No matter how many times I say it, I still can barely believe that the Penn State Nittany Lions won the East Division of the Big Ten this season. My expectations coming into this season were not very high. I figured at best 8-4 with losses to Michigan, OSU, MSU, and one other loss. I thought at worst, 6-6. I thought Pitt was going to be a toss-up, I knew we had trouble with Indiana the previous years, and hell Temple was no longer a given. I talked about this before, but after the Pitt loss, I figured the season was pretty much over. I mean, the way the Panthers ran all over PSU and the fact that it took until after halftime for the defense to come up with a way to stop them. McSorely made that terrible pass that was intercepted and I lost all confidence in him.
Then came the Temple game. I listened to that one during my drive to North Carolina. I never felt like Penn State was in control and figured that either Temple was pretty good this year or that we were pretty bad. We made it home from the beach in time to see Michigan destroy the Nittany Lions. I knew that the defense was pretty much decimated with injuries, but I did not think it would matter all that much. Michigan was just too good. After Michigan we needed an OT win to defeat Minnesota and I think my brain had just assumed that Penn State was terrible.
During the Maryland game was when it hit me that the Nittany Lions were not terrible. I also noticed that the offense was very talented. My thoughts started to drift more towards the next season. Maybe Penn State could be pretty good in 2017, especially if Ohio State does not completely reload. Unfortunately there would still be Michigan, but hey maybe this defense will be improved since they were so young. I thought, Penn State just needs a good showing against the Buckeyes. Do not get destroyed by them, keep it close and that will be a sort of win. Yeah, my expectations were blown out of the water. With the defense completely healthy, it was hard not to see just how talented they were and the offense was starting to click, making them very dangerous.
After the Ohio State victory, people started talking about the possibility of a three-way tie for the division if OSU beat Michigan. If you look up the criteria, it is very odd and seems like it would have went to Michigan (via overall record and then record against common opponent, since Penn State would be out of the race because of two losses, they would look at how both teams did against Penn State…I know, it is very convoluted and I am not even sure if I am interpreting it correctly). Fortunately for everyone, it did not matter because Iowa decided to upset Michigan. All it would take for Penn State to win the division would be a Michigan loss to Ohio State and for Penn State to beat Michigan State. If you are looking at the picture, then you know what must have happened.
Now Penn State must face off against Wisconsin for the Big Ten Championship. The Badgers have been an odd team all season. They keep winning, but the games are pretty close. They lost to Michigan and Ohio State by a touchdown. I am a little nervous, but have confidence in the Lions to get the job done. And that does not stop me from thinking…
What would need to happen for Penn State to make it into the college football playoff? Obviously they have to beat the Badgers. Colorado would need to beat Washington. I would love for Virginia Tech to take down Clemson, but I just do not see that happening. If Colorado would win though, that would leave the top four as Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and XXXX. Who do you put in? Michigan? Sorry, they have two losses and did not win their conference. Oklahoma? Maybe. However, I think you have to take into consideration that the Big 12 is just not very good this year. Does Colorado leap frog Penn State and get into that 4th spot? I guess. If the playoff committee only wanted one Big Ten school, then maybe you keep PSU out. Maybe they put in Western Michigan as a reward for going undefeated. Honestly, this is why is should be 8 teams. The five major conference champions, plus the best independent school, and then two picks for an Ohio State or Western Michigan. But whatever, that is not the system we have right now.
If Penn State does beat Wisconsin, but does not get into the playoff, it would look like a Rose Bowl game against Colorado, which could be interesting.
Imagine how good this defense would be if Austin Johnson had decided to stay for his senior year? He has only played six games for the Titans, not started at all and has a whopping two tackles and a half sack. Another year in college could have been huge for him. Oh well, I am sure a ton of teams could say the same thing.
I am definitely going to have a college football fantasy league next year. It will only be the Big Ten. I have three people so far, who else would be interested? I am think $25 per team, between 8-10 teams. I will have more information later, but just trying to get a feel for it.
Anyways, this has been an amazing season. Let us continue the celebration with a Big Ten title!