Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Weekly Rooting Guide

There are no Big Ten games this week, but one conference team is still playing. Illinois takes on Cincinnati and is a 17.5 point dog. GO ILLINI!

In other top ranked action . . .

Florida is a 3 TD favorite over Bowden's Seminoles. GO GATORS!

Bama takes on Auburn and is favored by 12.5. GO TIGERS! Imagine the BCS angst if Bama loses then beats Florida. Is it even possible to have a BCS title game without an SEC team? (Actually, Texas and USC accomplished it already, but this one might include TCU, Boise State or Cincinnati!)

Texas is a 22.5 point fave over Texas A&M. GO AGGIES!

TCU is a 41 point favorite over New Mexico. New Mexico is 1-10. Good luck with that.

Pitt is a mere 1 point favorite in Morgantown. Go NEERS!

Ga Tech is 7.5 favorites over Georgia. Go Bulldogs! Salavage that season!

In games featuring PSU opponents:

Akron is favored over winless Eastern Michigan by 17.

Temple is a 2.5 point favorite over Ohio. Go Owls!

Connecticut is favored by 11 over Syracuse. GO ORANGE!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Blogger's Nightmare


Blog Poll Week 12

RankTeamDelta
1Texas
2Alabama
3Florida
4Cincinnati
5Boise State
6TCU
7Georgia Tech
8Pittsburgh
9Oregon
10Ohio State
11Oklahoma State
12Iowa 2
13Penn State 2
14Virginia Tech 2
15Brigham Young 4
16Miami (Florida) 5
17Houston 5
18Southern Cal 2
19Utah 4
20Temple 4
21Clemson 4
22Nebraska
23Wisconsin 11
24LSU 11
25California
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Stanford (#17), Rutgers (#18).


Here are the TAS Computer Ranks based on the NCAA statistics:



RANKTeamWin/LossNCAA RankWeighted RankSchedule StrengthTAS Score
1Alabama145393.06
2Texas154654.69
3Florida122815.38
4Cincinnati186745.56
5TCU133936.25
6Boise St.1111137.25
7Pittsburgh8910249.19
8Georgia Tech716217312.77
9Oregon1222161414.91
10Ohio St.910116015.63
11Penn St.9778316.63
12Iowa937323216.88
13Oklahoma St.1230245818.66
14Central Mich.12121210919.97
15Virginia Tech1915131820.43
16Utah1229229120.53
17BYU1235208820.60
18Temple12243011622.28
19Clemson1920184322.61
20Houston12264111122.78
21Wisconsin1918234622.99
22Oregon St.1936264123.99
23Miami (FL)1952431124.18
24Mississippi1925196924.61
25North Carolina1941444125.43
26LSU1944463725.49
27Navy1927277725.74
28Nebraska1934297125.93
29West Virginia3438312826.19
30California1940368527.61

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lions Over Spartans 42-14

Penn State’s defense held tight and shut the Spartans down on their first possession. Clark opened the offense with a completion, and then Royster went over a thousand yards on the season with a rush around the corner and another first down. But the good field position would be squandered on three incompletions and Boone punted the Spartans deep at their nine.

Michigan State managed a first down on a circus catch but could not sustain any momentum, forced to punt it back to Penn State. Like the Spartans, Penn State looked like they were going to get a drive going, but the Lions were unable to handle the blitz twice and ended up punting Sparty back inside the 20 yard line.

The PSU D bent a little but stopped the Spartans and forced a punt. A theatrical fake by the Spartan punter got a five yard penalty and the Spartans re-punted with about the same result. But true to the script so far, Penn State moved the ball on one first down, stalled, and promptly pinned the Spartans back at their ten yard line. Who would blink first?

I hate these games where the game plan seems to be to see who makes the first mistake. Our defense plays with heart and fire. Our offense seems like they’re playing with fire—afraid to get burned and distracted by shiny objects.

Then the defense lapsed and Michigan State moved the ball on the ground for 53 yards on three plays, but then the drive stalled yet again and they punted. But field position had flipped and now it was Penn State pinned at their ten yard line.

I thought at this point that this drive would be key. A three-and out would improve the field position battle for the Spartans. But we put together a great drive, came up short, and capped it with a missed field goal.

Finally, on our next possession, the offense continued to click long enough for a touchdown throw to Quarless for the first points of the day!

With only a couple of minutes left in the game, it looked good for Penn State as the Spartans hadn’t been able to mount any kind of drive without some big plays. But I thought too soon, as a few big plays later, the Spartans were at our ten knocking at the door. Drama and suspense I could do without. Sure enough, right after they flash up the graphic that PSU has the best red zone defense in the country, the Spartans score.

When you think things will quiet down, PSU sends Green back for the kickoff to the 33. A couple of big plays later and it looks like PSU was going to move right down the field but a wide-open Zug drops a pass that might have put us in field goal position. Penn State recovered, but then Clark is sacked on the next play forcing us out of field goal range and out of time outs with seven ticks left on the clock. Did I say out of field goal range? Penn State would try it anyway from 51 yards. NO GOOD! Yes, we were out of field goal range, and out of time.

