Penn State is one play away from being 5-1 and possibly in the Top 25.
Instead, the Lions are 4-2 and face an almost certain loss next weekend vs. Ohio State, which might have more talent than any team in Ohio, pro or college.
So, Lion fans will take the 4-2 record, especially considering that Minnesota outplayed Penn State a couple of weeks ago, yet the Lions managed to rally to win.
With the bye week upon us, it’s a chance to grade the Lions:
— Offense: B. New QB Trace McSorley becoming a true dual threat. Running game might have finally broken through vs. Maryland. Receivers have been good. Line, though, mediocre to bad.
— Defense: C. Linebacker injuries a crusher. Six interceptions is good. D-line perhaps finding its stride. Giving up 28.5 points per game, which is too many.
— Special teams: B. Tyler Davis perfect on field goals. Freshman punter Blake Gillikin is doing fairly well and should get better. But have had a punt blocked, lost a fumble on a punt and gave up a long kickoff return to Pitt that was a killer just as the Lions had gotten close. Returns have only been average, but punt returner John Reid looks like he can break one.
— Coaching: B-. Averaging 30 points a game despite O-line issues. Defense needs to pick it up. Only averaging five penalties a game. Lions stole one vs. Minnesota (coaches get credit) but came out flat against Pitt (coaches get the blame).
— Overall grade: B-. Lions played their best game last time out vs. Maryland so they’re trending upward. A nine-win regular season is possible, eight more likely and seven would be a disappointment.
–– Outlook for the second half: McSorley is finding his groove and if the defense gets healthy, the Lions could win out after the Ohio State game. But they’ll need a good showing vs. the Buckeyes to keep the momentum.
RANDOM SHOTS AND SECOND THOUGHTS
— Last fall, I wrote this about the best things about autumn. Here are a few more: No more lawn-mowing. Guilt-free candy eating. Thanksgiving weekend.
— If the Cubs win the World Series for the first time since 1908, it would be great for Chicago and the Midwest. But wouldn’t it also end baseball’s most endearing story line?
— Two stats you probably didn’t know:
12.72 percent: Percentage of riders on New Jersey trains and buses who pass through the marshlands of Secaucus, N.J., who think they see a dead body in the swamp.
84.15 percent: Percentage chance that there actually is a dead body in there somewhere.