INDIANAPOLIS -- Penn State fans booed Jim Delany at his Big Ten Championship Game. They booed him long, they booed him loud, they booed him until he stopped talking during the Nittany Lions' ceremony after a remarkable run and 21-point comeback to the Big Ten title.
Delany's supposed latest crime? Earlier in the day on ESPN's College GameDay, he explained he thought 13-0 Alabama and 11-1 Ohio State -- the team the 11-2 Nittany Lions beat on their way to the Big Ten crown -- have separated themselves and should be in the College Football Playoff.
"I don't know why they booed," Delany said on the field Saturday after Penn State's thrilling 38-31 victory over Wisconsin. "I don't know what that was for. Just fans being fans. It's cool -- all good."
They booed because of lingering resentment from the Jerry Sandusky scandal, in which Delany removed Joe Paterno's name from the Big Ten championship trophy and supported the NCAA's bowl ban, scholarship reductions and $60 million fine through an unusual process. They booed because Delany didn't make a case for Penn State on national television while supporting Ohio State. He wouldn't make the case when pressed late Saturday night.
"I'm not going to dissect it," Delany said. "That's [the CFP Selection Committee's] job, not mine. ... We wanted the human element in this process and regardless of what happens, I'll be supportive of the outcome."
All of this felt so surreal. Penn State is the most improbable Big Ten champion since 1995 Northwestern. It's a team whose athletic director felt the need to give her coach two votes of confidence during the season, a team that repeatedly fell behind in the first half, a team many pundits (myself included) thought would need a decade to be relevant again nationally after NCAA sanctions from the Sandusky scandal.
Penn State isn't going to the playoff. Deep down, Penn State people know this to be true. Deep down, some Penn State people think not going is best since this is a young team that could get destroyed by Alabama in the semifinals. Instead, the Nittany Lions can go to the Rose Bowl for potentially a more competitive game.
These are the final records vs. the committee's most recent top 25 teams: Alabama 5-0, Clemson 4-1, Ohio State 3-1, Washington 3-1, Penn State 2-2. That's not a good number for the Nittany Lions, who also have a 49-10 loss to Michigan in what feels like ages ago given how much they improved and got healthy.
There will be some shouting. That's what we do with these debates. At the very least, it will be interesting to hear the CFP Selection Committee explain why Ohio State is so far superior than Penn State that head-to-head and a conference championship shouldn't play a bigger factor.
"What I do know is we just won the toughest conference in college football," Penn State coach James Franklin said on the podium and national TV so his fans could hear. "We won nine straight. They say you're allowed to overcome early setbacks, we've done that. It's on you now, the committee."
Later, though, Franklin was more measured. He stressed he didn't want to take the pressure off the committee to strongly consider Penn State, but he also asked a reporter to repeat that the Nittany Lions are Big Ten champs.
"We've been having these [postseason football] debates for years," Franklin said. "There's always going to be challenges with it. There always will be. You look at the basketball tournament, how many teams are there, like 65 or something like that? [Actually, it's 68 teams.] And 66, 67 and 68 are complaining they should have got in. There's no perfect system. ...
"I think we can make a great case for ourselves. We're going to be part of that conversation. But at the end of the day, whatever the powers that be tell us that our future is, we're going to be really appreciative and we're going to be really happy."
Keep in perspective what the Nittany Lions just accomplished. Only a couple years removed from the loss of NCAA scholarships, they won the division over three-time national champion Urban Meyer, the $9 million man Jim Harbaugh, and 2015 playoff semifinalist Mark Dantonio. Then they beat a very good Wisconsin program making its fourth Big Ten Championship Game appearance in six years.
"He just bee-lined straight at me and rocked me in my chest," McSorley said. "I didn't even have the ball. That felt like it was kind of a message. That's how the game was going to go, kind of letting our offense know they're gonna hit us in the mouth."
Penn State didn't respond well initially. Wisconsin overwhelmed the Nittany Lions' offensive line while racing to a 28-7 lead. Penn State's first six possessions read: punt, punt, touchdown, lost fumble, turnover on down, lost fumble on what otherwise would have been a turnover on downs.
"Their D-line was giving our O-line fits," Franklin said. "And some of our young guys on that O-line were struggling. So we were trying to get those guys calmed down."
Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead found an anecdote: tempo. The offense went fast on its final possession of the first half. When Wisconsin safety Lubern Figaro tried to jump a route for an interception, wide receiver Saeed Blacknall turned a simple out pattern into an easy 40-yard touchdown with 58 seconds left.
"We felt like in the last two-minute drive they didn't handle our tempo too well," McSorley said. "We came out in the second half and wanted to push it as fast as we could and get them on their heels a little bit."
The scoring came fast and furious. Penn State put up 28 points in 17 minutes of game action. McSorley (384 yards and four touchdowns) winged the ball all over the field against the fourth-ranked scoring defense in the country. The Badgers had no answer in the secondary to handle ridiculous catches by DaeSean Hamilton (118 yards), Blacknall (155 yards) and athletic tight end Mike Gesicki (58 yards).
Now Penn State has rattled off nine straight wins. Now it's beaten the current No. 2 and No. 6 teams in the country. Now it's the champion of the best conference in America.
Star running Saquon Barkley said Penn State is "really dangerous" and McSorley has shown defenses that keep loading the box he can beat them with his arm. "I think if you look back at the last five games you probably can't find a better quarterback in the country," Barkley said.
Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said she believes the Big Ten deserves two teams in the playoff. She wouldn't say who of the perceived other top three teams -- Alabama, Clemson and Washington -- should be left out.
"I know we've got one of the best four football teams in America," Barbour said. "Do I believe we have a place [in the playoff]? Yes, I do. Who else has won nine in a row other than Alabama?"
Well, Western Michigan. But in the College Football Playoff world, rowing the boat only takes you so far as the Cotton Bowl.
"But I'll take this team anywhere," Barbour continued, "and if it's the Rose Bowl, we'll be proud to do it."
This is the odd juxtaposition of Penn State's surreal Big Ten championship. Penn State people want to boo and argue and state their case so they go through the motions of doing that. But the reality is Penn State -- yes, that Penn State -- just won the Big Ten title and they can't stop smiling and hugging and pinching themselves that this really happened.
"If we don't make the playoffs, would I be upset? Yes," Barkley said. "Because you're a competitor and you want to compete for the national championship. But you also can only control what you can control. Obviously, we set us up to either be in the Rose Bowl or the playoffs, and if we get left out, we're still in the Rose Bowl. That's the way God planned it, I guess. You can't go wrong with that."
On the field after the game, former Penn State defensive tackle Anthony Adams, who played in State College from 1992-2002, gave Franklin a huge hug. Then he showed Franklin his jeans -- they were ripped near his groin area.
"Fourth quarter," Adams explained of when his jeans ripped. "It was a first down or a stop we made -- I don't remember what, I was going crazy -- and I thought it was a little rip. I thought it was my underwear, but it happened to be my jeans. Like, how do you rip your jeans?"
Penn State fans booed Delany long and loud and from their heart. They meant what they booed.
But they're always going to remember the ripped jeans.