So in one half of play, we let a crappy opponent hang around. We left at least 6 points on the field due to the lack of a decent kicker—I know . . . the latter was 51 yards and not his fault. But the first one was, and this isn’t the first game he has missed field goals. Anyone who thought he was going to make that 51 yarder has never seen this kid kick before. But worse than that were two plays by veteran seniors that really let this team down—Hull not looking back in the endzone for a very defensible pass that would have saved a TD, and Clark for taking a sack in a situation where you can’t afford to take a sack.

The second half couldn’t have opened in better fashion. Green returned the kick-off to the 45 yard line, perhaps our best return in six decades. That’s an exaggeration but it feels that way! The Lion offense looked crisp. Aided by a roughing the passer penalty, Drake hit Quarless in the back of the endzone to put Penn State up 14-7. You gotta love the Drake!

And then we kicked the ball into the endzone?! Who is playing special teams for Penn State in this half???

Another defensive stand and a poor punt set the Lions up in decent field position for their next drive. Starting from our 35, there should be no holding back the playbook now. Score again and put this beast away. Instead, we run two plays and Clark is sacked on third and one. Boone pins Sparty back at the 16 yard line, but another golden opportunity is squandered with uninspired play.

Penn State forces a three and out aided by a dropped pass on third down by a well-covered receiver. The punt exchange cost us a yard as we take possession back on our 34 yard line. Once again—good field position, but can we capitalize on it?

This time the Lions didn’t disappoint. A first down was followed by a false start on Landolt. Here we go again, I thought prematurely. But we recovered with a big draw by Royster to the MSU 31. And then we lined up in the power I. Even I thought we were going to run the ball. MSU was also fooled as Suey slipped out of the backfield and took the pass to the endzone. The play was reviewed but confirmed the TD.

Sparty responded with a good return to the 38. After Josh Hull was called for PI—spot foul—and Sparty got called for a hold, Sukay picked off a Kissing Cousins pass and returned it to the MSU 32. Clark went for the kill, connecting with Zug for a TD on the very next play. Now that is Penn State football!

The Spartans fared no better on the next series, showing why they failed to beat ND (mired in an OT yawn fest with Connecticut) and Central Michigan, as Sean Lee picked off Cousins to give Penn State great field position again. Clark played pitch and catch again and this time Zug got to dive across the pylon for a Penn State TD.

The fourth quarter ended with the two teams exchanging scores, including a QB sneak by Newsome. The final score was 42-14.

This game, a “big game” in terms of what it meant in the bowl picture for both teams, was a great win in some respects, but the elements of disaster were still there, just beneath the surface, waiting to emerge with a splash and a plop. Both field goals were missed while the game was very much in doubt. The offense can’t seem to stay focused for more than half a game. You can argue all you want about the rebuilding O-line and the losses at wide receiver, but folks this is the 12th game of the next season. Inexperience is no longer an excuse.

For all the bluster and hype of this series, Michigan State is, how did Craig James put it, a “good middle of the pack Big Ten team.” He was being generous, but then he was comparing the Big Ten schedule to Boise State’s and I agree with his overall premise that league play in our conference is more difficult than the road which Boise State has traveled.

Clark had a record setting day on the field and I’m really glad his last regular season game gave him a chance to showcase his skills. Hopefully, that success and confidence will sweep him to a bowl win over a team that I am confident will be better prepared and more talented that this Spartan team was.

BY THE NUMBERS:

From GoPSUsports:



Team Totals PSU MSU
FIRST DOWNS 24 16
Rushing 7 5
Passing 16 10
Penalty 1 1
NET YARDS RUSHING 188 94
Rushing Attempts 38 25
Average Per Rush 4.9 3.8
Rushing Touchdowns 1 0
Yards Gained Rushing 213 121
Yards Lost Rushing 25 27
NET YARDS PASSING 324 239
Completions-Attempts-Int 20-28-0 20-33-2
Average Per Attempt 11.6 7.2
Average Per Completion 16.2 11.9
Passing Touchdowns 5 2
TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS 512 333
Total offense plays 66 58
Average Gain Per Play 7.8 5.7
Fumbles: Number-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties: Number-Yards 6-27 6-60
PUNTS-YARDS 5-192 9-337
Average Yards Per Punt 38.4 37.4
Net Yards Per Punt 38.2 36.0
Inside 20 5 3
50+ Yards 1 0
Touchbacks 0 0
Fair catch 1 3
KICKOFFS-YARDS 7-475 2-125
Average Yards Per Kickoff 67.9 62.5
Net Yards Per Kickoff 44.0 31.0
Touchbacks 2 0
Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD 4-13-0 2-1-0
Average Per Return 3.2 0.5
Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD 2-63-0 5-127-0
Average Per Return 31.5 25.4
Interceptions: Number-Yds-TD 2-47-0 0-0-0
Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD 0-0-0 0-0-0
Miscellaneous Yards 0 0
Possession Time 33:56 26:04
1st Quarter 6:35 8:25
2nd Quarter 8:49 6:11
3rd Quarter 7:43 7:17
4th Quarter 10:49 4:11
Third-Down Conversions 6 of 13 2 of 12
Fourth-Down Conversions 0 of 0 0 of 0
Red-Zone Scores-Chances 2-2 1-1
Sacks By: Number-Yards 1-9 4-20
PAT Kicks 6-6 2-2
Field Goals 0-2 0-0





INTANGIBLES:

Michigan State won the toss and elected to receive.

