Penn State Football: Closer to 7-5 or College Football Playoff?

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin (Mandatory Credit: Mark Alberti-USA TODAY Sports)
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin (Mandatory Credit: Mark Alberti-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Head Coach Tom Allen of the Indiana Hoosiers (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Head Coach Tom Allen of the Indiana Hoosiers (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

Road To Mediocrity #2

Middle of the road teams in your division/conference begin to improve

Anyone remember this quote:

“If you’re not getting better you’re getting worse”

In the ever cyclical nature of college football, what happens when the division/conference teams around you get better?

There are only two real outcomes. Either you improve and get better, or you don’t and get worse. There’s no easier road from 10-2 to 7-5 than for this to happen.

So let’s take a look at several B1G East teams and see which direction they are headed.

Indiana University

Tom Allen is entering his sixth season as the IU head football coach and he has quickly turned a powerhouse soccer and baseball school into a school which is now squarely on the college football map.

The Hoosiers finished 8-5 in 2019 (4th in the B1G East) and used the momentum to springboard to a 6-1 regular season record in the B1G with wins over Michigan, Wisconsin, and Penn State*.

This also included a heartbreaking loss to Ohio State 42-35.

IU is a football program on the rise and Penn State Football plays them every year. And based on their recent success, Penn State Football can’t simply circle their name and write a giant “W” on the pre-season schedule opposite of Indiana.

* – Everyone knows what this is for


I know what you’re thinking. “Michigan? Really? Jim Harbaugh sleeps in khaki pants and pours milk into a bowl before the cereal. Plus, Penn State Football is a way better program than them.”

But the fact remains, as much as Michigan is a laughingstock in old Appalachian State game film, and Jim Harbaugh sleep-over memes, Penn State is only 3-3 against them since 2015.

Michigan continually recruits at a higher level and at some point, Harbaugh and company are going to get it right.

Or they don’t and Harbaugh gets fired. Honestly at this point either scenario is just as likely.


Speaking of laughingstock, good old BTPR* was a combined 7-29 from 2017-2019. But hold on! Is that Pete Seeger singing the Wood-Chopping song in the background??

And just like that, in steps Piscataway legend Greg Schiano for yet another stint at the birthplace of college football.

His no nonsense coaching style led to a mini-resurgence in the Rutgers program from 2005-2011. In this span the Scarlet Knights went a combined 56-33 with an impressive 5-1 record in bowl games.

Granted this took place in the Big East Conference and not the B1G, but still it’s an accomplishment.

And while the 2020 season wasn’t exactly a banner season, Rutgers was able to put together a 3-6 record. Which based on the results from 2017-2019 means it was a step in the right direction.

It’s also worth noting 3 of the 6 losses were tight contests. Rutgers only lost by 3 against Illinois, then lost a 3-OT thriller against Michigan, and then ended the season losing a one-score game to Nebraska.

Rutgers is still going to lose games going forward but they’re going to make you work for it with Schiano in charge.

* – Big Ten Powerhouse Rutgers


I feel gross just typing this, but I think Penn State Football fans are going to have to watch out for Maryland in the future.

Anyone that follows college football recruiting knows the DMV area is chock full of highly rated high school players year in and year out.

Unfortunately for Maryland, they never land any of them. Teams like Penn State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Clemson, etc. always swoop in and steal the talent in their backyard.

Maryland finished with the 31st best recruiting class in 2020 which included Rakim Jarrett, a local DMV 5* player (27th best player in the country).

They followed this up with the 18th best recruiting class in 2021 and hauled in another 5* recruit, Terrence Lewis.

Mike Locksley doesn’t exactly scare me as a head coach, however the talent they are starting to bring in does. And if this continues, they could really start to build something down in College Park.

If any combination of these programs take their next step forward, it’s really going to start to put pressure on Penn State. And as I mentioned before, PSU will have to either elevate their program or face the real possibility of reduced recruiting and regression in the W/L columns.