Pregame Predictor: Dare to Dream
Put the arguments aside, shove the playoff debates on the shelf. There’s business at hand, and Bucky stands in our way. Penn State vs. Wisconsin. Mano-a-Mano, toe-to-toe. A knock-down, drag out slugfest. A Top 10 battle to declare the king. A heavyweight brawl is in the cards for sure. Blow-for-blow, with only one named the last man standing. Forgive me for being so amped, but all this is so new to us. The last time we found ourselves in this position, there was no such thing as a “Championship Game”. There was no East and West division, only Leaders and Legends. I barely recall which one we were a part of, but with every ounce of bias I say it must have been the latter, considering how legendary our Nittany Lions are and are about to become once again.
Both squads come into this showdown 10-2 and riding lengthy win streaks, Wisconsin six-straight and Penn State eight. The Badgers, led by former Pitt head coach Paul Chryst, are built around a stout defense and their usual punishing run game. Chryst, only two years removed from his time with our arch enemy, is well aware of many of our players given his time spent on the recruiting trail. The Nittany Lions of course counter with a high-octane offense running on all cylinders ever since the loss to Michigan back in September, who one week later squeezed past Wisconsin 14-7. Just this week, Saquon Barkley collected the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors and Trace McSorley garnered second-team All-Conference as a sophomore. That validates the Joe Moorhead-led juggernaut. Ironically, head coach James Franklin got the nod as Coach of the Year by the media and Chryst received the honor as voted by his fellow coaches. The similarities are many between these two proud programs, and the stakes as big as it gets
I do however, need to set the record straight. Throughout all this playoff debate that has overwhelmed us over the past few weeks, I heard the notion far more times than I care to remember that the Lions victory over Ohio State was some kind of fluke or the result of a fluke play in reference to the blocked field goal that gave Penn State the lead and subsequent win. Even by some of our own, as hard as that may be to digest. Let’s make this loud and clear, that win was in no way a fluke. In fact, that win was a steppingstone. The Buckeyes had a full four minutes on the clock to overcome that so-called fluke and our defense slammed the door shut. It was a win that set the wheels in motion for where WE ARE today and where we’re headed down the road. Of course there was a little magic at play, dreams don’t come true without it. As positive as I’ve been throughout the FrankLion era, I’d be lying if I said I saw us in the Big Ten Championship as early as 2016. Any of you would be. I believed, you believed, we all trusted the process, but by the end of September, nobody imagined that process was on the fast track to Indianapolis. No one that is but the ones who suit up in Blue and White. Those players and their coaches believed. They dared to dream against all odds and have proven to us all that dreams really do come true. Disney hasn’t got a thing on this rag-tag pride of Lions and neither does Bucky. Penn State football pulls one last flash of magic out of its hat in a 27-17 thriller. WE ARE…PENN STATE!