The game as we once knew it is gone; however, our final destination remains the same. For the life of me, I cannot remember a time I went into a season thinking we didn’t at least stand a small chance of winning the Big Ten title, and maybe more, if the chips fell into place. Good bowl games have never been the benchmark in August, and they aren’t today. That’s the luxury of being a Penn State fan; one we sometimes take for granted. Things are much the same today as they were back in 1982 and beyond.
The rhetoric may have changed, along with the formula it takes to get there, but this newfound ‘playoffs or bust’ mentality is nothing new at all. In fact, for all those grumpy purists out there, on the road to our first recognized National Championship in 1982, a No. 3 ranked Nittany Lion squad rolled into Alabama in early October and got trounced 42-21 by the No. 4 ranked Crimson Tide. That loss did about as much damage then as the three-point loss to Iowa did two Saturdays ago. In other words, nothing, zero, zilch. As we wade through the rough and tumble jungles of the Big Ten East division, we control our destiny.
On the flip side of things, for a team like Iowa, their loss to Purdue last Saturday pretty much destroyed any hope of recovery. Playoffs or bust was a real living, breathing thing for them and it all came tumbling to a screeching halt. We knew exactly where we stood before they took our QB out of the equation and they knew deep down what the outcome would be if we met again on a neutral field in early December. Undefeated was the only real shot for them and considering their code of conduct, or lack thereof, the Hawkeyes swiftly received every bit of the self-inflicted karma they deserved.
For all the discussion about Will Levis’ disappearance into the dreaded transfer portal and the effect it had on the outcome in Iowa City, I would never trade him back for the savage instincts of Arnold Ebiketie and what he brings to our defense. Jaquan Brisker? I’m not even sure if he’s technically part of the portal, but as a transfer, you simply cannot put a price on what he’s contributed to the team as a leader from the moment he arrived on campus. Call it free agency, the end of college football as we know it, or whatever, but it’s here to stay. The ferociousness of our newest Nittany Lions has been irreplaceable as we continue to weave our way towards our final destination.
So, here we are on the midway again. We are still standing with more than a fighter’s chance. As much as things seem to change, the final destination is the same. The L could not have come at a better time, if we had to take one. No harm, no foul. Nothing more than an opportunity to take advantage of a week’s worth of rest. With that being said, if you thought the ride was about to get easier, you are sadly mistaken, so I hope you took some time last week to catch your breath. Next up on the docket, the Fightin’ Illini come rolling into town, and at 2-5 they picked a bad time to go toe-to-toe with Generations of Greatness. No Sean Clifford, no problem. By all accounts he’s far from done, but there’s no time like the present to wrap the arms of a Happy Valley Homecoming around Ta’Quan Roberson and continue to march on: Penn State 29, Illinois 6