Penn State football has had 21 10-win regular seasons in its history.
Some were heralded. Some were blasted. Some overcame expectations. Some didn’t. Some were comebacks. Some were letdowns. Some were meh.
So how should the 2023 regular season be framed after it ended with a 42-0 blowout of Michigan State?
The Nittany Lions again lost their two biggest games to Ohio State and Michigan, which underscored James Franklin’s poor record against top 10 opponents.
They rolled past almost every other opponent, including Big Ten West champion Iowa and West Virginia, which was 7-4 before its regular season finale Saturday.
Their offense ranks among the Big Ten leaders in points and yards but struggled miserably in the two games that mattered most.
Their defense has been constant and deserves its place among the best in the nation and in school history.
So will this Penn State team be remembered for what it did? Or for what it didn’t do?
“It (being 10-2) means a lot,” defensive end Adisa Isaac said. “Obviously we have a higher standard but it’s still a great season. I’m glad we did it back-to-back seasons. Not a lot of people can say they did that.”
The Lions became the 10th Football Bowl Subdivision team with at least five 10-win seasons since 2016. They’re in heady company. They’re a top-10 program, but not a top-five program because they’re 0-6 against Ohio State and Michigan the last three seasons.
Franklin deserves criticism for the Lions not making the College Football Playoff, which expands from four to 12 teams next season.
He also deserves credit for making Penn State a college football power again, especially after taking over during the throes of NCAA sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal. He has twice led the Lions to consecutive 10-win seasons, something that happened just two other times since the 1980s.
“We’ve won 10 games,” Franklin said. “We’ve done it in back-to-back seasons. I’m very proud of what we’ve done. Do I understand and do I embrace the fact that this place has really, really high expectations? Nobody has higher expectations than the players and the coaches.”
Franklin was scheduled to interview offensive coordinator candidates over the weekend and could make a hire in the next several days. He will then have one-on-one meetings with the players over the next week. The Lions will learn their postseason destination next Sunday, most likely a New Year’s Six bowl.
“You want to win every game, but not a lot of teams can do that, especially in back-to-back years,” tight end Theo Johnson said. “We know that’s a huge accomplishment and something we don’t take lightly. Wins are hard to come by in this league. The big thing is trying to become an 11-win team.”
If Penn State wins its bowl game, it would become just the sixth team with five seasons of at least 11 victories since 2016, joining Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Clemson. That would be impressive.
A win over Alabama, Texas, Oregon, Washington, Missouri or Louisville would certainly enhance the perception of this season and propel the Lions into the Big Ten’s new 18-team world in 2024.
Celebrate the accomplishments of 2023, learn from the losses and continue reaching to be elite.
“The bar’s the national championship and the Big Ten championship,” Isaac said. “You want to strive for the best. You fall short sometimes. Ten wins is not slight. You’re talking about it like it’s something bad. But it’s actually good. I still feel we’ve had a great season.”
Source: Berkshire mont