Realistically, whether or not Penn State is ranked in the top 25 doesn’t matter much.
They won’t decide who wins conference championships, and with the first College Football Playoff poll not coming until the middle of the season, they won’t hold much weight in the national title race, either.
But preseason rankings are telling of the overall state of college football programs.
In the first AP Poll of the 2022 college football season, Alabama is No. 1.
Nick Saban’s program has been the model for quite some time, and the ranking reflects that.
The No. 2 team, Ohio State, has been the Big Ten’s king for most of the past decade.
Ohio State is the best program in one of the nation’s most prominent conferences, and this high ranking reflects that.
Defending national champion Georgia is No. 3, which shows that the Bulldogs are expected to be in the thick of things again. Clemson is No. 4, which is a testament to its seven college football playoff appearances and two national championships since 2015.
Then, there’s Penn State, a team that isn’t in the top four or anywhere else in the top 25.
That’s certainly a reflection of the last two seasons, where Penn State has won as many combined games (11) as its lost.
Sure, Penn State not being ranked in the AP poll for the first time since 2016 shows that the program has taken some steps back over the past two years.
But how much does that matter?
To me, Penn State not being ranked should be looked at as a positive if anything.
Here are three reasons why.
REASON NO. 1 WHY PENN STATE NOT BEING RANKED IS GOOD: FUEL
Whenever a school as prominent as Penn State isn’t ranked in the top 25, the “chip on shoulder” cliche is going to apply.
But this year’s Penn State team might have some extra fuel, because a case could be made for it being a top 25 snub.
Penn State has a sixth-year senior at quarterback, a top 10 statical receiver from last season arrived in Mitchell Tinsley, a running game and offensive line that should be improved, a tight ends group that arguably hasn’t reached its potential yet and a defense that returns several starts from a strong 2021 effort.
So Penn State having a lot going for it and still unranked could be a motivator for the team, and while it’s sometimes overused, added fuel could help this year’s Penn State team.
REASON NO. 2 WHY PENN STATE NOT BEING RANKED IS GOOD: IT CAN’T FALL OUT OF THE RANKINGs (YET)
Picture this: Penn State comes into opening night at Purdue ranked No. 23
Purdue wins, and Penn State not only starts 0-1, but has the added embarrassment of immediately exiting the top 25.
Now, starting 0-1 is seldom, if ever, acceptable at Penn State, and losing at Purdue would be a blow regardless of ranking.
But of the two options, losing while unranked and staying unranked is preferable to losing as a fringe-top 25 school and falling out of the rankings.
Going from ranked to unranked so early in the season might not have killed Penn State’s confidence, but it wouldn’t have been good for it.
IT TAMPERS EXPECTATIONS
This is a tricky one because Penn State football will always have fans that expect too much.
But a plus of Penn State being unranked is that it tells fans not to expect too much.
Penn State isn’t a great football program, and being outside the top 25 shows that. So, while Penn State should be expected to improve upon its 7-6 record, not being ranked should be enough to tame any crazy dreams at least a little bit.
Agree with these three reasons? Disagree? Comment below.