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Numbers tell tale on PSU

November 18, 2007
By Merl Kimmel
I have been a devoted Penn State football fan since my boyhood in the 1950s and ’60s.

It therefore chagrins me to convey to you what I feel that I must in the interest of accuracy and truth. And here it is: The Penn State football program has gone from being a first-tier lion to a strictly second-tier pussy cat.

I believe I can offer substantial proof of this descent into the pigskin maelstrom. What follows is my sad and reluctant account. But I can do no other.

I divide State’s football seasons going back to 1968 into two segments, those years from 1968 to 1999 and those from 2000-2007. During the 32 seasons represented by the former chronological demarcation, Penn State in those years had only one losing campaign, that of 1988 when the team went 5-6.

In the years from 2000 to the present, a total of merely eight seasons, the Nittany Lions have posted four losing campaigns. Percentage wise, this is a little over 3 percent compared to 50 percent.

Now to the polls ...

I found myself interested in two assessments overall — the preseason rankings of late August or early September of each college football year and the final poll in early January following the college football season.

My thinking here was that the former poll represented more psychology than reality, but was indicative of respect and esteem for the sundry college programs which existed. The latter poll was demonstrative of the real state of things, who was truly deserving of their ranking, based on performance, after all the season’s games, including the bowls, were played.

I followed the Associated Press (AP) poll with both because only the AP before 1980 had a preseason poll. But I can assure you that the other polls, whatever year, were largely in conformance (although not completely) with the AP.

From 1968 to 1999, Penn State was on 20 of the 32 occasions ranked in the Top 10 in the preseason poll. This represents 62.5 percent of the time. From 2000 to 2007, State was not once ranked in the Top 10 in the preseason AP poll.

From 1968 to 1999, the Nittany Lions were ranked in the Top 10 in the final AP poll 18 out of 32 times. This works out to 56.2 percent. From 2000 to 2007 (and I think we can safely say that State will not be listed as one of the Top 10 teams for 2007 come January of 2008), the Lions finished once (2005) in the Top 10. We’re talking only 12.5 percent here through the 2007 season.

Well, there you are. If these numbers don’t represent descent from 2000 onwards, then I should not be listened to again. It grieves me to cite these figures, but a devotion to truth leaves me no choice.

As for the reason or reasons for this, I do not cast blame, but may I say here that a tired coaching staff, all of it, should not be overlooked when assessing this sorry denouncement.

Merl Kimmel lives in Drexel Hill. This is his first submission to Voice of the Fan.

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