I knew there was reason to ‘fear the turtle’ last Saturday, even if some people believe Maryland never really stood a chance. Just as I was confident that Penn State would march into Columbus and give the Buckeyes all they could handle. We know the pattern all too well by now. It’s probably a case of being a member of the rough and tumble Big Ten. Nevertheless, from the infamous no-handshake fiasco of 2014 right down to Saturday heading into halftime, James Franklin’s tenure in Happy Valley has been Jeckyl and Hyde the entire time. We play the tough ones with all our Lion heart and seem to have this bad habit of making the easy ones tougher than they should be.
Then again, if we insist on turning this into something new, not once did I believe that Iowa was the better team when they were giving Joe fits in the early days of the new millennium. Toledo? Ugh, just stop. Was Ohio (not the Buckeyes but the Bobcats) REALLY better than PSU as Bill O’Brien took over in 2012? Or UVA the week after, for that matter? I should still be sitting here savoring a bowl of turtle soup and marveling at magic Jahan ‘Mr. Smooth' Dotson, but instead I’m still pondering just how close it all came to crashing down last week in Maryland.
The vultures were circling as the first half fizzled out in the most Penn State way possible. These close ones have been part of our fabric for a long time. Long enough to know that as much as it looked like we should dominate the Terps, another Illinois-like game was possible. It’s almost like being seeded at No. 4 has become our apex, and then our downfall. Of course, we didn’t crash last week, as the Nittany Lions turned up the heat and ended their three-game skid long before the clock ticked down to zero. Thankfully. At 6-3 and settled into the new role as spoiler, Penn State became bowl eligible. Save the eye roll emoji’s, it wasn’t that long ago reaching that feat was a benchmark of ours. We now have the chance to take down the entire state of Michigan over the next three weeks. If you ask me, it is just as enticing as being ‘playoff bound' at the moment.
First up on the docket is none other than Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines. True to form, the only thing I fear about Michigan and their Top 10 ranking is seeing those ugly mugs in the light of day instead of under the customary lights of a White Out. The tables have turned since the last time they rolled into Happy Valley for a showdown at high noon. In 2015, we were clearly looking up at a stronger roster pound for pound and we were still in the early stages of the FrankLion era. Only time will tell if No. 4 turns into our peak this season, or if we keep chipping away under James Franklin’s guidance, as silence continues to remain the enemy. Either way, in big games like the one we will witness tomorrow, the Lion always rises and outside of their in-state rival and loss to Sparty, Michigan hasn’t even sniffed a squad as tough as ours. So, fear not Nittany Nation and enjoy riding the wave of analytics to victory once again: Penn State 35, Michigan 24