Monday, October 13, 2008

Penn State is Ranked No. 3 in Case You Haven't Heard

I'm not sure if you've heard, but Penn State is ranked No. 3 in the country. The Nittany Lions are a perfect 7-0, coming off a dominant 48-7 annihilation of Wisconsin at Camp Randall on Saturday night.

And while Penn State is getting some love in the polls, the media seems to be kindly ignoring the No. 3 team in the nation, despite the fact the Lions have completely destroyed every team they've played, remain the only unbeaten team in the Big 10 and have the most balanced offense in all of college football. Yet, Joe Paterno and his team rarely get mentioned in the national championship discussion without the disclaimer of something to the effect of: "Well, IS Penn State MAYBE in the national title hunt?"

The talk seems to be centered around the SEC and Big 12, which is understandable since both conferences are incredibly loaded, but ESPN and company seems disinterested in discussing Penn State unless it is to pile on Joe Paterno. And while the nation seemingly turns a blind eye to what's going on in Happy Valley, Penn State has simply continued to win and win big.

As one of the few people really focusing on what Penn State is doing, Adam Rittenberg points out, the critics are running out of things to say about this team.

After a 48-7 win at Wisconsin, the sixth-ranked Nittany Lions should start to get their due. Aside from non-BCS flag bearer BYU, no Top 10 team has been as convincing in victory as Penn State, which has won all seven of its games by 14 points or more.

The Lions have won by an average of 34.3 points and rank among the top 10 nationally in at least six major statistical categories. They have answered questions about their quarterback situation, their response from a troubled offseason, their ability to withstand personnel losses on defense and their poise in tough road environments.

Heading into the game on Saturday, Penn State was the only team in the country averaging more than 250 rushing yards and 240 passing yards a game. They have the most experienced offensive line in the nation, and it shows. With playmakers like Derrick Williams, Daryll Clark, Evan Royster, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood, Penn State ranks 9th in total offense, averaging over 482 yards a game, and 7th in scoring, averaging more than 45 points per game.

But Penn State isn't only impressive on offense. Through seven games, the Lions are ranked 6th in the nation in scoring defense, surrendering a paltry 11 points per game, and eighth in yards per game, allowing the opposition to gain just 259 per contest. And that balance has shown through, with Daryll Clark and Aaron Maybin named Big 10 Players of the Week. Clark brought home the award on the offensive side while Maybin broke through for the first time on defense.

The scary thing? The dominance doesn't end there. Penn State also has tremendous special teams. Kevin Kelly, who I admittedly despised before this season, is 9-for-10 in field goal attempts, Jeremy Boone has done a nice job pinning teams back, the coverage teams have been superb and Derrick Williams is Penn State's all-time leader in kick returns for touchdowns, a mark he set Saturday with this (at the 1:04 mark):

Quite simply, this team is good. Scary good. And with Michigan in a dire state, Penn State should have no trouble getting over the hump against the Wolverines at home next Saturday. Then, all that really stands in the way of a national championship birth is a tough contest in Columbus in two weeks (maybe the final game at home against Michigan State, maybe). But considering the way Ohio State played against Wisconsin, that game doesn't look quite as daunting as it did before the season began.

So, keep skimming over the details on the Lions, national media. They'll just keep on winning.

And as always, LET'S GO PHILS!!!!!

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