There's a lot to be thankful for, Nittany Nation

If you’re a Penn State sports fan, there’s a lot to be thankful for these days.

Let’s take a look around at all of the wonderful things going on at Penn State.

Penn State football – The Nittany Lions are a 21-point favorite at Maryland on Saturday. Barring complete college football craziness, Penn State will finish the regular season at 10-2 and ranked in the Top 10.

Because we’ve witnessed it the past two seasons, it’s sometimes hard to comprehend how absolutely amazing it all is. Keep in mind that Penn State lost its two games by a combined four points. If not for a miraculous comeback by the Buckeyes and a momentum-shifting weather delay in East Lansing, the Lions would likely be undefeated and very much in the College Football Playoff picture.

Regardless, they are likely headed for a New Year’s Day Bowl game and another stellar season that Nittany Nation can be proud of – and thankful for.

Saquon Barkley – What more can you say about this kid that hasn’t already been said? His junior season has been one giant highlight reel. Simply put, he can do it all: run, catch, throw and return. Did we miss anything?

A one-time Heisman front-runner, Barkley probably should get a few more votes after the classless display Baker Mayfield put on against Kansas. Barkley is the complete player, the consummate teammate and just an all-around good guy. On the Sunday following Penn State’s win over Rutgers, Barkley went and had breakfast with children from the Centre County Youth Service Bureau. What an amazing guy. We have truly witnessed greatness this season. Enjoy the regular season finale and bowl game. Barkley is truly a once-in-a-lifetime player.

James Franklin — When Bill O’Brien left Penn State, many questioned which direction Penn State would go. It picked the right one. Credit former athletic director Dave Joyner with a monster hire. Franklin struggled early, and after a 2-2 start last season, some of the national talking heads put him on the hot seat.

He responded. The Nittany Lions rolled off nine consecutive wins on their way to a Big Ten Championship that no one saw coming. The Nittany Lions came up just short against USC in the Rose Bowl. This season, Franklin picked up right where he left off and has his squad on the verge of a New Year’s Day bowl. Penn State football is indeed back.

107k strong — While Beaver Stadium doesn’t have a White Out-size crowd each and every week, attendance at Penn State is pretty darn impressive. Name another fan base that can fill a stadium that size. When it comes to tailgating, gameday atmosphere and overall attendance numbers, Penn State is truly unrivaled.

Penn State wrestling — It’s early in the season, but Cael Sanderson’s Nittany Lions are on a roll. They are off to a 3-0 start and are winning matches in impressive fashion. They defeated Army West Point (45-3), Bucknell (36-6) and Binghamton (40-2). At the Keystone Classic on Sunday, Penn State finished first with 190.5 points.

The Nittany Lions have a ton of matches left and the meat of their schedule is down the road, but there’s no reason to think that the Nittany Lions can’t win another National Championship in Cleveland in March.

Penn State women’s volleyball — Russ Rose’s squad is — surprise — on a roll once again. The Nittany Lions head into the weekend with a No. 1 ranking and an impressive 27-1 record. The Nittany Lions play at Wisconsin and at Minnesota on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Could Rose capture yet another title and bring more hardware back to University Park?

Don’t bet against him.

Penn State women's soccer — Don't look now, but the Penn State women's soccer team is on a roll. The Nittany Lions have won three consecutive playoff games (Stony Brook, Wake Forest and West Virginia). Next up for the Nittany Lions: Stanford on Friday, Nov. 24, for a berth in the College Cup. The Nittany Lions boast an impressive 15-4-4 record as they gun for another National Championship.

Stay tuned.

Penn State men’s basketball — In spite of a 98-87 loss to Texas A&M on Tuesday night in the Legends Classic, the Nittany Lions are indeed on the rise. It’s fitting that the team’s hashtag #ClimbWithUs, because this squad is indeed on the climb in 2017-18. The non-conference schedule isn’t especially daunting, so there’s a chance that the loss to A&M may be the lone blemish as the squad heads to conference play at the end of December.

Penn State women’s basketball — Yes, it’s early in the season, but head coach Coquese Washington has the Lady Lions humming already. There were some key departures during the offseason, but these young Lady Lions have potential and are extremely fun to watch. They’re in Las Vegas for the holiday and have a couple of critical games on Friday and Saturday against Louisiana Tech and Kansas State, respectively.

The Lady Lions have plenty of time to fine tune things and get back to the big dance.

Facilities — No matter where you go on campus, Penn State’s athletic facilities are second to none. Beaver Stadium. Pegula Ice Arena. Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. The venues are some of the best in the Big Ten, if not the country.

Graduation rates — Talk about saving the best for last.

Penn State athletics continues to shine when it comes to student athletes.

Graduation rates were recently announced by the NCAA. In the most recent report, student-athletes at the University Park campus across all teams earned a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 90 percent. This ties the Penn State's all-time record set in the 2010 NCAA report.

The Nittany Lions’ 90 percent graduation rate compares to the 86 percent average for all Division I schools for student-athletes entering from the 2007-08 through the 2010-11 academic year. Over the past 11 NCAA reports, Penn State student-athletes have earned GSRs from 88 to 90 percent. In the 2015 released report, the average was 88 percent. It increased to 89 percent the following year and further advanced to 90 percent this year.

As you can see, there’s a lot to be thankful for, Nittany Nation.

 

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