Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Season Countdown: #4

Here's the countdown from the easiest game to win to the one that will send us searching for the Pepto-Bismol :

12. Eastern Illinois
11. Syracuse
10. Akron
9. Temple
8. Indiana
7. Minnesota
5. Michigan State
4. Ohio State

This will probably be a student section whiteout game. The official Whitehouse game is Iowa. This will be November, and the heavy non-white jackets will be in style.

It also won't be an 8pm game because the Big Ten, in their infinite wisdom, has decreed no night games in November. It could be a 3:30 start though. And who knows, if both teams are undefeated, the league might find a way to move this clash into primetime if it means more TV bucks.

Big Bucks. No Whammies.

While the media has ordained the Buckeyes as the heir apparent to the Big Ten Throne, and ESPN can't say enough good things about Mr. Pryor, consider this blogger somewhat unimpressed.

Granted, there is not a team on our schedule with better recruits (if you're into astrology and stars and stuff like that) and the Buckeyes have been reloading since 2002, I think there comes a time in the cycle of things when despite everything looking rosy, things just don't come together. Seven years is enough. Such is the 2009 season for Ohio State.

That is my prediction based on nothing but a vague sense of things and perhaps a quiet desperation on my part. But I am NOT impressed with Pryor as a QB. As an athlete--he's great. But if he has to pass the ball to win a game, well, he's going to have to prove it to me. I'm more afraid of Mr. Stanzi, and that's why you haven't seen the Hawkeyes on this list yet. I think Akron's QB may have more passing yards than the Buckeyes.

In the past four years, this has been a close, tough, defensive game and there is no reason to think that 2009 will be any different. Of course, I'm ignoring the last time the Buckeyes came to Beaver Stadium and pasted us 37-17 because they were great that year, we had Morelli, who knows what went wrong with our D, and Ohio State went to the BCS championship. That's how Tressel and Paterno play. It's in their sweatervests and thick glasses. It bores the hell out of Big XII fans, and most of the rest of the country, but by God, that's how we do things in this conference.

And in games like this, it comes down to who makes the fewest mistakes. Home field advantage is critical. How well will Pryor handle the noise? Will our defense feed off the energy of the fans? Turn-overs are crucial. Who will flinch first?

Clark is from Ohio, and despite Penn State winning last year, I think that game left a bad taste in his mouth. It was Devlin who actually led the winning score as Clark prowled the sideline with a concussion. There's no way to predict injuries, but barring one, I look for Clark to be back for some redemption. This is his team. His home. His game. And a 110,000 of his friends will be right there with him. You won't read that kind of advantage in any media guide or statistics report.

This is Penn State football at its finest, unless of course, we lose.

If any other team lost seven starters, you wouldn't expect them to win the conference. That list includes Beanie Wells and Brian Robiskie. Add to that defensive playmakers like Lauranitis, Freeman and Jenkins, and you shake your head wondering how anyone could expect this team to compete for the conference title. And to make the rebuilding on defense even trickier, the Buckeyes will be without Tyler Moeller, who suffered a terrible head injury in a tragic attack.

Part of the explanation is the perception that the Big Ten is "down." Despite their losses, they are still more talented than the teams around them. And part--a large part--is the fact that the Buckeyes have shown the ability to reload rather than rebuild.

On the other side of the ball, Buckeye fans think that this is Pryor's game. . . that last year's painful loss is a motivation for him to move to the next level. And against USC, I expect that to happen--I expect him to play better. I hope he beats the Trojans just so we can stop this crap about how down the Big Ten is as a conference.

But it is quite another thing as a sophomore to come into a venue like Beaver Stadium and silence the crowd, which is pretty much what he's going to have to do to win this game. If he can do that, then I will be impressed. Until then, we'll just have to wait and see.

Overall, I like how we match-up with the Buckeyes and having this game at home is huge.

No comments: