I know, I know. A Penn State blog picks Penn State to win the Big Ten. How original.
But there are many reasons to pick—or at least like—PSU in the Big Ten this season. Penn State is just one year removed from back-to-back 11 win seasons, and one bad season like 2010 doesn’t not create a downward trend. Recruiting hasn’t been stellar, but it hasn’t been as bad as some contend. (Remember, small classes always have lower rankings.) Everyone is quick to start closing the lid on Paterno’s casket, but the talent is there, the recent success is there, and the Big Ten lacks any dominant team this year.
Skeptics mainly point to questions at quarterback and a downturn on defense for their ammunition against PSU. Both QB starters , Bolden and McGloin, return with experience. Both will have another year of growth in the system. Both will be competent enough to keep defenses honest with the Lions’ strong receiving corps. Both will be able to hand the ball off to Penn State’s deep stable of backs. Assuming that the QB situation doesn’t turn into a major distraction and disastrous sideshow, I think either QB will be satisfactory for PSU 2011.
As for the defense, many fans (not to mention the media) have been quick to label 2010’s injury-annihilated group as a sign of Armageddon for PSU defensive dominance. Instead, folks should be looking at larger trends. Even through Penn State’s darkest days, the defense was quite good. The talent is here, and the silver lining of last year’s sick bay sideline is that our talent has gained much experience. Six returning players have started on the DL, four at LB, and six at DB. And we’re not even counting any talented players who have redshirted or any of this year’s top recruits. Expecting Penn State’s 2011 defense to look anything like last year’s is simply foolish.
Even when defenses have been strong at PSU, troubles on offense have eroded away the win column. If you study PSU offensive trends though, Penn State has successful seasons lately when they have senior-laden lines. While losing Wisniewski does hurt, the Lions return four seniors with significant experience and two juniors who have started (along with a sophomore who’s projected to start). If this unit can even come close to 2005’s or 2008’s offensive lines, a strong run game and time in the pocket shouldn’t be concerns.
With this strong rationale in mind, tomorrow I’ll submit to you what my crystal ball revealed for the 2011 Penn State squad.