Times have changed in Happy Valley with the quickness. Two weeks ago, the Nittany Lions were riding high, looking to down the Ohio State Buckeyes and cement themselves as one of the top teams in the country.
That didn’t happen.
The Buckeyes won a thriller, and Penn State dropped their first game of the season. But they still had a lot to play for, and a dominant performance against Michigan State the following week would have spoken volumes to decision makers in the College Football Playoff committee.
Instead, coach James Franklin and his Nittany Lions fell to the Spartans thanks to a field goal as time expired.
On Sunday, coach James Franklin took responsibility for what he perceives is his teams inability to perform under the “bright lights”.
“I would describe us as a young program,” Franklin said. “We haven’t been a part of these conversations for a long time. We haven’t handled it well, and that’s on me.”
While speaking with ESPN, Franklin went on to say that the College Football Playoff rankings have had too much influence over his players. As a team that is just beginning to enter the college football spotlight again, his young players are having a hard time handling all of the pressure and scrutiny that powerhouses are subject to. I believe this is what Nick Saban calls “rat poison”.
“When things are going well, there’s a lot of noise, a lot of positivity, a lot of patting on the back. Then when you lose the game, it’s the complete opposite. It couldn’t be more negative. For us in the past, we haven’t worried about all those things. There’s playoff rankings coming out. There’s this. There’s that. Stuff that doesn’t matter.”
The Nittany Lions draw Rutgers next week in a game they should be able to win. They remain alive in the Big Ten, and if they can manage to win out the rest of the way, they have a legitimate chance at a Big Ten championship appearance. Their College Football Playoff hopes have officially fallen off the table as a two-loss team, but repeating as conference champions would be a worthy prize as well.