Friday, September 26, 2008

Why Oregon State Upsetting USC is Bad For Penn State

I'm often told I'm a pessimist. So often that over the years, I've developed an reply that is now nearly automatic - "Well, I guess that mean's I'm never disappointed. I'm either right or pleasantly surprised." Consider this the crux of the following argument.

If you [somehow] haven't heard, The University of Southern California (ranked #1 in every college football poll after trashing perennial BCS Bowl contender Ohio State) was trailing Oregon State 21-0 at the half. Some of us turned off It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia to watch the greatest upset of this fall so far, some fielded texts from friends watching the game becuase that show is hillarious, and I assume some minority joined me in serendipitously being in a room with two tvs, having our cake and eating it too. Eventually, USC rallied just enough to piss away the game and give Oregon State Beaver fans their christmas present 3 months early.Now - normally in the BCS system, any contender suffering a loss is a good thing. Statistically, I can't argue with that. But a Foxsports article by Michael Rosenberg really made it clear that this presents a problem for Penn State:

"The No. 1. Trojans were just beaten by Oregon State. That is the same Oregon State team that fell behind 45-7 to Penn State, and that's the same Penn State team that is not supposed to be on the same level as Ohio State, and that is the same Ohio State that got crushed 35-3 by USC, and if you can't understand this sentence, don't worry. I wrote it and I'm as baffled as anybody."

"The quick conclusions are that Ohio State is not nearly as good as we thought, USC is a little shaky and Penn State should be in the top five. But who knows?"

This is bad. Penn State needs to fly under the radar. As a Nittany Lions fan, I know we're good. But as a college football fan, I also know that athletic talent alone doesn't decide a football game. Hype is a killer - and for a team that has lost its star defensive player (Sean Lee), is rife with off the field controversy (uh, half the team), and doesn't have a clear-cut No.1 quarterback (Clark starts, but the chants for Devlin are just an INT away), the last thing they need is the nation expecting them to be a top 5 team.

I know, most seasoned fans will take these statements with a grain of salt - the BCS is destined to be screwed up with these upsets by the end of the year - but people tend to forget how stupid media coverage can be. The very experts themselves become hype-peddlers when they should know that this hiccup doesn't circuitiously make Penn State being a Top-5 team.

Thanks to Oregon State's colossal win over USC, and their one-sided loss in Happy Valley, people will watch the Nittany Lions in prime time on ABC against Illinois this Saturday, expecting Penn State to blow the shit out of Juice Williams and the Fighting Illini. I'm not going to say it won't happen - but I'd rather have people underestimate the team.

Because it feels much better to be on the wrong end of an expected challenge (which I think, despite the disparity in Illinois' #22 ranking and Penn State's #12, this game very much is), than to be the victim of an upset.

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