively the best Penn State has had since the undefeated 1994 team.
What separates this year’s squad from 1994 is the defensive unit. While the 1994 team had to overcome its defensive liabilities to win games, “Linebacker U” is perhaps equally as strong as the offensive unit.
How could Penn State possibly survive after losing both Sean Lee and Dan Connor in the same season, as well as several other solid role players?
Simple—the revolving door that is “Linebacker U” continues to turn, and Navarro Bowman and Aaron Maybin stepped through, dominating opposing offenses and leading the team to a 7-0 start by holding offenses to just 11 points per game.
This team’s early season dreams to continue what the 1994 team started finally look to be turning into a reality.
Watch out, college football: The Penn State Nittany Lions have arrived, and they are roaring louder than anyone in the country.
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