This is only the second time since joining the Big Ten that Penn State went undefeated on the road in conference play. The other time was 1994.

Penn State now leads the series 14-12-1.

This season is the 21st time a Paterno team has won at least 10 games in a season.

This is win number 393 for Joe who is STILL five ahead of Bobby after his Seminoles pulled a late victory over the Terps.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

The Buckeyes beat THEM 21-10. Iowa beat Minnesota 12-0. Northwestern upset the Badgers 33-31. Purdue beat Indiana 38-21 to win the Old Oaken Bucket that the wolverines threw up in.
Penn State gets to redecorate its den with the Land Grant Trophy, and Iowa ended up with a Pig.

Illinois still has two non-conference games remaining, @ Cincinnati on Nov. 27 and hosting Fresno State on Dec. 5.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1. For THEM—sitting at home for the holidays
2. For LSU—some posters are looking for a new coach
3. For Iowa or PSU—whichever team doesn’t win the beauty contest
4. For RutgersAl—his “top-ranked” team is just rank, losing to Syracuse

LOOKING AHEAD:

At this point, it is a waiting game. Either Iowa or Penn State should be picked as an at-large BCS team with 10-2 records. Iowa won the head to head, but that is not a criterion for bowl selection. Penn State has the bigger TV audience—and that may be a criterion.

Possible bowl bids, depending on how the rest of the season pans out for teams that are still playing include the Fiesta, Orange of Cap One Bowls.

Asked about the situation, Paterno responded:
"What do you want me to say?," Paterno asked reporters outside Spartan Stadium. "Pick us. Maybe I could get on the phone and call somebody and say, 'you owe me one,' or 'you might find a horse's head in your bed'."

Well, if it works . . .

Have a Happy Thanksgiving. Don’t eat too much Hokie!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

NLC Donations Revisited

Since the leak of a major upheaval in donations for Penn State tickets, some more reports are coming out--not so much details, but explanations and excuses.

First, the reason. Ohio State' tickets cost more. From Cory Giger in the Altoona Mirror:

Many Penn State fans are frustrated or angry over reports about a substantial hike in season-ticket prices, but they also should know that for years it's been cheaper to attend games at Beaver Stadium than it has been at more than half the other schools in the Big Ten.

And when it comes to Ohio State season tickets, that's a whole other ballgame entirely. The Buckeyes charge fans a minimum donation of $1,500 simply for the right to be able to purchase season tickets.

Fans who want premium seats, meaning those near midfield, must pay a donation of $600 at Iowa, $500 at Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota and $250 at Wisconsin.

So if those other schools all jump off a cliff, are we supposed to follow suit?

Of course, we trot out the same sorry excuse we always do . . . Penn State football must subsidize nearly the entire atheltic department.

JoePa added the athletic programs "don't get a nickel from the university for anything" and are "completely self-supporting."

"They got to do something [to raise money] or we got to cut back sports, and we don't want to do that," Paterno said.

You wily old man you. The early projections of this new system suggest that the University stands to make an additional 22-26 MILLION dollars in revenue by extorting its loyal fan base. Are athletic costs really going up that much? Are we paying Russ Rose $10 million a year now? Is the Fencing team using silver epees? That multimillion dollar icrease cannot be justified simply on the basis of rising costs.

Worse yet, Adam Rittenberg of ESPN suggests there isn't even a budget problem!

The most recent filing with the Department of Education shows Penn State athletics had nearly $96 million in revenues, and roughly $77 million in expenses last year. The expense figure does not include $11.3 million of debt service.

Remaining dollars are used for capital improvement projects or put in reserve, the department said in the government filing. Myford said things like fan requests to upgrade stadium concessions stands and restrooms would be the kinds of projects Penn State would look at in the future.

OMG! Can you imagine those restrooms!!! Even if you add in the debt service, PSU still had an EXTRA 7.3 MILLION DOLLARS based on those figures. And now we HAVE TO add 26 million dollars in income or we will be forced to cut sports? Give me a break!

What ever happened to the extra income from the Big Ten Network? More cable companies are picking it up. Shouldn't that offset athletic department costs?

Rittenbergs article also cites the "other reasons"--those besides good old fashioned GREED--for the change.

"The other key component, when it comes down to the primary reasons for doing it, it's finances, and it's fairness," Myford said. "We need to come up with a way that allows us to properly align and allocate our tickets with how someone is willing to support athletics on an annual basis, and currently we don't do that."

The Penn State plan would also shuffle the student section from its current location in one quadrant of the stadium from the 40 to the south end zone, to wrapping around the entire end zone, bookended at about the 10-yard lines. That would open more desirable seats to season-ticket holders.

Myford said possibly 800 more seats could be added to the student section, and that the hope is it would create a more intimidating atmosphere for opponents.


