A Rumble in the Desert
A huge question heading into this year’s Fiesta Bowl is who was going to run the offense given the departure of former Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead. Without skipping a beat, head coach James Franklin handed his longtime assistant and rising star Ricky Rahne the keys to the shiny offensive juggernaut that represents Penn State these days. Rahne, a Cornell grad and recent school Hall of Fame inductee, coached tight ends the past two seasons and quarterbacks prior to Moorhead’s arrival, but was clearly an understudy of JoMo's high-powered spread offense. The only question was whether he was ready to handle the responsibility and that has obviously been answered with his hire as the new OC.
Speaking of offense, just in case anyone has had severe Saquon-withdraw as we were forced to watch others battle it out on Championship Weekend, I have a little news on him as well. On Friday, King ‘Quon earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors, Running Back of the Year honors, and Special Teams Player of the Year honors just to add a finishing touch to a stellar season. Barkley becomes the first Big Ten running back to win multiple offensive player of the year awards and joins Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers as the only two players to garner three postseason awards honors in the same year. He has yet to declare his intent on the future, but most feel like this year’s Fiesta Bowl will be his last hurrah in Blue and White. All-American honors and an invite to NYC for the Heisman Trophy presentation are all that’s left for the record-setting superstar.
As for our Fiesta Bowl opponent, there is plenty of time between now and then to poke, prick, prod, and dissect the Washington Huskies. At quick glance, they come in sporting an identical 10-2 record and have the nation’s top-ranked defense against the run, holding opponents to a paltry 92 yards a game on the ground. Penn State is 6-0 in Fiesta Bowls and has a heavy hand in elevating the game to the level it’s at today. The Nittany Lions 14-10 upset over No. 1 ranked Miami on January 2, 1986 remains one of college football’s most-watched games to date and in 1981, a victory over Heisman winner Marcus Allen (not our Marcus) and USC served as a catapult to Penn State winning it all a year later. Quite frankly, we couldn’t have asked for a better game to end this season of great expectations. Handle our business at the Fiesta Bowl and those expectations just might increase a little more heading into 2018.