Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Football Lost Among off-Field Allegations

Clayton ShadeckContributor IINovember 16, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 12:   A Penn State fan carries a 'Say it ain't so' sign outside Beaver Stadium after the Penn State vs. Nebraska NCAA football game in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal on November 12, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania.  Penn State lost their final home game 17-14 to Nebraska. Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno was fired amid allegations that former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was involved with child sex abuse.   (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Mario Tama/Getty Images

The news to come out of State College involving the heinous allegations against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has no doubt shocked the entire campus of Penn State.  While we must remember to think about the victims of these crimes and keep them in our prayers, this story has found a way to make us forget about the football season Penn State is having.

The Penn State Nittany Lions are in the middle of a very special football season.  This is the first year since the Big Ten has expanded to a 12-team league.  If you polled college football experts at the beginning of the season, none of them would have foreseen Penn State having any sort of chance to make a run toward a Big Ten title. 

Penn State did not have a clear No. 1 quarterback when the season started.  Neither Rob Bolden nor Matt McGloin made a case to be considered the starting quarterback.  Penn State had a coach in Joe Paterno that seemed to be too old-fashioned and behind the times for today's ever-changing college football scene.  The conservative play-calling and run-first mentality wasn't going to get it done and Penn State was getting passed up by the other teams in the Big Ten, teams with better recruits and high-powered offenses.

Coming into the season Penn State was projected to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten's Leaders division.  With football powerhouses like Ohio State and Wisconsin in the same division, it looked like there would be more mediocrity in Happy Valley.  That hasn't been the case this season.

Penn State has been on a tear in the Big Ten up to this point.  While the games haven't been pretty, the Nittany Lions are winning, which is really all that matters.  The defense is giving up fewer than 13 points a game, which is third in the FBS.  Linebacker U has again found a way to develop high-quality, tough-nosed defensive players that flat out don't let other teams score.

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 12:  Silas Redd #25 of the Penn State Nittany Lions carries the ball against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the game on November 12, 2011 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Imag
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

While the story on offense has been the poor quarterback play, sophomore running back Silas Redd is destroying opposing defenses.  He is ranked in the top 20 in the nation with 1,059 yards on the ground and is almost single-handedly carrying the Penn State offense.

With a solid ground attack and one of the elite defenses in the country, Penn State has played its way to an 8-2 record, with only one of the losses coming in conference play, to Nebraska last weekend.  The Nittany Lions currently sit atop the Big Ten Leaders division and control their own destiny the rest of the season. 

The season wraps up with back-to-back road games against the Ohio State Buckeyes and Wisconsin Badgers. There are numerous scenarios that will land PSU in the Big Ten title game, but the easiest to remember is that if Wisconsin defeats Illinois next week, the Nittany Lions must win its matchup against the Badgers on the 26th for a title game appearance, most likely against Michigan State. 

While we are all saddened by the events that have occurred off the field at Penn State, we should rejoice and be proud of what has occurred on the field.  Through everything that has happened, there is still football being played in State College, and we need to take time to appreciate and celebrate what could be a Big Ten title and BCS bowl game for our beloved Nittany Lions.