Only one unbeaten big-timer remains.
The other three’s attempts at continuing perfection went down in flames Saturday.
Yet, for all the hype and hoopla surrounding the implosions endured by Clemson, Michigan and Washington and how their losses may affect the upcoming College Football Playoff, the fact of the matter is, none of them, nor top-ranked, 10-0 Alabama, happens to be the biggest story in the sport right now.
Love it or loathe it, that honor happens to belong to Penn State, which is enjoying a rebirth to prominence foreseen by very few, if any.
May as well dispose of those “James Franklin Must Go” signs at this point.
Not that they were truly warranted in the first place.
Given where the program was following the emotionally super-charged scandal five years ago that rocked one of the nation’s top universities and had many wanting to burn its grid program until it was no more, it’s amazing that the Nittany Lions are even competitive these days, never mind ranked among the top 10 teams in the country in both polls.
Credit Bill O’Brien, the initial full-time successor to Joe Paterno, with keeping the proverbial ship afloat for years after hysteria broke loose. Credit Franklin with taking things a step further, not only in the midst of tangible obstacles linked to sanctions but intangible ones questioning his head-coaching talents.
His squad legitimately situated at No. 9 in the latest CFP power ratings, it’s safe to say the Pennsylvania native has silenced such ridiculous criticism.
For heaven’s sake, this guy won at Vanderbilt, people. Freakin’ Vandy.
C’mon. If given the chance, or at least some time, he was bound to do well in Happy Valley … and now has.
He has a bona fide star in sophomore running back Saquon Barkley, an overlooked one in sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley, a stacked corps of young receivers, a defense featuring many underclassmen, and one of the nation’s best recruiting classes already lined up for signing day in February.
In other words, don’t expect these current good times to stop rolling any time soon.
The true beauty of this revival? While second-ranked Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan have basked in the spotlight most of the season, experts going back and forth as to which will emerge as the Big Ten East Division’s rep in the conference championship game, the Lions are still in the running for that order – courtesy of beating the Buckeyes straight and the Wolverines just falling to Iowa, a team Penn State completely dismantled the week before.
OSU, U-M and PSU all stand at 6-1 in Big Ten play at the moment. Obviously, the 39-point loss in Ann Arbor doesn’t look too good, even now. But the 3-point defeat to Pittsburgh, which just beat Clemson, ain’t looking too bad.
Are the Lions on a par with the Buckeyes and Wolverines? Maybe not … yet. But they’re getting there, and they are the best story in college football this season.
Sorry, Western Michigan.