During the post game press conference, Bill O’Brien was asked if he had tempered his expectations for the team and season, following the loss to Ohio. He simly answered, “No.”
However, the question was fair.
The MAC is an up-and-coming, blossoming conference that will be gaining more and more national recognition in the years to come. Toledo, Northern Illinois and Ohio have been at the top of the conference for a while and were recently joined by Marshall and Temple, who have played their way into bigger invites.
That being said, schools like Penn State are simply not supposed to lost to MAC schools. When they spring up to beat Minnesota or Indiana, it’s not all that schocking, but when Michigan lost to Toledo a few years back, it was huge news.
This game does not appear to be huge news. Is it not a surprise? Granted, Penn State was only a 6 point favorite in a home opener, but did anybody honestly see this coming?
Does the national media now lump Penn State in with the Indianas and Minnesotas of the world, who occasionally lose to teams from non-BCS conferences on the way to their 5-7 seasons?
Coming into the season, I boldly predicted that Penn State would win nine games in 2012. I thought they may lose one of the non conference games but I did not expect it to be this one. I thought the passion of the crowd and the energy of a team begging to just play football would be too much for an opponent like Ohio. What happens next week, when that energy and passion has lessened? When the opponent isn’t a MAC team? When injuries start setting in and Penn State has to dig a little bit into it’s thin depth chart to look for new playmakers?
Penn State played four true freshmen (Wartman, Davis, Williams, James) on Saturday, but I assure you that number will grow. If starting running back Bill Belton can’t go, Akeel Lynch will likely burn his redshirt. Keep an eye on Jordan Lucas and Brent Wilkerson. O’Brien went deep with his tight ends, but may be willing to go further in the future.
Something bigger than that may have to happen, in order for this team to get on track. Penn State is currently a 10 point underdog against Virginia this weekend. That line will get even bigger if Bill Belton can’t go. This is a Virginia team that went 8-5 last season with home losses to NC State and Southern miss, as well as a 38-0 beat down from rival Virginia Tech in their own house.
That team is favored to beat the Nittany Lions by two scores.
So I ask, following the loss to Ohio, have you tempered expectations for this team and season?
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