Well, it’s been over a week now since we took one on the chin and #9 went down in a blaze of glory. Another loss, mind you, the fourth in a season of near misses. It certainly wasn’t what we all expected of our Lions back in August, that’s for sure, but all-in-all, I’d say there are at least 100+ other teams out there that would trade their dismal records for nine wins in a heartbeat. Probably a couple dozen more that would love to go on a three-year run like the one we just finished; Citrus Bowl loss to Kentucky and all. All that really leaves is another half-dozen programs or so that can truly rival what the program that touts being ‘Unrivaled’ has done since the tide turned at the end of a Buckeye Blizzard with the block, scoop, and score heard round the world on that glorious night in late-October of 2016.
For what it’s worth, the final polls came out on Tuesday and Penn State finished with a No. 17 ranking. As crazy as it sounds, it’s the first time since a seven-year run between ’93 and ’99 that the Nittany Lions finished in the Top 25 for three consecutive seasons. Their current 40 week run in the polls is the fifth-longest streak in Penn State’s history. Over time, these stats might warm our hearts, but frankly, I think I can speak for most of us by saying the hangover still lingers from a season that could have been, so at the moment, they offer little consolation. I still can’t help but look at this year’s Whiteout and think we both left it all out on the field in Happy Valley that night, and neither us nor the Buckeyes had much left in the tank afterward. Don’t believe me? It was enough to make Urban Meyer eventually announce his retirement (his words) and our own #9 was never quite the same after that heavyweight brouhaha, even though he gave the best Braveheart performance since William Wallace led the Scots into battle.
Yep, it’s been a week now since the lights went out in Orlando for Penn State Football, but it may as well have been an entire year. At least that’s what it seems like. Since then, college football has crowned a National Champion as Clemson walloped Darth Saban and his Crimson Tide, and our Nittany Lions slammed the door on 2018 and have officially moved on to a fresh start. Wide receivers coach David Corley, who took the brunt of the criticism for a season’s worth of dropped passes, was dismissed after the Citrus Bowl and Shareef Miller, Connor McGovern, Ryan Bates, Miles Sanders, and Kevin Givens (a bit of a surprise) all declared themselves eligible for the NFL Draft in April, bringing their college careers to an end. Guard Steven Gonzalez (who was one of James Franklin’s first kids to commit as head coach of Penn State outside of the ones that flipped from Vanderbilt) helped bring us all back off the ledge and softened the blow by reaffirming his intent on playing as a fifth-year senior in 2019.
No sooner had the dust settled with those announcements did the dust kick up again, in a good way, as an all-time record 12 true freshmen from the stellar Class of 2019 rolled into Happy Valley as early enrollees. They began classes on Monday. Sports Illustrated has Penn State ranked the ominous No.13 in this season’s first, way-too-early, preseason poll, and Fox Sports just lit another flame by naming Penn State the fifth most likely team of winning next year’s National Championship with 12-1 odds, just behind the Buckeyes, Georgia, Alabama, and the newly crowned Clemson Tigers. That news on Tuesday was met mostly with eye roll emojis and plenty of doubt in its validity, which is probably a good thing since it seems we’ve slipped into a world of expectations where nine-win seasons aren’t nearly good enough anymore. There are 34 weeks until Penn State kicks off against Idaho on August 31st and just over three months until we pack the house again for this year’s Blue-White game in April. There is plenty of time between now and then to pick our hearts up off the floor and hit the reset button as James Franklin and the Nittany Lions are already off and running, transforming the what-might-have-beens of 2018 into what’s going to be in 2019!