Wrapping up the college football season while tipping our cap (even if we don't wear one) to Alabama:
* The Big Ten took a major step toward inclusion in the conversation on college football's best conferences with a strong showing in the bowl season after the league went 4-3 with Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State and Wisconsin each decking higher-ranked teams. Two teams that lost, Northwestern and Minnesota, were in position to win while Michigan State performed respectably against inspired Texas Tech. Beating the likes of Oregon, Georgia Tech, LSU and Miami should help the perception of the Big Ten entering 2010.
* Penn State will need all the confidence it can get Sept. 11 in Tuscaloosa.
* Once Michigan gets its program back together, the league will be that much stronger. The Lions and Daryll Clark didn't get credit for beating Michigan these last two years, and rightfully so since the Wolverines have been defenseless under Rich Rodriguez, but the current state of Michigan should get better soon.
* Wonder how Penn State fans would have felt had LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson saluted them following a touchdown the way Clark did when the Lions went up 7-0.
* One product of Joe Paterno being in the twilight of his career comes in the Nittany Lions' staff approach to officiating. It's now apparently OK for just about every assistant to scream at the zebras. At one point in the Capital One Bowl game -- and this was actually funny - Kirk Diehl was four steps onto the field while protesting a call. Diehl is PSU's facilities and equipment coordinator.
Ranking PSU's two-loss teams
Joe Paterno has coached 10 teams that finished the season with two losses, including this past season when the Nittany Lions finished 11-2. The Mirror's Neil Rudel attempts to rate those teams:
1981Alabama, at MiamiTalent-wise, this team might have been the best in PSU historyNo. 3
1991at USC, at MiamiPounded Top-10 teams Ga. Tech, Tennessee; barely lost to 'CanesNo. 3
1993Michigan, at Ohio StateFirst year in Big Ten. Crushed Tennessee in Citrus for '94 springboardNo. 8
1996at Ohio State, IowaLooked great vs. USC in Kickoff Classic, buried Texas in FiestaNo. 7
2008at Iowa, USCRates slight nod over 2009 team because of win in Columbus No. 8
2009Iowa, Ohio StateStrong leadership showed character in rallying from behind vs. LSUNo. 9
1980at Nebraska, PittKey wins were at A&M, at Missouri and beatdown of Buckeyes in FiestaNo. 8
1972at Tenn., OklahomaLost 28-21 in first night game ever at UT, didn't have Cappy (illness) in SugarNo. 10
1967at Navy, UCLAYouth movement set stage for Paterno era, albeit his crazy call that led to FSU tieNo. 10
1974at Navy, at N.C. StateLosses by total of six, including upset by unranked, Holtz-coached Wolfpack.No. 7
* It was nice to see Bobby Bowden win his final game.
* A peek at PSU's 2010 schedule shows there's a very good chance JoePa could get No. 400 at home next year against, should the Lions be able to defeat them, Michigan or Northwestern.
* The long layoff before the bowls seems to affect offense more than defense.
* If the Big Ten expansion goes beyond 12 teams and the league can't entice Notre Dame, Rutgers and Boston College would offer huge TV markets.
* I didn't see a better running back all year than Pitt's Dion Lewis.
* The biggest negative about FOX having the BCS is you're asked to listen to announcers that you haven't heard all year.
* Part of the fallout from Illinois' struggles included the firing of Altoona native Jim Pry, who coached the Illini receivers since 2006.
* Monster Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who dominated the Lions and was equally impressive in the Orange Bowl, has said he'll be returning for a final season. We'll see. Much as some of these kids love the college experience, sometimes they have no choice financially but to leave. Clayborn looks like a first-round draft pick.
* Navorro Bowman and Evan Royster made the right choices. Bowman has a chance to be one of Penn State's better NFL players fairly quickly. Though Penn State said Royster's decision was made without input on his potential draft status - do you really believe that? - it's doubtful No. 22 would have been picked high if at all.
* In order for the Lions to take the next step and further elevate themselves, they need to rectify this: There are at least three quarterbacks from Pennsylvania playing well in the NFL - Matt Schaub (Virginia/Houston), Matt Ryan (BC/Atlanta) and Chad Henne (Michigan/Miami) - who didn't come to Happy Valley.
* Circle your calendar: The Blue-White game is April 24.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or email@example.com.