Is Penn State a true national title contender?

Penn State-PurdueComing into the 2008 College Football Season, the Penn State Nittany Lions weren’t considered a national championship contender. They weren’t even considered a legitimate contender in the Big Ten, with many ranking them behind Ohio State, Wisconsin and even Illinois in the conference.

But PSU remains undefeated on the season after beating Purdue 20-6 on Saturday and even though they’re still flying under the national championship radar, teams better start taking notice. Not only do the Lions have one of the best offenses in the nation (they were averaging close to 50 points a game coming into this weekend), but they also flashed a little defense in their victory over the Boilermakers.

Penn State doesn’t have a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback like Oklahoma, Missouri or Texas – three teams currently ranked ahead of them in the polls – but so far Daryll Clark has proven that he’s an excellent fit for Joe Paterno’s new spread offense. And while he doesn’t have unworldly size and athleticism like fellow Big Ten back Chris “Beanie” Wells of Ohio State, RB Evan Royster is a workhorse that can grind out tough yards like he did Saturday against Purdue when he rushed for 141 yards and a 7.8 YPC average.

It was interesting to see PSU win like it did against the Boilermakers because it was unlike any of its previous victories this season. They didn’t light up the scoreboard or win with flash; they just kept moving the ball methodically on offense, didn’t turn the ball over and played solid defense. They proved today that they could win without relying on the big play, which should only serve them going forward.

The next three weeks will prove whether or not Penn State is a true contender or not. They’re at Wisconsin, home against Michigan and then travel to Columbus to take on OSU through the rest of October. That’s a daunting three-week task.

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