Best case-worst case rewind: Penn State

December, 22, 2009
12/22/09
9:00
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My look back at the best case-worst case series continues with ... Penn State.

In case you missed it: Penn State's best case-worst case.

Best-case synopsis: Penn State proves it can reload and receives repeat performances from its stars, as well as several breakout showings from younger players. ... Quarterback Daryll Clark and running back Evan Royster lead the charge on offense, while wideout Derek Moye emerges as a star. ... Penn State's defense steps up big in wins against Iowa and Illinois, setting up a showdown between two top 5 teams when Ohio State visits Happy Valley on Nov. 7. ... The Lions beat the Buckeyes in a defensive struggle and advance to the national title game, where they fall to Florida. ... Royster and linebacker Navorro Bowman stay in Happy Valley for their senior seasons, and Joe Paterno sets up a succession plan for D-coordinator Tom Bradley.

Worst-case synopsis: The Nittany Lions are out of sync from the get-go and fall to Iowa after three unimpressive wins against subpar competition. ... Clark suffers a season-ending injury in the Iowa game, turning things over to freshman quarterback Kevin Newsome, who experiences expected growing pains. ... Illinois' Juice Williams lights up Penn State in a big win, and Michigan hands the Lions another loss at the Big House. ... Penn State finishes 7-5 despite a cushy schedule. ... Bowman and Royster declare for the draft, and Paterno retires.

You can't handle the truth: (quotes from the original post) "The dominance Penn State showed for most of last season returns, as the Nittany Lions handle their business against inferior opponents." ... "Quarterback Daryll Clark and Evan Royster do their thing against Akron, but Derek Moye emerges as a playmaker at wide receiver." ... "[The Lions] take out years of frustration at the Big House by throttling Michigan 35-10 on Oct. 24." ... Penn State survives a trap game at Northwestern." ... "Penn State brings in the Big Ten's top recruiting class."

Lies, lies, lies: "Clark picks apart Iowa's secondary down the stretch. The game is tight for a half, but Penn State turns the tide by blocking a Daniel Murray field-goal attempt early in the third quarter and goes on for a 27-17 victory. Penn State fans flood the blog to gloat." ... "Illinois punishes the Penn State secondary the next week, as Williams channels his inner Mark Sanchez and tosses five touchdown passes." ... "With a chance to finally gain some national respect, the Lions edge the Buckeyes in a defensive struggle, as [Sean] Lee picks off Terrelle Pryor late in the fourth quarter to seal the win." ... "Penn State clinches its second straight Big Ten title and establishes itself as the league's third powerhouse." ... "As the only undefeated BCS team, Penn State heads back to Pasadena and faces Florida."

Reality check: Penn State ended up closer to the best-case scenario in wins, and the Lions will play in a New Year's Day bowl game for the second straight year. But given the soft schedule, Penn State could have done better. The Lions faced only two ranked teams (Iowa and Ohio State) and lost both games, with each loss coming in Happy Valley and each featuring mostly inept offense. The defense stood tall behind Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Year Jared Odrick and standout linebackers Bowman, Lee and Josh Hull. Clark had a solid season and Royster rushed for 1,104 yards behind an offensive line that took some time to jell. As predicted in the best-case argument, Penn State beat Michigan 35-10. The Capital One Bowl will go a long way toward determining the ultimate success of Penn State's season. A win sends Clark, Lee, Odrick and the seniors out on a good note. A loss would have many labeling the season as a disappointment.

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