After all the waiting, abrupt start to B1G season jars the psyche. But at least we're not Pac-12 fans.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around this B1G season. My fan rhythm is off.
I look at the national schedule, it says this is Week 8. I look at the AP Top 25, no one listed there has played more than 5 games. Week 8? It’s late October and there are still 16 unbeaten teams in the Top 25. Granted, 7 of them haven’t played yet, 5 of those in the B1G. The other 2 come from the Pac-12, which won’t kick off for another 2 weeks — the so-called “Week 10.”
It’s weird, it’s strange, it’s disorienting. I’ve waited this long, yet don’t feel ready. I don’t trust this season. A Penn State grad, I’m leery of getting my hopes up for the Nittany Lions or B1G football in general. With kickoff against Indiana 2 days away, I’m not fired up yet. I guess having lost two previously scheduled Opening Days has something to do with that. This season remains on thin ice.
I’ll be alright, though. We’ll all be alright. The passionate fan is still in there, one questionable 4th-and-inches decision by James Franklin from coming out, in my case.
And it could be worse. The B1G could have stuck with the spring football idea and mucked up any shot for our teams to make the College Football Playoff. For now, the league is going to play games and put them on television. In these pandemic stricken times, that’ll have to be good enough.
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But, man, this situation is unsettling. When’s the last time a Penn State fan has had to worry about possibly losing the season opener? Outside of 2 losses during the sanctions era, the Lions haven’t loss an opener since 2001.
Last year, Idaho came across country to take a 79-7 beating. By the original schedule for this fall, Kent State would have visited Beaver Stadium 8 weeks ago. Instead, the Lions are off to Bloomington, Ind., for a worrisome cold start to this abbreviated season. These Hoosiers are not akin to the Vandals or the Golden Flashes, not by a long shot. They’ve given the Lions fits in tight contests 2 years running, and almost certainly will do so again with dynamic QB Michael Penix Jr. hyped and healthy and a bunch of key players returning.
Covid-19 has robbed us of the getting acquainted period of the schedule. We won’t get to see how the depth chart shakes out. We won’t get a feel for new OC Kirk Ciarrocca’s approach in low-stress victories against cupcake opponents.
Instead, teams around the B1G are diving straight into the deep end. After Indiana, Penn State plays Ohio State the following Saturday evening at home at what I assume will be an eerily quiet Beaver Stadium.
In an 8-day stretch, this bizarre season’s die will be cast. Worst case scenario, no drama remains and the Lions are 0-2 and playing out the string. Best case scenario, the Lions have an inside track to a CFP berth and we hold our breath hoping Covid doesn’t shut down the sport again before we get to the Playoff.
Sports are fraught with uncertainty, especially at the college level. If we have to deal with a bit more of it in 2020, so be it.
When the NBA returned, I tuned in almost every night to watch the boys in the bubble play in front of virtual fans in Orlando. It was weird. I got used to it. Actually got to the point that I thought I liked it better without fans. On TV, the view was awesome. No one blocking the cameras. A great view of the action. The players, to my eye, seemed as competitive as ever.
So let’s get this B1G season going. Lord knows I need a distraction from, from … well, everything else. This is what I do in the fall. This is part of who I am in the fall. In the immortal words of Zack Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman, “I’ve got no where else to go!”
Let’s kick this thing off already.