All right. I have no problem with allocating seats based on level of financial commitment. I can understand where someone who is only donating $100 per year should not get 50-yard line seats over someone who is donating thousands. So here is the fair solution: Every ten years, just like the census, reallocate seats based on the NLC point system. Those who give more get more points and can populate the prime seats. For example, you currently need something like 40-50 points just to get off the waiting list and gets seats in the upper level decks. Points are used to distribute away game tickets and bowl games. Simply figure out how many people want prime seats and calculate the point level--i.e. you need 250 points to get 50 yard line seats, etc. And if you don't continue to donate at that level, at the next "census" you will likely lose your seats.

This way, you use the system that has already been in place for decades. And instead of marking the price up on donations 500%, you can slowly escalate the levels of giving to make it affordable for the fan base.

Here's another thought. I get 12 tickets but I can only get one freaking parking place. How many vehicles do you own that can seat 12? How about allowing me to buy an extra spot for every six seats so my whole tailgate party can park together?

For that matter, how about actually reserving the reserved spot so that fans that donate more money have a guaranteed place to park in bad weather? What a concept there!

Do we really want to add 800 student seats when for most games those seats weren't filled--for whatever reason.

Somebody who is not blinded by the glint of gold and the promise of riches needs to look at this program very carefully before they inadvertently destroy the fan base at Penn State.

Don't forget: Nominate Todd A. Sponsler for Trustee the next time you get your Alumni ballots.

Oh yeah . . . we have a game this afternoon. GO STATE! BEAT SPARTANS!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Land Grant Trophy

Penn State and Michigan State will battle for one of the--if not THE--most ugly trophy in sports history . . . The Land Grant Trophy.


Now, it comes with it's own furniture dolly.







Whoever came up with this design should be severely punished. But apparently there are rational explanations for the appearance of this monstrosity . . .



But the final appearance is really based on a previously existing trophy . . . The LOU GRANT TROPHY . . .



Thursday, November 19, 2009

Weekly Rooting Guide: Die Hawkeye Edition

Thursday night football brings us Oklahoma State as a 13 point favorite over the buffaloes. But Okie State is ahead of us in the BCS, so we gotta root for Colorado. Go Buffs!

Of course, Penn State, a mere 3 point favorite over the Spartans, must win its final game to secure any hope for a BCS bid. Go State! Beat Sparty!

In the Big Ten:

While the MSU game is key for Penn State, a Gopher upset of Iowa would be really helpful. The Hawkeyes are unfortunately 9.5 point favorites and Minnesota needed a late field goal to lift them over South Dakota State. Even without Stanzi, I don't know if there is any hope here, but Die Hawkeye! Die!

Da Badgers are a 6.5 favorite over Northwestern, and also have only two losses in the Big Ten. GO WILDCATS!

Purdue is a 3.5 point favorite to win the Old Oaken Bucket over Indiana. Let's Go Hoosiers! (But who really cares?)

The Buckeyes head to Ann Arbor with 13 points of favoritism. Win or lose, the Bucks have secured one of the two possible BCS bids that the Big Ten can garner. If PSU and Iowa both win, then it will be up to the bowls to pick their most attractive representative. And while the gut reaction might be to root against the Buckeyes, so that we can "share" another Big Ten Title, I'd prefer THEM not to become bowl eligible. Even a minor bowl gives them practice time and a springboard to build hope for next year. I'd rather THEM have no hope. Sharing a Big Ten Title sucks and is pretty much meaningless if you don't get the BCS bid and I don't think this season deserves a number on the wall at Beaver Stadium. GO BUCKS!

In Top Ranked Action, you needn't bother watching:

Florida is a 43.5 point favorite over Florida International Airport.

Alabama takes on Chattanooga--no line. No need.

TCU is a 28.5 favorite over Wyoming.

Boise State takes on Utah State on Friday. Utah State is a 23 point underdog.

Cincinnati doesn't play.

Texas is a 26.5 point fave over Kansas. The Jayhawks won't be in Kansas anymore.

Georgia Tech and Pitt do not play.

In Other Games of Interest:

The Irish are a touchdown favorite over Connecticut. Go Huskies!

Florida State plays Maryland--the Terps are 15.5 point dogs.

Temple is an 11.5 point favorite over Kent State.

Syracuse is a 7.5 point home dog to Rutgers. GO ORANGE! (Sorry Al.)

Akron is a 12 point dog to Bowling Green. Go Zips!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

By The Numbers: Michigan State

Here are the current NCAA rankings for Penn State and MSU:


NCAA Stats Comparison
Category:Penn St.Michigan St.
Rushing4167
Passing Offense4721
Total Offense4534
Scoring Offense5130
Rushing Defense824
Turnovers Gained56109
Passes Had Intercepted5937
Pass Defense1794
Net Punting11448
Punt Returns10760
Kickoff Returns1137
Turnover Margin6188
Fumbles Recovered6969
Passes Intercepted36108
Fumbles Lost3149
Turnovers Lost4335
Passing Efficiency3618
Pass Efficiency Defense1679
Total Defense950
Scoring Defense456
Fewest Penalties Per Game371
Fewest Yards Penalized Per Game363
Punt Return Yardage Defense11759
Kickoff Return Yardage Defense5762
Offense Third-down Efficiency470
Offense Fourth-down Efficiency5544
Defense Third-down Efficiency1690
Defense Fourth-down Efficiency1277
Tackles for Loss772
Offense Tackles for Loss1025
Pass Sacks919
Pass Sacks Allowed1818
Time of Possession1682
First Downs4442
First Downs Allowed1058
Red Zone Efficiency2835
Red Zone Efficiency - Defense1119
Average NCAA Rank:37.1156.46
Weighted Avg. Rank:37.4250.75

Once again, Penn State out-performs its opponent . . . ON PAPER.

