Penn State Football: Why this loss to Ohio State does not matter

Oct 29, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day shakes hands with Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin following the NCAA Division I football game at Beaver Stadium. Ohio State won 41-33. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus DispatchNcaa Football Ohio State Buckeyes At Penn State Nittany Lions
Oct 29, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day shakes hands with Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin following the NCAA Division I football game at Beaver Stadium. Ohio State won 41-33. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus DispatchNcaa Football Ohio State Buckeyes At Penn State Nittany Lions /

Going into this season, if you realistically thought Penn State Football had a chance of sniffing the College Football Playoffs and could potentially contend for a national title, then you are naïve at best and plain delusional at worst. Because given the current makeup of the roster, the inexperience at key positions, Sean Clifford starting once again at quarterback as a sixth-year senior, a handful of true freshman who could be future game changing players, and the track record of James Franklin, I just don’t see why any rational person would expect this team to suddenly surpass a plethora of teams and land in the playoffs.

At this point now, it’s been almost 30 years since Penn State last competed for a national title (1994) and almost 40 years since they last won a national title (1986). For those of you who are scoring at home, or if you’re alone, that’s a long time ago. So why expect it now?

Look, even if we go back 20 years ago and take a look at the top two to four teams in the country and compare them to everyone else, there would be a fairly large gap between them and the rest of the pack. For better or worse, the BCS created a system which


most of the time slotted the best two teams to face each other to crown a true national champion. Plus, it shined a light on the teams which competed in the BCS bowl games. So, any given year the TV spotlight would shine down as many as 10 teams in the bowl season.

Then came the College Football Playoff, which expanded the national title race to four teams. Seems better than two teams, right?

Well, here’s where things get a little murky. Because the fact is this: there was a major unintended consequence of expanding the playoffs from two to only four teams, and this is the fact the rich are continuing to get richer in terms of elite football programs.

Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, and Ohio State have made a combined 19 appearances in the College Football Playoff since its inception in 2014. Prior to this season, I would include Oklahoma in this list, however I’m not sure what the trajectory of that program will look like following Lincoln Riley’s exodus to USC. But if we do include them, you can add another four to the list to make it 23 times.

Keep in mind, that’s out of a possible 32 total teams: four teams per season in eight years of the playoff so far.

Here’s the main reason I’m bringing this up: if the difference between the top teams 20 years ago was fairly significant, then the difference between the four teams I just mentioned and the rest of the country is now seismic. The top teams in the country have created a divide between themselves and the rest of the FBS which prevents teams from just stumbling in and staying there.

Does anyone know the common theme between Florida State, Oregon, Michigan State, Washington, Notre Dame, LSU, and Cincinnati? You guessed it, they all have made the College Football Playoffs in the past. Outside of LSU making it once and steamrolling their competition to win a championship and Notre Dame making two appearances (losing in the first round in each), the rest of this list is a hodge-podge of programs who currently rank anywhere from “decent” (Oregon) to “mediocre” (Florida State) to “horrendous” (Michigan State).

My point here is this, a handful of teams have taken some swings at the big boys, but they all missed and fell back to reality.

Now onto the main focus of this article, namely why this past loss at the hands of Ohio State simply does not matter one bit based on the current state of the Penn State Football program.

Look, Penn State had their chance to supplant the kings of the Big Ten back in 2017 and 2018. However late collapses in each game against the Buckeyes sealed their fate and the Nittany Lions are 28-15 since then. As the saying goes, “if you come for the king, you best not miss”.

Well needless to say, Penn State missed.

But here’s what is important right now for the Penn State program following their latest loss:
Michigan State

If James Franklin and the Nittany Lions win their next four games, it gives them their first 10+ win season since 2019. Nothing says they shouldn’t win all four of these games, because Penn State’s roster is loaded with talent which far exceeds each of the above programs. Furthermore, if Penn State wins these four games, then it will finally buck a nagging trend of James Franklin since his tenure began in Happy Valley.

The inexplicable, head-scratching, completely dumbfounded loss to a terrible football team. So far, it’s happened every season.

There’s nothing wrong given the current state of the program to lose to Michigan and Ohio State, but they can’t afford to lose to any of the lesser Big Ten teams.

To finally tie a bow on this long and rambling article, I believe it will be crucial for the trajectory of the Nittany Lion football program to win their remaining four games, make a NY6 bowl game, hopefully win the bowl game, and start to build momentum into the following season. Winning breeds winning.

Along with their crop of talented players who will be sophomores next year, Franklin is bringing in more blue-chip prospects who can make an immediate impact. If they can keep the train rolling into next season and once again win 10+ games, then I believe they will have their chance to take another swing at Ohio State during the 2024 season.

Breaking into the elite of the college football world takes time. I understand you want them to win now, but it doesn’t work like that.

I know I sound like a broken record, but these next four games are crucial. If the coaching staff feels Sean Clifford gives them the best chance to win, then I’m all for it. Just so long as the fans get to see a fairly heavy dose of Drew Allar. Outside of injuries, he’s already played more than any other back quarterback since James Franklin has been in town so I don’t see why this will change going forward.

Additionally, for those of you who aren’t exactly thrilled with the performance of James Franklin these past couple of seasons, here’s why this is important for you as well. Due to his most recent 10-year contract, his buyout will far exceed anything Penn State will ever dream of paying him even five or six seasons from now. But if James Franklin is courted by another program, the money involved would be pennies when compared to his buyout.

In order for this to potentially happen, the Penn State Football team needs to start winning consistently and this needs to start next week. Win out the rest of their schedule, get to 10 wins, play in a NY6 bowl game, do the same thing next year, rinse and repeat. And if this happens the Nittany Lions may be on the precipice of the College Football Playoff or James Franklin might taking a shot at some greener pastures paving the way for Matt Rhule to come back home (please don’t hate me for saying that).

Either way, none of this happens if Penn State lays a giant dud this Saturday in Bloomington, Indiana.

light. Related Story. What lies ahead for Penn State Football following their second loss of the season?