Column: Pinstripe Bowl a Must Win for Penn State
On July 23, 2012, Penn State football was dead—or so the world thought. We stand here nearly two and a half years later, and Penn State is going bowling. A program that’s been through the ringer over the last few years finally has a chance to move forward.
On Dec. 27 when the Nittany Lions travel into Yankee Stadium to take on the Boston College Eagles, they’ll head into the game with an opportunity to finish the season 7-6 in the first season of the James Franklin era--and perhaps even more notably, without a losing season during the "sanction era".
When the sanctions were handed down just a few years ago, the media, fans, and pundits everywhere called it the beginning of the end for Penn State football. Thanks to Bill O’Brien and currently James Franklin, Penn State football never died and is primed to come back better than ever. However, a loss to Boston College could squander some of that hope and quell some of the positivity surrounding this program.
Many believe this is just an arbitrary game, only important for the extra practice and game action for this young team. While that is all well and good, and certainly important, this is a must win game for a school and a program moving past the “sanction era” and into a new light.
After two improbable winning seasons under Bill O’Brien, anything else would be a step back. Sure, this is an extremely young team, second youngest in the country, in fact. Sure, this is a coach in his first season, but three straight winning seasons in sanction filled years would be nothing short of incredible. For a program that’s been through so much, adding another winning season despite the hindrance of sanctions means everything.
Another winning season would show the resilience that these players have displayed through the course of these last few years. No one could have blamed them if they fell underneath the weight of the scrutiny and negativity surrounding the program. I know I couldn’t. But they stuck around, they battled and they put themselves in the position to walk out with three winning seasons for this program.
Many predicted it would take years to bring this program back from the dead. Some said it would be a decade before Penn State was relevant again. Well, this is the game that can truly prove all the doubters wrong. A 7-6 record, especially in a down Big Ten, doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but in this scenario, the impact would be immeasurable.
To play a season with less than 50 scholarship players and finish with a winning record would set this program up for the future, even more than it already is.
Despite his recruiting acumen and current situation, James Franklin has taken some heat this year, both warranted and unwarranted. With a bowl win, Franklin and his young team can prove those who still don’t believe in this program wrong.
The way I see it, without a win, rightly or wrongly, this season is viewed as a failure by some. A win in this game gives Penn State that third straight winning season that not one sane person would’ve predicted in July 2012. A win proves everyone throughout the world of college football wrong. A win means Penn State football is back on the national map, at a point where no one thought they would be.
Jeff Jezewski is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.