Penn State wrapped up the regular season Saturday with a dominating 66-3 win over Maryland for its second-straight 10-win season.
It’s a successful year, no doubt. But, with high expectations in the spring and summer, is this season considered a disappointment? We asked our two resident football experts for their opinions.
Here’s what they said:
John McGonigal: Yes, it’s a disappointment
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Back-to-back seasons with double-digit wins is something to proud of for the Nittany Lions, especially considering where this program was three or four years ago. The jump Penn State took last year and continued should be commended.
But, boy, 2017 has to be considered a disappointment given the hype surrounding this team.
With a Heisman Trophy front-runner (Saquon Barkley) and darkhorse (Trace McSorley) leading the charge, this was supposed to be the year. Penn State had its deficiencies; the offensive line was a problem from the get-go. But as James Franklin and Marcus Allen have said before, winning masks issues.
And so the Nittany Lions ripped through the early part of their schedule despite underlying issues, outscoring their first seven opponents 280-67 and rising to No. 2 in the country.
Penn State was in a prime position to make the playoff. Nittany Lion fans wanted ’Bama.
But then the sky fell. Penn State crumbled late at Ohio State, giving away a double-digit fourth-quarter lead. That debilitating loss creeped in the following week, and the Nittany Lions lost at Michigan State.
In a matter of two weeks, Penn State went from pushing Alabama for the No. 1 spot to thankful for being in the top 10.
The next three games felt inconsequential. Trampling Rutgers, Nebraska and Maryland surely felt good for the Nittany Lions, but each game had a sense of emptiness.
Getting into the playoff was no longer in play.
The season’s ultimate goal — playing for the national championship — disappeared.
Josh Moyer: No, it’s not a disappointment
I get what you’re saying here. But can we agree on one thing? To be a disappointment, you have to fail to live up to expectations — so let’s walk through this.
First things first here, what were the expectations for the Nittany Lions in the preseason? Well, Vegas put the over/under of Penn State wins at 10. Bovada put it at 9.5. Most writers predicted 10. In the annual Big Ten poll by Cleveland.com, a panel of 38 writers picked Penn State to finish second in the Big Ten East behind Ohio State.
By those standards, the Nittany Lions have met expectations. They are who we thought they were. But for those fans who dreamed of Heismans and diamond footballs and Alabama — it seemed as if you were saying anything less than a College Football playoff berth would be a disappointment — you dreamed too big. Those thoughts were within reach, but they were a little higher than should’ve been expected. Let’s not confuse hopes for expectations here.
This is still a top-10 team, one that’s almost certainly headed to a New Year’s Six bowl. It’s still a squad that will likely have Barkley at the Heisman ceremony — and could see him win the Maxwell. That’s not good enough because ... a lot of fans wanted a national title?
Heading into this year, we knew the offensive line had deficiencies. We knew the front-seven wouldn’t be as strong as years past. It’s fair to be disappointed in the fact Penn State let one slip away in Columbus, or that the Nittany Lions couldn’t get past Michigan State. But it’s not fair to say a season is a disappointment when it met outside expectations. PSU didn’t overperform; PSU didn’t underperform. Maybe the season is nothing to celebrate, but it’s nothing to be disappointed with either.