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Giger Counters: So you’re telling me there’s a chance … that PSU could win out and still go to a bowl game

It’s one of the funniest moves ever made, and “Dumb & Dumber” also gave us this classic line that gets repeated over and over and over again when it seems like the odds are slim for something to happen.

 

 

Going into the Michigan game, I wrote a story that asked if Penn State should accept a bowl bid if invited. It seemed unlikely to me, since I thought the Wolverines would beat the Nittany Lions and that the best they could finish would be 3-6.

Some fans thought even that was way too optimistic and that there’s no way Penn State could get to three wins.

Well, after Saturday’s 27-17 victory and with the way the rest of the schedule breaks down, can’t we now say this: You’re telling me there’s a chance Penn State could win out during the regular season and somehow salvage some of this mess with a 4-5 record.

A trip to Rutgers is next. Greg Schiano has that team playing better, but Penn State should be that’s should be — better than Rutgers.

Michigan State visits Beaver Stadium in two weeks. The Spartans have been bad for much of the season, although they stunned previously unbeaten Northwestern on Saturday, 29-20.

It’s certainly possible, if the Lions play the way they did Saturday and don’t turn the ball over, that they could win the next two games.

After that, it would be a game against a Big Ten West team in week nine. If PSU is 3-5, it would play a middle-of-the-pack team, such as Purdue, Minnesota or Illinois. The Lions could — that’s could — beat any of those teams on a given day, which would leave them 4-5 and possibly even in line for a bowl invitation.

I know some of you are thinking: Hang on, this team has been dreadful all season, why would anyone think it could win out? Well …

  1. The schedule is not that difficult
  2. It’s possible this Penn State team just gained a ton of confidence from Saturday’s win and will use that as a springboard to a strong finish

This year has been insane by just about any measure, so wouldn’t it be just as insane if Penn State can regroup, turn things around and finish on that kind of high note?

As I was writing this column, and thinking this exact same thing, someone texted me this:

The 2003-04 “dark years” came to an end when PSU had a goal-line stand to hold off Indiana, 22-18, then it wallopped Michigan State to end the 2004 season. Then came the great 2005 Orange Bowl season.

I’m not saying next year will be some monumental return to glory, but we’re talking momentum here. And if the Lions could somehow find a way to close this season on a winning streak, all the players and coaches would carry that with them into the offseason and next year.

If any of this is going to happen, it has to start with Sean Clifford.

The quarterback played a solid, under-control game Saturday. He came up with some huge gutsy plays in the clutch, and he didn’t turn the ball over, which is the one thing he couldn’t avoid before losing his starting job last week.

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Clifford was asked if he ever doubted himself, and the always confident QB cut off the question by answering, “No.”

The question continued, and Clifford said:

“I have never and will never doubt myself.”

Why not, he was asked.

“Why won’t I doubt myself? Because I know how hard this team works, and I know how hard I work. So there’s not one person or anybody who could tell me differently. And so it’s just that. I know the talent that we have, and I don’t really care what anybody else has to say about it.”

Those comments perfectly sum up Clifford. He’s a confident, brash guy, and he likes to talk big like that.

Clifford also is very talented, and when he protects the ball, he can give Penn State a good chance to win. He’s proven to be a good runner this season and was again Saturday with a 28-yard TD run and a 29-yard scramble to set up a field goal.

Clifford also made a huge throw on third-and-7 from the Michigan 12, hitting Jahan Dotson for first-and-goal to set up the game-sealing touchdown with 8:12 remaining.

Penn State still made a lot mistakes Saturday. It did not play a great game, but it played well enough to beat a really bad Michigan team.

As I’ve said and written many times, I believe Jim Harbaugh is the most overrated coach in any sport in this country. He has underachived dramatically at Michigan, and I’m now truly wondering if he will be forced out after this season.

But back to Penn State.

The Lions get to feel good about themselves for a week, finally, and they have a very manageable schedule the rest of the way. Certainly the team gained some confidence, and we’ll see if that confidence carries over into the coming weeks.

I’m telling you, there’s a chance it could.

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Written By

Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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