Michigan State leads the usual categories . . . special teams. But defensively, the Spartans do not match up well. Note the marked disparity in Red Zone defense--PSU is the best in the country while MSU is one away from being worst. Of course, if we play on special teams like we did last week--the last two weeks--we probably won't have good enough field position to even get close enough to sniff the red zone.

The two offenses are comparable, but PSU has the defensive edge.

There's certainly no indication as the season has gone on that our special teams will improve, so I look for the Spartans to take advantage of field position and keep this game close. Penn State actually is ranked higher in turnover margin, albeit by a slim advantage.

The oddsmakers pick Penn State by 3.

Michigan State is the sixth most difficult team we have faced statistically (see chart below.) I do not include Akron since that was the first game of the season and no stats were available for comparison. These comparisons are based on the teams AT THE TIME WE PLAYED THEM--not current stats. There are no stats for Eastern Illinois either.


OpponentNCAA RankPSU RankDelta
Ohio State39.4130.41-9
Iowa47.2442.89-4.35
Northwestern52.4332.49-19.94
THEM55.3837.14-18.24
Temple56.1945.49-10.7
Michigan State56.4637.11-19.35
Syracuse59.5737.16-22.41
Indiana63.4934.7-28.79
Minnesota64.2239.78-24.44
Illinois79.1149.38-29.73

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How Much Is Enough?

I want to preface this entry by stating that I am a firm believer in the free-market system of capitalism. But sometimes capitalism can be a pain in the wallet.

Penn State football, for better or worse, is a business--a very big and lucrative businesss, one which not only pays for itself, but a host of minor businesses (like Field Hockey, Fencing and Volleyball.) Think McDonalds also underwriting hot dog vendors in New York City.

PSU has a product that is in high demand, and they control the cost of that product. They're not too concerned with the quality of said product, but since consumers are still filling the stadium up for Eastern Illinois and losses to OSU and Iowa, who cares?

As you may have heard already, the University is poised to unveil a new policy for the sale of tickets to Penn State football games. Do you have your checkbooks ready?

From Cory Giger in the Altoona Mirror:


It's about to get a lot more expensive for fans to ensure themselves of keeping premium seats at Penn State home football games.

* Season-ticket holders between the 40-yard lines will be charged $600 per seat, in addition to their required Nittany Lion Club donations (which are a minimum of $100 per seat).

* Fans from the goal lines to the 40-yard lines will be charged an additional $400 per seat.

* Fans around the end zones will be charged an additional $100 per seat.

Any fans who elect not to pay the additional charges might have their seats relocated. The Harrisburg newspaper reported that section ED - at the 30-yard line behind the PSU bench - would no longer be reserved for students and would take the relocated fans.

The actual details of this plan will supposedly be mailed to season ticket holders sometime after the regular season, and will not apply to 2010.

But it is not clear exactly how this will impact fans.


"There will be many season-ticket holders who aren't impacted at all by this," said Greg Myford, Penn State associate athletic director for business relations and communications.

Yeah . . . riiiight. How is that even possible?

What is not clear is whether this system will supplant the previous system of tiered levels of giving, or whether it will be used in place of that system. The above quote noted that these costs will be in addition to current levels, but even that doesn't clear the situation completely.

Consider the fan who currently has six tickets in the endzone. Under the current system, that fan would need to donate a minimum of $800 to "qualify" for 6 tickets. According to this new system, that fan would need to donate $600--$100 for each seat per year. But does that fan still need to donate $800 as they did before? I can't imagine Penn State lowering the fee for those seats, so I assume this fan will neeed to pay $1,400 under the new system. If so, this will impact everyone. Even the student section is being restructured.

And what if that fan also previously had a numbered reserve spot, meaning a minimum donation of $2,200. Is this sap now expected to donate $2,800, or will the $100 per seat already be covered by the extra donation he/she makes for the parking privilege?

What I foresee happening is that the bulk of prime seats will shift to wealthy patrons and companies that can afford this $600 per seat luxury tax by PSU. For games like Eastern Illinois, I think you will start to see more empty seats midfield, just as we saw more empty student seats after the University tampered with how students sold and resold tickets. It has been my experience that wealthier fans are not die hard fans. Like Christians that may donate a lot to church but show up only on Easter and Christmas, they donate to Penn State and show up for Alabama and Ohio State.

One fan was recently interviewed in the Altoona Mirror for his tailgate:

John Horon still makes the drive from Philipsburg to State College for Penn State football games, arriving about three hours before kickoff and staying about three hours after the game ends.

But when the game starts, Horon stays put in his parking spot in the shadows of Beaver Stadium.

