How did we get to this lofty position, you ask? Simple. Adversity, that’s how. They were a team with their backs against the wall in mid-to-late September. They could have withered away and quit but instead they came out swinging. The old cliché “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” is a testament to this young squad of Lions. They’re a team that has three Top-15 to Top-20 recruiting classes in a row, that are now beginning to play like it. Not only are they young, but they’re experienced because of the issues with depth that have plagued them of late. They are incredibly hungry as well. They’re a team that obviously was not content just beating Ohio State and proved that last week by unleashing their offense to the tune of 62 points and over 500 yards. In short, Penn State has morphed itself into a lethal combination within the college football landscape. What was once the hunter has become the hunted, in the blink of an eye. The scary part of it all is that most of this team returns in 2016.
Of course, rankings mean absolutely nothing without completing the task at hand. The current situation dictates that the sole focus be on a nemesis of ours dating back to the so-called “dark ages” of Penn State football, during the early stages of this millennium. Standing in our way is an opponent who has played the role of spoiler far too many times: the Iowa Hawkeyes. If there was one coach outside of Bear Bryant that had Joe Paterno’s number, it was Kirk Ferentz and his Hawkeyes. If not for them and their 24-23 upset, who knows how far we would have gone in 2008 with Darryl Clark at the helm of an otherwise explosive offense. The follow-up a year later, at home, in our own house, was even worse as they held us to 10 points in a 21-10 loss. Some said at the time that Ferentz, a PA native, had it out for Joe for not giving him a shot as a Nittany Lion. Whether true or not, his record sits at a robust 8-4 against Penn State and this week they represent the roadblock standing in our path of destiny. Did I mention how crucial this game has become? As crucial as it gets, my friends, as we must overcome a thorn in our side to take the next step.
Not long after the initial surprise set in over being ranked as high as No. 12, it dawned on me that we are no longer restricted to simply playing for pride, as admirable as that has been. For the first time in well over five years, so late in the season, this game has national ramifications that extend far beyond the comforts of Happy Valley . Penn State is set to hold their annual Military Appreciation Day as well on Saturday night which takes me back to 2004 and my own time spent in Iraq as a member of the United States Navy Seabees. Thankfully, it was a season that I must admit I was glad to miss and one that included what was perhaps the most boring game in the history of college football, a 6-4 loss to those pesky, you guessed it, Iowa Hawkeyes. Immediately after the win over Purdue, James Franklin sent a cryptic tweet that suggested another blizzard overtake Beaver Stadium. A Whiteout 2.0 if you will. Due to legalities, this one is unofficial and completely rests in our hands. Considering the adversity our Lions have overcome, I think it’s the least we can do to show our appreciation. This game has suddenly become as crucial as it gets and they deserve our best. So, wear white, be proud, thank a Vet. And for goodness sakes, BRING THE ROAR, destiny is knocking on our door, Penn State 24 – Hawkeyes 13.