When Penn State came in at No. 7 in the first College Football Playoff rankings of the year Tuesday night, the reaction was dull and uninspired. No one shouted from their apartment balconies in downtown State College, and very few broadcasted it on Twitter.
“Last year, it felt like there was a parade going on downtown when we got the No. 12 ranking,” Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki said of the committee’s initial 2016 poll.
What a difference a year can make.
The Nittany Lions are No. 7 in the country — behind Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State — with four regular-season weeks and a loaded conference championship slate on the horizon. With some help, the opportunity for Penn State to climb from No. 7 into the top 4 is there.
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“We didn’t think we’d drop too, too far,” quarterback Trace McSorley said after Wednesday’s practice. “But it’s not where we want to be. We want to be in the top 4. We’re not happy with it. We’ve got our work cut out for us now.”
For now, though, most fans are still sulking about the Nittany Lions’ 39-38 loss to Ohio State.
As for McSorley and his teammates? Well, they’re implementing the program’s week-by-week approach, keying in on their next opponent — not the Buckeyes and not the rankings.
“I don’t care about the College Football Playoff rankings. As a team, I feel like we don’t care,” senior cornerback Christian Campbell said. “The college football rankings are really predictions. It doesn’t faze us as a team. Anything can happen. So really, it doesn’t matter.”
Campbell said he didn’t watch ESPN’s rankings reveal show, which aired at 7 p.m. Tuesday, right after Penn State’s practice.
Senior safety Nick Scott didn’t watch, either, and neither did Gesicki.
The latter was having his daily post-practice catch with Juwan Johnson and DaeSean Hamilton during the show. When Gesicki came back inside the Lasch Building and found out that Penn State was No. 7, his reaction was, “OK, great. Time to move on.”
“You can kind of get lost in the rankings, where other teams are at, and you can’t trip up over something that’s in front of you right now,” Gesicki added. “It’s early. There’s a lot of football left to be played. Our worry or focus isn’t on the playoffs. Our focus is on Michigan State.”