Fed up with Penn State's regulations, Horon stopped going inside about five years ago.

"You can't drink inside, and you can't come out at halftime," Horon said. "That's the biggest thing. Why should I go in there and pay for a ticket for half a game? I want to come out, use the tailgate. That's what we always used to do, then we'd come back in. Now you can't do that, so there's no sense."
I can't say I blame him. Over the years, PSU has made a series of well-meaning but perhaps misguided decisions that have adversely affected the tailgate atmosphere. It started with no kegs. In and of itself, that is reasonable. They don't want a lot of drunk unruly people wandering around causing trouble. And the reality is that most people wouldn't bring a keg to the game anyway, so you're not impacting the total number of fans much.

But then the issue of not allowing re-entry has always baffled me? What is so hard about a hand stamp and a ticket for reentry? Is it just not wanting to employ people to do that? Is it because they went out for a drink? Didn't you just allow them in the game at the beginning without a breathalyzer? I don't buy the security aspect. Simply don't allow bags and such and search like you would anyone entering the game, whether it is at the beginning or the midway point.

And then they prohibited tailgating while the game is being played. WTF? Who came up with that gem?

This year they added no bottles in the grass lots.

What started out as a noble intention of curbing excessive drinking by a relatively few fans has now trickled down to rules that adversely impact more than just a few fans.

Could it be the University is looking to make money without actually having to make fans happy? Or even deal with them?

With ever increasing access to televised games, a struggling economy, and now huge increases, I think there will be a shift of people out of the stadium--at least people that had regularly attended before when it was more affordable.

But PSU doesn't care about actual bodies, hence the inflated attendance figures based on tickets sold. Fewer fans means less mess and clean-up--more money saved.

Neil Rudel responded critically to this new policy.
And you thought the health-care costs in this country are out of control.

In the past 10 years, it has launched skyboxes and club seats at Beaver Stadium, at premium prices, but that apparently is not enough, and the university has now put Joe Lunchbucket in its cross hairs.

At what point does Penn State consider reducing a handful of sports to the club level?

The answer, obviously, is not yet.

Not if it can shake enough of you to double your football bill and, for example, change it from $2,160 for four seats on the 40 - at $55 per seat times eight home games plus the $400 for the "right" to watch these special teams - to $4,160.

Especially during these financially challenging times, Penn State should be partnering with the Nittany Nation and sharing the burden, not taxing it.

Compounding the matter is people paying an average of upwards of $125 per ticket will rightfully expect the team to score an offensive touchdown against Ohio State without needing replay, which in turn will heighten pressure on the players.

You don't charge this much and have fans say "aw, shucks," when Iowa blocks a punt.

I have already spoken to several long-time fans who have confided in me that this is the last straw if it is true and they will not be renewing their tickets. And while there may be rejoicing from those on the waiting list, keep this in mind: you will have to pay these same fees as well. I strongly suspect those on the waiting list are people who are not wealthy enough to donate enough money to get off the waiting list. I highly doubt this new structure will be budget-friendly for them.

As I said at the outset, I'm a fan of capitalism. If Penn State can pull this off, more power to them. But it sounds like a decidely un-Penn State concept when you consider that Paterno has been woefully underpaid by the University compared to his peers for years, and has actually donated back a lot of his success. Paterno rewards loyalty to a fault, whether it be his senior players or his staff. But for the average fan that has enjoyed seats for many years, through good times and bad, that will change now in the simple interest of money. Sometimes good business sense means making your customers happy rather than alienating them.

And do we fans have any recourse? I guess you can pony up the extra expense, cut back the number of tickets you buy, or get out altogether and invest in a good HD TV and cable/satellite system.

Or, we can speak out. I'm sure the University expects a response--from the article:
The university is aware this new plan will not go over well with many fans and is prepared for a public backlash.

"We'd be naive to think that any time that something is introduced that addresses money" that fans won't be upset, Myford said.

I think to a large extent, the average fan has been disenfranchised. Random complaints are ineffective, and it is next to impossible to coordinate a boycott that would be effective. After all, who is going to risk their Alabama tickets to make a statement.

But maybe there is another way. I'm not sure how much influence the Board of Trustees has in the athletic department, but I suggest that the Alumni--and football fans in particular--need to make themselves known. When elections for trustees come around, nominate me--Todd A. Sponsler--for trustee. I will make sure the voice of Nittany Nation is heard. I'll let them know what we think of their "change." If you are behind me, let me know. Spread the word. We can make ourselves heard!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Blog Poll Week 11

Chaos is not comforting.

Polls are not for sissies.

There are still six undefeated teams: Texas, Florida, Alabama, Cincinnati, Boise State and TCU.

Interestingly, there are only TWO teams with but one loss: Georgia Tech (loss to Miami-FL) and Pitt (loss to NC State.)

There are three winless teams: Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan and New Mexico.


