Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Prepared For 2018, But It Won't Be Easy
There's no particular reason to think Penn State will be bad in 2018. The Nittany Lions are talented, well coached and have perhaps the best returning quarterback in college football. The schedule is difficult but manageable, especially if all the right pieces fall into place.
Even so, it took James Franklin just moments into his media day press conference to lay the groundwork for an inevitable narrative about this season. One to be taken as seriously as the positives and hype surrounding a program that has earned the right to feel good about itself.
This isn't going to be easy.
"You know, really excited kind of about where we're at. This is the time of year where you know, you work all off-season from really the day spring ball ended to now to get prepared, and I like where we're at," Franklin said in his opening statement.
"I think we all know, we've got a lot of question marks this year, probably more than we've had the past two years and I think we have a very, very challenging schedule. But I'm excited. Walking out on the field the other day, we've got a good-looking team..'
"We're athletic. We're inexperienced but we're talented. I think we've got really strong leadership right now throughout our program but specifically with Trace and Nick and Blake for offense, defense and special teams so I'm really pleased with that."
Of course if you're searching for parallels it doesn't take much to look back to a time in 2016 when players were asked to do the very same thing, stepping up into larger roles once filled by far more established players. That season ended with a Big Ten title and perhaps one of the more unexpected runs in program history.
In truth it's a common threat among all college football programs. Sustaining success. The cyclical nature of rosters gives any team a finite amount of time to work with what it has. And while nobody can blame Saquon Barkley for taking his talents to the NFL, a single decision can play a big part in the future of a program.
Nevertheless, Penn State will take the field in a few short weeks to try and win 10 or more games for the third straight season. Something the Nittany Lions have never done since joining the Big Ten and just twice as a program ever.
"I think that's just the landscape of college football," Quarterback Trace McSorley said about programs able to build those winning streaks.
"Not just Penn State, there are a lot of teams out there that haven't been able to carry it on for three straight years. Alabama, Clemson and granted Ohio State the past few years, other teams haven't been able to do that, win 10 games for three, four, five straight years whatever it may be."
"I think thats just college football. It's just tough. It's hard to win 10 games in college football. And that's something you can't overlook and you have to be able to understand the hard work that went into do it last year and to be able to carry that on and how much harder it's going to be to do it this year. It's one of those things, it's tough and you never know what you're going to get and that's just college football and any given Saturday anyone can beat anybody."
For the observer it's what makes this season such an intriguing one for Penn State. If the Nittany Lions are able to reload lost talent and replace it with equal or better pieces, the sky might just be the limit for a program that seems tantalizingly close to the upper echelon.
If Penn State comes up short, especially with a schedule that includes four teams in the preseason Top 15, it certainly won't mean the process and successes of the past 24 months were for nothing. As the basketball program down the street so frequently reminds anyone within earshot, the process is a climb.
But as Franklin said in his own way just minutes into the start of the 2018 campaign, it won't be easy, no matter what happens.