Penn State’s 0-2 start is certain to leave a lot of fans unsettled, especially after a turbulent offseason that brought heavy NCAA sanctions upon the program and shrouded its future in uncertainty.
The Nittany Lions aren’t alone in their early struggles, though, especially not in the Big Ten Leaders Division they compete in.
Wisconsin and Illinois both suffered embarrassing losses on Saturday to fall to 1-1. The No. 13 ranked Badgers fell, 10-7, against an Oregon State team that won just three games in 2011 while the Fighting Illini were clubbed 45-14 by Arizona State, which went 6-7 last year and lost its final five games.
Indiana is 2-0, but the Hoosiers’ wins have come against cupcakes Indiana State and Massachusetts.
Ohio State has looked like the leader of Leaders so far, winning its first two games comfortably. Central Florida kept things interesting in Columbus on Saturday, though, staying within a touchdown into the second half.
Legends Division foes Nebraska and Iowa, both teams Penn State is slated to face on the road this season, have stumbled early, too. The No. 16 Cornhuskers were beaten up at the Rose Bowl by UCLA while Iowa’s offense was stifled in a 9-6 loss against rival Iowa State.
In short, there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon for the beleaguered Penn State faithful. It’s faint, to be sure, but with two weeks before conference play begins, the Lions could still build some momentum before they get into their Big Ten schedule.
Penn State did outgain Virginia on Saturday and won the turnover battle 4-0 to boot. Those are things winning football teams do, even if they don’t always win.
If the Lions can get a spark with a couple of wins to close out the non-conference, there’s ample evidence to suggest they can compete once they get to league play. Penn State is down, but the conference is, too. If things break right, this flawed football team might just keep things interesting and salvage Bill O’Brien’s debut season.