RankTeamDelta
1Texas
2Alabama 1
3Florida 1
4Cincinnati
5Boise State
6TCU
7Georgia Tech
8Pittsburgh
9Oregon 9
10Ohio State 1
11Oklahoma State 5
12Wisconsin 5
13LSU 6
14Iowa 2
15Penn State 6
16Virginia Tech 6
17Stanford
18Rutgers 5
19Brigham Young 1
20Southern Cal 10
21Miami (Florida) 7
22Houston 13
23Utah 10
24Temple 1
25Clemson
Last week's ballot



Dropped Out: Arizona (#15), South Florida (#24).
Here are the Top 30 TAS Computer Rankings:




RANKTeamWin/LossNCAA RankWeighted RankSchedule StrengthTAS Score
1Alabama135302.44
2Texas144664.69
3Florida163765.38
4TCU122916.00
5Cincinnati198816.19
6Boise St.1111137.25
7Pittsburgh889269.19
8Georgia Tech718217112.77
9Oregon1219141715.88
10Ohio St.912116617.03
11Iowa938331917.10
12Wisconsin1215154517.44
13Penn St.911108518.10
14Oklahoma St.1220196419.19
15LSU1234323819.25
16BYU1233237921.19
17Central Mich.12171710621.50
18Rutgers2114189422.52
19Utah1241288822.56
20Virginia Tech2324202323.63
21Temple12293711724.19
22Houston12284711224.44
23West Virginia2331293225.19
24Clemson2326244325.25
25Navy2222267725.55
26Arizona4013122825.81
27Mississippi2325225725.94
28Oregon St.2342333626.38
29North Carolina2332354726.56
30Miami (FL)2357481226.75

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tennessee Refs?


The Imperfect Storm

As I was driving home from the game yesterday, I was in a reflective mood. Perhaps it was the glinting sunlight in the west, framed by a ceiling of clouds that seemed to reach all the way to California, before ending in a strip of bright blue sky and golden sun. The mountains had a golden haze over them that was simply breathtaking in its beauty. But I doubt this radiance was in any way related to my mood.

Perhaps it was because I was sober. I was driving after all. And reflecting back on the game made me wonder how I might see things if I were a little more lubricated so to speak. I mean, after all, alcohol is the fuel of the entire bar/dating scene, with the underlying premise that people look better to you when they are drunk. Surely this team would look better had I been drunk. But I doubt it. Even an alcoholic stupor could not cast a golden light on this performance.

When you strip away the positives—the fact that we won and the interception return by Bowman—you are left with something that makes stripping sound like a bad thing. Put it back on! I’m blind! Or is that the damned sunshine in my eyes?

I was sober when I wrote this; forgive me if I go astray.

I reflected on the fact that the home season at Beaver Stadium was over. We said good bye to a great group of players including Daryll Clark and Sean Lee. This day is always one of those emotional turmoils like the last day of summer vacation or the feeling on Christmas morning after the last gift has been opened. Happy yet sad. Bittersweet. No more home games until next September—but a part of you remembers all the fumbled punts and you think quietly to yourself, ‘Thank God I don’t have to witness that for awhile!’ And then you feel guilty for feeling that way, because deep down, you really love this game of football, and three months from now you will be tearing your hair out in pain waiting for the season to begin.

Yes—we won. It was an ugly win and an ugly win is better than a pretty loss, if such a beast exists. There are surely fans who will point at me and ask how I can whine and complain when we won. I don’t know how to answer that.

I’m happy that we won—don’t get me wrong on that point. But I am not pleased that punting has become an adventure in heartburn and even a struggling team like Virginia was able to put up 47 points on the Hoosier defense (ours put up 24 if you take away the Bowman score.) You know it’s bad when the crowd cheers—for a fair catch that we didn’t muff!

It’s kind of like getting to the final gift on Christmas. You really want that radio-controlled car that you’ve been begging for since practically this time last Christmas. And even as you open the gift, which your brain tells you is too small and squishy to be that car, you hope against hope that it is something it isn’t. (Deep down you know this team is better than they’ve played.) And when the paper falls away, you’re left with socks. There’s nothing wrong with socks. They’re practical. The ones you are wearing have holes in them. Kent State or Temple (and anyone with cold bare feet) is thrilled with socks. And it is the thought that counts right? Right?

But socks are not a radio-controlled car. It is not what you wanted. It might have been what you needed or even what you deserved. But the kid that wanted the car ain’t going to be happy with socks.

To those who criticize me for wanting more from this team, all I can say to you is, I hope you like your socks. You are those people that love socks. I worry about you—I really do. I guess sock fetishes aren’t always a sign of mental instability, and there are probably a lot of people that like getting socks. Maybe Obama does. Or Joe Paterno. And you.

But this is supposed to be a recap of a game that Penn State won 31-20 over the Indiana Hoosiers. Never mind that Indiana is not bowl eligible. Never mind that the oddsmakers and gamblers had us anywhere from 21-26 point favorites. A lot of them are wishing they hadn’t lost their socks on this game!

In the first quarter alone, we had two fumbles and an interception. We went into halftime with four turnovers. If punting problems weren’t enough special teams angst for one team, then how about a field goal unit that dinked a 34-yarder against the upright? Don’t the Barr’s have any kids that can come to Penn State and kick?

The lack of a special teams coach is an age-old argument, and discussing it won’t change a thing. The only person who can make the change, doesn’t think there is a problem. But I beg to differ. There are many—and there is no one person who has responsibility. Too many problems and too many people involved in the situation. No leader.

