BCS Rankings 2011: Penn State Deserves to Be Higher
In this week’s latest BCS rankings, the Penn State Nittany Lions (8-1) come in at No. 16. With a ranking so average, are the Nittany Lions getting slighted?
You can make the argument that they should be ranked higher in the standings, which I’m going to do right now.
Here are five reasons why Penn State should be higher in the BCS standings.
They're Undefeated in the Big Ten
While their games haven’t been aesthetically pleasing by any means, the Nittany Lions are still undefeated in Big Ten play. Penn State is 5-0 in conference play and should be awarded with at least a slightly higher BCS ranking because of this.
By comparison, of the teams ranked ahead of Penn State, eight of them have at least one conference loss of their own. I realize that the Nittany Lions have been involved in some pretty ugly Big Ten victories.
Nevertheless, they’ve emerged victorious in every one of them. And at a point in the season where not too many teams can still claim a perfect conference record, Penn State can. That should mean a little more pertaining to the BCS rankings.
Their Only Loss Was to Alabama
I’ll cut the Nittany Lions some slack for their only loss thus far in 2011. The defeat came back on Sept. 10, when Penn State fell in happy Valley to the Alabama Crimson Tide, 27-11.
Just in case you’re not aware, Alabama is a pretty darn good football team. The Tide has rolled over virtually every opponent on its way to an 8-0 start and the No. 2 BCS ranking.
I know losing shouldn’t help your cause in the standings, but Penn State’s defense was able to keep them in much of that game. If they would’ve been blown out of the water, then there would be no way I’d argue for a higher Penn State ranking.
They’ve actually had the closest game with Alabama so far this year in terms of margin of victory (16 points). And if ‘Bama defends its home turf this Saturday night and defeats top-ranked LSU, it will surely add credibility to the fact that, even in defeat, Penn State rolled with the Tide.
Their Defense Is Awesome
College football is known as an offensive sport these days, thanks to all of the wacky spread attacks out there. So it’s refreshing that Penn State’s is winning games in 2011 on the backbone of a dominant defense.
Despite their offense being putrid at times (how do you only score 16 against Indiana?) Penn State’s defense ranks among the best in the country. They currently are fourth in the nation in points allowed per game, surrendering a meager average of 12.8.
By comparison, third-ranked Oklahoma State has allowed 26 points per game, while fourth-ranked Stanford has given up 17. I know their Big Ten schedule hasn’t been incredibly tough so far, but they shouldn’t be punished for that.
And their non-conference schedule is respectable for the lone fact they played Alabama. So instead of rewarding teams with inconsistent defenses (like Nebraska, Arkansas and Clemson) let’s give props to Nittany Lion defenders like Devon Still and Sean Stanley for putting the D back in Defense in Happy Valley.
Penn State Is Winning Close Games
Something should be said about winning close games, and Penn State has won plenty of those in 2011. They’ve been on the victorious side of many one-possession contests this year, including against Temple (14-10), Indiana (16-10), Purdue (23-18) and Illinois (10-7).
The Nittany Lions seem to have taken a page out of Auburn’s 2010 epic season, where they won many heart-pounding games of their own en route to a national championship. In no way am I saying that Penn State is a national title contender. They do, however, deserve to be ranked a little higher than 15 on the basis that they’ve won so many tight contests.
I know the BCS computers would rather see blowout wins as opposed to close games, but winning close games builds character and mental toughness in a team, two intangibles a computer certainly can’t measure.
By Comparison, Their Schedule Hasn't Been That Bad
The biggest reason the haters refuse to give Penn State any love is because their conference schedule thus far has been so weak. “They haven’t played anybody!” is what they’re arguing.
Given that so far the Nittany Lions have played mediocre teams like Illinois, Iowa, Purdue and Northwestern, it’s tough to argue against this sentiment. But if you’re going to point this out, you also have to acknowledge that there are some teams ranked ahead of Penn State that have had pretty dreadful conference schedules of their own, like Houston.
By Comparison, Their Schedule Hasn't Been That Bad (continued)
The Cougars sit three spots ahead of Penn State and have somehow miraculously survived the gauntlet of UTEP, East Carolina, Marshall and Rice. Meanwhile, the 12th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies have only played one solid opponent in Clemson (a 23-3 loss).
Around that, they’ve fattened up on the likes of Boston College, Duke, Miami and Wake Forest.
And don’t give me this baseless argument that Penn State hasn’t played anyone. They scheduled Alabama non-conference, for crying out loud! How many teams have the courage to do that? Other than Oregon battling LSU, the closest one I can think of is Boise State playing Georgia.
And while the Bulldogs are good, they, my friends, are no Alabama or LSU.
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