Looking back at the past two cluster fuck Penn State football seasons, I must ask the musical question: Are we only dreaming?
As you know, your favorite turkey is an immutable cynic. Those past two seasons, coupled with the hopelessness of a long-term deal for James Franklin, daunt my spirits, leaving me with more questions than answers.
Anticipating an impending football season has long inspired The Nittany Turkey to crank up expectations around this time of year. I have been writing this drivel as an email list since the early 1990s, with this blog dating back to 2004. Recently, my enthusiasm has waned, either due to the weariness of old age, or just being tired of my hopes getting dashed early in the season.
Caught in a Dream
Accordingly, I’m not going to venture a won/loss prediction in advance of this season. I’m completely clueless about this team and its capabilities. I’m just Caught in a Dream, and that’s not too Swift.
We’ve lost some talented players to the NFL Draft and the dreaded NCAA transfer portal. We’ve had some highly ranked draft classes. We’ll have Sean Clifford starting in his 6th or 7th year of manufactured eligibility. Anyone who thinks he can make a concrete assessment of where this bunch of Nittany Lions is going is full of shit. Anyway, that steaming turd flies out the window on September 1, when Penn State loses its season opener to Purdue.
In Dreams, They Walk Alone
For my money, or lack of same, the offensive line still begs more questions than it provides answers. It has been a piece of shit since John Urschel and Donovan Smith left in 2014 and 2015, respectively. You doubt that? Then I have two words for you: Paris Palmer. When the NFL Pro-Bowlers departed, Paris Palmer, a mediocre JuCo transfer, was Penn State’s big answer. A quintessential “traffic cone”, the 6′ 7″, 300 lb dead weight from North Carolina just stood there most of the time. When Saquon Barkley was tearing up defenses single-handedly, he was doing just that, all alone. He had scant assistance from the Cones. But I digress. Are we looking at yet another crappy offensive line this year?
Money Changes Evathang
In the pecuniary world of college football in 2022, it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, but how much money you make. If you can put a crappy product on the field, yet still garner huge attendance numbers that keep the rest of the league happy, then you’re doing your job. However, the fans don’t give a shit about how much money you’re making. They just want their team to be in the playoffs. Anything less is failure and cause for suicidal ideation.
Penn State has long left its lofty perch atop the Big Ten East. (Actually, it was never a perennial top finisher, but has been known to have had a few good years since joining the conference in 1993). One could advance the pandemic argument for 2020 and 2021, which saw our beloved Lions lose more games than they won within the conference. Yeah, if you want to delude yourselves, you’ll cry COVID. From my perspective, they would have sucked with or without the dreaded virus. In any case, some of the presumed successes of prior years were deceptive. The 2016 Rose Bowl season was the high point of the past decade, albeit culminating in a loss to USC.
Mr. Sandman, Bring Me a Dream
As for national rankings, this once proud football program has finished in the top twenty-five just nine times between 2002 and 2021. As for the top ten, the Lions have reached it only six times in the past twenty years, with only one of those being in the top five (2005). Playoffs? Psshhhhaw!
In the eight years of the James Franklin Era, half of those years have concluded with non-winning records of .500 or below in the Big Ten. His Bowl record is equally putrid (3-4). Penn State gets invited to bowls even when they suck, because they make money for all concerned.
Penn State fans are divided into realists and stubborn idealogues. The realists admit that PSU has seen better days, while the hopelessly romantic idealists cling to the glory days of the past and think we’re just a position or two away from getting back there. This Turkey is a realist. Aerosmith’s epic classic bounces around in my bird brain. Dream on!
The Turkey writes his column sporadically throughout the year, but he tries to make snarky comments before and after each Penn State football game. As for this season, in the words of the noncommittal parent, “We’ll see…”