Is Penn State national championship-caliber? Walt Moody at Centre Daily says that maybe those who thought they were aren't so crazy after all--
"The reason the picture is looking rosier for the Nittany Lions is that the rest of the Big Ten’s supposed elite has looked so mediocre over the opening weeks..."
Here are the elements working in PSU's favor, along with some cautionary points on each one.
--Michigan's complete collapse. Penn State would benefit from a Wolverine win over Notre Dame this weekend. The Lions need to go into Ann Arbor on September 29. That's likely too early for Lloyd Carr to have all the problems fixed by, however you wouldn't want to be the team betting the odds that any Michigan team would lose four straight at home.
--Wisconsin looking beatable. This one's tough to say. I was skeptical of the Badgers' 42-21 opening win over Washington State, but we really have no idea if beating WSU at home by three touchdowns is any less impressive then beating Notre Dame at home by three touchdowns.
--Ohio State's youth. The Buckeyes are still putting all the pieces in place. They may have them there by October 27 when they play the Nittany Lions, but that game will be in Happy Valley. I have a very hard time picturing Penn State losing this game under the lights.
--The schedule in general. Along with Ohio State, both Wisconsin and Iowa have to come to Beaver Stadium. Can anyone really picture that defense losing a game on its home field?
Penn State will have to get a little bit more out of its offense if they are to go the distance. But not much more. You can't beat a team you can't score against, and I have not seen an offense in the Big Ten that is ready to put up points against this D. I think the question will be whether PSU will be ensnared in a trap game in the road. Not only Michigan, but also Illinois loom ahead.
I don't know that Penn State will go undefeated and I'm not even ready to anoint them the conference favorite. But they are the team who has at least shown the potential to make a national splash before it's over.