Kyle Lynch and David ShonisStaff Writers
Five years ago, Penn State football went through a very hard time. It was when Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky convicted of child sex abuse and long-time head coach Joe Paterno passed away soon after he was let go by the University in the wake of the scandal. With the death of Paterno and Sandusky pleading guilty, the football team floundered. The NCAA banned the team from bowl play for the next three years. The NCAA dropped the ban on the team in 2014. However, many players who had committed to play football at Penn State had uncommitted and the university’s recruiting efforts went downhill in the midst of all the issues facing the institution.
After being banned from bowls, the Nittany Lions posted a 7-6 record (2-6 in Big Ten) in their 2014 season, and advanced to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Boston College. Penn State came away with a tough overtime victory, 31-30.
Their 2015 season looked almost identical as their 2014 as they yet again posted another 7-6 record (4-4 in Big Ten) and advanced to yet another bowl game. They were put up against a tough Georgia Bulldogs team in the TaxSlayer bowl and were beaten 24-17.
Recruiting started to take off at the end of last year, with head coach James Franklin brought in a 2016 freshman class that ranked in the top 20 in the nation. Penn State went into this season with some expectations, but no one expected them to perform at a high level.
Penn State started the season 2-2 and was defeated by #4 Michigan in week 4 by a score of 49-10. Head coach James Franklin expressed his anger to the team after the loss and knew that his players were better than that. They sure were better than that because since then the Nittany Lions have won eight in a row and defeated #2 Ohio State on their home turf. The Nittany Lions finished the season 10-2 (8-1 in Big Ten) and clinched the Big Ten East regular season title.
Penn State just faced a Wisconsin Badgers team that finished first in the Big Ten West and finished the season at 10-2 (7-2 in Big Ten) for the Big Ten Championship. The Nittany Lions were down 28-7 to Wisconsin but somehow managed to storm back and take the lead 35-31 with 13 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Penn State went on to win the game, 38-31, and capture the Big Ten title.The conversation started immediately whether Penn State deserves to be put into the playoffs to try and go after a national championship. The playoff committee did not choose Penn State. Instead, they put them in the Rose Bowl against #9 USC. The season that Penn State had went from starting the season off at 2-2 and not being ranked, to a team who finished #5 in the nation and playing in one of the biggest bowl games that are offered. Will Penn State maintain the success for the years to come? The Nittany Lions do have lots of potential for the next few years and will try to repeat the historic season that they just had this year.