This is a critical offseason for Penn State, even if the Nittany Lions don't have a bowl from which to build on for the first time in eight seasons.
Coach Bill O'Brien and his staff were busy traveling this month to re-affirm and finalize Penn State's first recruiting class since the NCAA announced sanctions against the school in July for the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.
An overachieving 8-4 season appears to be carrying over to the recruiting trail. Blue-chip prospects like Pennsylvania tight end Adam Breneman and Virginia quarterback Christian Hackenberg have stuck to their commitments, and others are on the way.
So, as thoughts turn to a new calendar year, and Penn State fans go through a holiday season in which they aren't packing their bags for a sunny bowl destination, at least there is a wave of optimism that should carry them all the way to September and the kickoff of Year 2 with O'Brien.