Why can’t we settle on ONE person who is responsible for fielding punts? Do they draw straws on the sideline? Oooh. You got the short one! When you look at how the team performs in other aspects of the game, you just wonder why we can’t do basic things like fielding punts, returning punts and kick-offs, and defending them. Penn State should not be nearly last in the country in all these categories.

But blogging about it won’t help. In the end, we came away with a win, kept our BCS hopes alive on life support, and regardless, we will be going to a bowl game. And no matter where it is, I’ll have a good pair of socks!

BY THE NUMBERS:

From GoPSUsports.com:
Team Totals IND PSU
FIRST DOWNS 20 22
Rushing 4 11
Passing 15 9
Penalty 1 2
NET YARDS RUSHING 48 181
Rushing Attempts 24 39
Average Per Rush 2.0 4.6
Rushing Touchdowns 0 2
Yards Gained Rushing 69 187
Yards Lost Rushing 21 6
NET YARDS PASSING 298 194
Completions-Attempts-Int 32-52-1 17-29-2
Average Per Attempt 5.7 6.7
Average Per Completion 9.3 11.4
Passing Touchdowns 2 1
TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS 346 375
Total offense plays 76 68
Average Gain Per Play 4.6 5.5
Fumbles: Number-Lost 1-0 3-2
Penalties: Number-Yards 3-39 2-10
PUNTS-YARDS 6-236 2-89
Average Yards Per Punt 39.3 44.5
Net Yards Per Punt 36.7 44.5
Inside 20 1 1
50+ Yards 0 1
Touchbacks 0 0
Fair catch 1 1
KICKOFFS-YARDS 5-273 6-374
Average Yards Per Kickoff 54.6 62.3
Net Yards Per Kickoff 35.4 44.7
Touchbacks 0 2
Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD 0-0-0 3-16-0
Average Per Return 0.0 5.3
Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD 4-66-0 5-96-0
Average Per Return 16.5 19.2
Interceptions: Number-Yds-TD 2-9-0 1-73-1
Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD 0-0-0 0-0-0
Miscellaneous Yards 0 0
Possession Time 28:32 31:28
1st Quarter 9:50 5:10
2nd Quarter 7:05 7:55
3rd Quarter 3:50 11:10
4th Quarter 7:47 7:13
Third-Down Conversions 8 of 18 8 of 12
Fourth-Down Conversions 1 of 1 0 of 0
Red-Zone Scores-Chances 2-2 4-5
Sacks By: Number-Yards 0-0 2-11
PAT Kicks 2-2 4-4
Field Goals 2-3 1-2


INTANGIBLES:

The drum major completed both flips for what I believe was a perfect season for the Blue Band. The halftime show featured favorite drills and songs from the season, including the Theme from Rocky formation with the two stick figures fighting it out.

Penn State won the toss and deferred.


It was the final game for Blue Sapphire PJ Maierhofer. Her talent and enthusiasm will be missed.
It is win number 392 for Joe who is STILL five ahead of Bobby after his Seminoles beat Wake Forest.

Attendance for Senior Day was 107,379.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

The team that shall not be spoken of clinched at least a share of the Big Ten Title and a trip to the Rose Bowl by defeating the Hawkeyes 27-24 in OT. THEM lost to the Badgers 45-24 and must now beat Ohio State to be bowl eligible. It looks like they will add to their streak of not going to bowls this year.

In other action, the Spartans got their coveted 6th win by beating Purdue 40-37. Minnesota struggled but beat South Dakota State 16-13. Are you freaking kidding me? Just when you think wins can’t get any uglier . . .

Northwestern beat the resurgent Illini 21-16.

The final weekend of Big Ten Football features the following matchups:

PSU @ Michigan State
Minnesota @ Iowa
Purdue @ Indiana
Wisconsin @ Northwestern
Ohio State @ THEM

Illinois has two non-conference games remaining, @ Cincinnati on Nov. 27 and hosting Fresno State on Dec. 5.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1. For Irish Fans—the “fumble” will be talked about for ages. Well, at least this week. Anyone think the Big East refs and replay officials had a stake in this game?
2. For USC—my what a difference a year makes!
3. For Houston—thanks for playing
4. For the Canes—from riches to rags
5. For College Football Fans—stuck with a BCS system that will all but guarantee a Big XII versus SEC matchup
6. Mr. & Mrs. Stull who can’t watch a Pitt game from their own seats because of how the crowd boos their son.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Penn State travels to Spartan Stadium for the final game of this season. Sparty is bowl eligible and playing for pride and the ugly Land Grant Trophy. Penn State is still looking--hoping--for an at-large BCS invitation. The game will be ABC regional coverage.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m almost glad this game is away. If you look at our season so far, both losses were at home and we didn’t play loose or comfortable in either of those games. On the other hand, trips to Ann Arbor and Illinois—games we fretted about in the summer—turned out to be no big deal. We actually seem to play looser and more open on the road, at least in the second half of those games. Part of that is a product of the competition—the two home losses were against teams that Joe perceived as being tight games and he played things conservative. Hopefully, the trend on the road continues for one more week.