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Unhappy Valley

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Time catches up to all of us. For some it soars right by while we aren't looking, and for others it creeps up at a snail's pace.

Joe Paterno has been the top man at Penn State for 45 years now and it could just be that he and Father Time have finally met out there in central Pennsylvania.

With four losing seasons since the turn of the century, things aren't the same at Penn State. The Nittany Lions have long been a national power, one that is supposed to be a valuable commodity come bowl season. However, this could be the very last year that JoePa remains in charge.

Inconsistency is the main problem. Despite several sub par seasons since 2000, there have been others where Penn State has been on the cusp of a national title, none more heart-breaking than in 2005. We all remember the Michigan game, when Big Ten officials put two seconds back on the clock, allowing the Wolverines to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and sink Penn State's perfect season in the process.

With four losing seasons since the turn of the century, things aren't the same at Penn State.
On to the here and now. The 2010 Penn State squad is an even 3-3 on the year. The wins were expected, knocking off lesser foes Youngstown State (44-14), Kent State (24-0) and Temple (22-13). Two of the losses were probably expected as well, but getting blown out by Alabama (24-3) and Iowa (24-3) wasn't.

Then there was this past weekend. Illinois came to University Park having never won there. It was Penn State's Homecoming and the town abuzz with anticipation of a big Nittany Lion victory. What transpired over the 60 minutes of football can only be described as a huge letdown, as the Illini pummeled Penn State on their own field, in a 33-13 rout. It was just the sixth time in Paterno's tenure that Penn State has lost a homecoming game.

It very well may be the last.

There is no doubt that Paterno is seasoned, his 2010 team however, is anything but. Is it all Paterno's fault? Certainly not. The team is extremely young, being led by a freshman quarterback and the defense has been ravaged by injuries.

Still, excuses are unacceptable in Happy Valley. It is the burden Paterno must carry for his extended period of success.

Paterno is in his 61st season on the Penn State coaching staff, With the most victories at the Division I level (397), the most bowl victories (24) and the most bowl appearances (36) to go along with two national titles (1982, 1986) and five undefeated campaigns (1968, 1969, 1973, 1986, 1994), it is awfully hard to find fault in the Hall of Famer.

In looking at the rest of the schedule this year, there is only a few games that could be viewed as potential wins. The Nittany Lions travel to Minnesota and get Northwestern and Indiana at home. Claiming victory in those three games is certainly attainable, although at this point, nothing is a given. The other three games on the docket, home against Michigan and Michigan State and a road game at top-ranked Ohio State are currently penciled in as losses.

If Paterno were to step away at the end of the season with three more victories, he would have 400 in a truly distinguished career. It isn't the most important thing in the world, but 400 is a nice round number and a milestone that isn't likely to be met by any other coach on the current horizon.

In breaking it down, the best Penn State can hope for this year is a 6-6 record. That is if everything goes right.

Of course, if you've been paying attention to what is going on these days in Happy Valley, you would know that little if anything has gone according to plan.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.

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