The good news? Our first three opponents, Akron, BC, and UCF, are ranked 90th, 29th, and 95th, respectively, by Sports Illustrated. In most years–at least in the past–this sort of ranking would practically guarantee a 3-0 start.
The bad news? Our own Nittany Lions are ranked 50th. No guarantees there.
This is certainly the worst initial ranking this turkey can remember. (And I was around in the early 60s, when it was a big deal for the boys to go to the Liberty Bowl.) We know that it is bad, bad, bad to be ranked #1 by Sports Illustrated because it represents the dreaded “Kiss of Death.” However, this hiding in the middle of the pack thing–it’s just overkill.
I thought I would take a look at the rankings of our opponents for this year (excluding any potential bowl matchups). So here it goes:
- Akron – 90
- BC – 29
- UCF – 95
- UW – 26
- Minnesota – 23
- Purdue – 28
- Iowa – 15
- tOSU – 8
- NWU – 58
- IU – 83
- Moo U. – 46
Doesn’t look too good, does it?
No matter how bogus the SI rankings usually are, the relative rankings are still pretty good indicators of how tough our schedule might be.
I’ll do a little simple-minded statistical analysis.
- Our rank: 50
- Average rank of our opponents: 45.5
- Opponents ranked higher than we are: 7
- Opponents ranked lower than we are: 4
So, if the geniuses at Sports Illustrated are exactly right, all other things being equal (which they rarely are), we’re in for a 4-7 season and no bowl. Hey, it would be one win better than last year! The Turkey, never known to be the consummate optimist, will refine this prediction by employing a little fuzzy logic best case analysis to establish his case.
Actually, I’m going to waffle. I believe that the team psyche is very fragile. If the Lions should happen to lose one of those two early season “gimme” games to Akron or UCF, then I have no doubts that we’re looking at a two or three win season. If they can win the first three, they’ll build confidence and maybe wind up with five or six wins–possibly qualifying for one of the lesser Texas bowl games or maybe even the Motor City Bowl. Most likely, they’ll wind up somewhere in-between, with a three or four win season.
What JoePa says: “I donâ€™t think we are anywhere close to being good enough to be ready to feel really good about ourselves.”
I won’t look past Akron and UCF. They’re definitely not gimmes. If we lose to Akron…it’s really all over. (Painful to think of it, I know.) If we don’t, the BC game is the game of the season. If we win it, then every succeeding game must be played like it is November. We can’t regard any of our opponents as pushovers. We’re no longer feared. Opponents come to Happy Valley thinking they can win. This must be reversed! I want to believe! Show me something!