Note – This is the 2012 information. Please check the 2013 Penn State page for a look at the 2013 season.
Once Proud Penn State Goes Down in Shame: Will They Ever Recover?
Joe Paterno has graced the sidelines at Penn State for the past 46 years. In that time period, he accumulated more wins than any other NCAA head football coach. He was also known as a rare college coach with integrity in a sport where “class” is a foreign word. Since November, JoePa has passed away, been stripped of his all-time wins title, and now has a tarnished reputation.
Bill O’Brien has been hired to move the program forward. He is an enthusiastic head coach with an obvious passion for Penn State University. But none of that really matters right now. At least, not to many outside of State College, Pennsylvania. For the first time in many decades, football becomes secondary in State College. In fact, it’s quite irrelevant now. Penn State is lucky the NCAA will even allow them to continue competing. Although, we might argue Penn State won’t do much in the way of competing for the next 5-10 years.
After the NCAA dropped the hammer on the Nittany Lions, O’Brien’s expectations went from high to none. No reasonable football fan could realistically expect much out of a program that barely escaped the Death Penalty. Thus far, Penn State fans have rallied behind Coach O’Brien, and for good reason. It’s hard not to root for him, given his positive outlook despite facing such difficult circumstances he’s not at fault for. But we’re still talking about a community that is used to winning. It’s easy to get behind the coach now. Not so easy to get behind the coach after a few 3-9 seasons, especially when you’re used to winning.
As far as the outlook on the 2012 season, it’s likely this will be O’Brien’s best squad. Despite some key transfers, there’s still a decent amount of talent in Happy Valley. The offense is going to struggle. Penn State will have to win games with fundamentals, defense, and special teams. They can’t afford to turn the ball over, which means quarterback Matt McGloin must cut back on his interceptions. If not, Penn State could face some blowout defeats.
When running back Silas Redd decided to bolt for USC, the Nittany Lions were left without a proven offensive playmaker. This is one of those seasons where Penn State needed a favorable schedule. That doesn’t appear to be the case. 10 of the 12 teams on their schedule went to bowl games last season. That includes a non-conference slate which boasts a road trip to face Virginia and 3 quality mid-major programs at home – Ohio, Navy, and Temple.
Penn State Wasn’t Destroyed By JUST One Man
Jerry Sandusky committed some of the most heinous acts upon children in American history. But his disgusting acts weren’t the only cause of Penn State’s demise. It certainly appears that those above Sandusky could have done more to prevent him from continuing to molest children. Because no one within Penn State’s administration did the right thing, Sandusky continued harming children. And Penn State’s football program is now paying the price.
Had Joe Paterno forced his superiors to act more swiftly (ahem, contact authorities), Penn State isn’t facing near Death Penalty sanctions right now. Silas Redd and Justin Brown would still be impacting the Nittany Lion offense, and Bill O’Brien would be inheriting a great program in transition instead of a has-been program with no hope. No matter how many times Penn State fans chant “WE ARE…PENN STATE” this fall, everyone knows they really aren’t Penn State anymore.
They certainly aren’t the Penn State we’ve known for the past 5 decades. They’ve become a program that resembles nothing like the Penn State program we formerly knew. This mess isn’t Bill O’Brien’s fault. If anyone can pull of a miracle of this magnitude, it’s someone with O’Brien’s pedigree. Unfortunately, for Penn State fans, his passion will only get Penn State so far. His passion will help bring some recruits to State College, but not enough. The limited scholarships and bowl ban for the next 4 years are devastating.
2012 will likely be the least impacted squad from the sanctions even with 7 key transfers. The sanctions won’t drastically impact Penn State until 2013 when the recruiting classes begin to significantly drop-off. The 4-star recruits Penn State is accustomed to will turn into 2 and 3-star prospects. That puts an even bigger emphasis on player development than Penn State teams of the past. O’Brien has no experience as a college head coach so we don’t know yet if he’s capable of developing young athletes.
Mental Toughness a Strength for Penn State?
One advantage Penn State might have over its opponents is mental toughness. This team has been through a lot in the past year. More than any program has ever been through. It would have been easy for these players to walk away and go play somewhere else. Those that stuck around have shown mental toughness and a passion for winning at Penn State.
Another advantage Penn State will have is they now become the hunter, not the hunted. Ever since the Nittany Lions joined the Big-10 in 1994, Penn State has had a target on their back because of their reputation. Now that their expectations have dropped, teams might start taking them lightly. The 2012 Nittany Lions have enough talent to pull off an upset if their opponent overlooks them. Penn State will need any edge they can get in order to compete with the top teams.
2012 Penn State Football Schedule: Our Game Picks
From a bettors standpoint, Penn State will be a tough team to bet on or against early in the season. There are too many uncertainties. New coach, new (lowered) expectations, and many key losses should force bettors to stay away from the Nittany Lions early in the season until getting a better feel for the team. Penn State won’t be favored in many games this year, and when they are it will only be by a slim margin. They won’t be an overwhelming favorite in any game.
Sept 1 vs Ohio – WIN
Sept 8 at Virginia – LOSS
Sept 15 vs Navy – WIN
Sept 22 vs Temple – LOSS
Sept 29 at Illinois – LOSS
Oct 6 vs Northwestern – WIN
Oct 20 at Iowa – LOSS
Oct 27 vs Ohio State – LOSS
Nov 3 vs Purdue – LOSS
Nov 10 at Nebraska – LOSS
Nov 17 vs Indiana – WIN
Nov 24 vs Wisconsin – LOSS
Overall Record: (4-8)
Big-10 Record: (2-6)
Games Favored: 5
Games Underdog: 7
Penn State Nittany Lions: Final Analysis
Penn State can’t play in a bowl game or compete for a Big-10 title. Despite that, all eyes will be on this football team. People will tune in to see how they perform post-Paterno. Some will root for them because they are now the underdogs. Some will root against them because of the Sandusky crimes. But one thing is certain – it’s one heck of a story.
Bill O’Brien took on this job knowing he would have an uphill battle. But it’s unlikely he know the NCAA would hammer the program this harshly. It’s not going to be easy preventing the program from completely crumbling. O’Brien’s job is to get the program through the probationary period and be ready to contend after it is completed. If he can pull that off, Penn State should give him a lifetime contract. Most likely, however, the affects of the sanctions will linger for many years. Possibly for the next 10-15 seasons.
On day, Penn State will rise from the dead and contend in the Big-10. But it probably won’t be any time this decade. It certainly won’t be in 2012 – not with all of the transfers. We wish Coach O’Brien good luck on his journey to resurrect this once proud Penn State football program. He’s going to need it.