Monday, August 29, 2011

The Final Pre-Season Countdown: #1

So here is the season, counting down from the game we are most likely to win (#12) to the game we are most likely to lose (#1):

12. Indiana State University
11. Eastern Michigan University
10. Temple
9. Indiana
8. Purdue
7. Illinois
6. Northwestern
5. Iowa
4. Ohio State
3. Nebraska
2. Wisconsin

How many teams can lose a trio of playmakers like Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram and Julio Jones and still be ranked second in the nation?  Maybe USC.  But apparently the Alabama Republicans from the Crimson State are in that minority as well..

Returning 18 starters from last years squad which handled Penn State easily at home, 24-3, but lost critical games to South Carolina , LSU and hated rival Auburn, Alabama looks to improve on their record of 10-3 from a year ago.

Maybe it's some solace to know that Alabama dominated Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl, beating Sparty 49-7.  Maybe not.

The Bama defense was ranked 5th in the nation in total defense and third in scoring defense, allowing opponents 13.5 points per game.  They return nine starters on a formidable unit that will be crucial to Alabama's success this season, especially given the uncertainty at QB.

As of the time of this writing, Saban has not named either A.J. McCarron or Phillip Sims, who are apparently neck and neck for the starting QB job.  Both are described as pocket passers.  But they will fortunately have a veteran line as 4 of the 5 starters are back.  Two senior starters return at wide receiver--Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks--but it remains to be seen if they can fill the shoes of the departed Jones.  Neither is very tall, listed at 5-11 and 6-0.

Tide Fans . . . ready for any crap you can throw at them.
I think pollsters are putting a lot of faith in the Bama defense to carry this team, or they feel the new quarterback has enough talent around him to perform well regardless.  In this day and age of football, you have to be able to score points.  Their schedule is littered with potential land mines, with games against ranked (Coaches Poll) opponents being LSU (4), South Carolina (12) Arkansas (14), Auburn (19), Misissippi State (20), Florida (23),  and PSU (25).  They also host unranked Tennessee and travel to Ole Miss.

The Tide will open with Kent State, and they follow our game hosting North Texas.  Our game is sandwiched between Indiana State and Temple, so neither team should be physically or emotionally tired coming in, or looking forward to a marquee opponent.  This is the marquee game.

For Penn State, it will be a white out game, starting at 3:30.  None of the players was even born when Joe Paterno battled Bear Bryant, and the 1979 Sugar Bowl is a historical curiosity.  Recent fans likewise may not appreciate the history of this match-up.  And this home and home series may never occur again as conferences swell to superconferences and OOC games dwindle to just low budget competition willing to fill home game slots.

This likely could be Paterno's last chance to beat the Tide.  JoePa is 4-9 versus the Tide.  (Penn State is 5-9 all time.) 

On paper, the only real advantages we have is more experience at QB, and home field advantage.  That's not much to work with.

But that is not to say there isn't a chance.  On any given Saturday . . . blah, blah, blah.  But with an inexperienced QB, the atmosphere at Beaver Stadium could rattle him.  If our defense can apply some pressure early in the game, throw the QB off his rhythm, and create a turn-over setting up field position for our offense, this game could be won.

If Bama comes out of the gate, marches down the field and scores, this will be a long late afternoon in Happy Valley.

Prediction:  We lose.  You'd have to be a bit crazy to seriously predict an upset.  This would be an upset of elephant-sized proportions.  But stranger things have happened, and it is early in the season, and success last year doesn't always mean a team will return with the same level of emotion and skill and chemistry.  Their weakness is quarterback.  If we can exploit that, we have a chance.  If we can't, then the Tide will Roll.   Of course, we will somehow have to find a way to score touchdowns against the Bama defense, and I don't know if we can.  Our quarterback will have to have a flawless night and it would help to have some great plays by Moye.  Even if we lose, I don't think the game will be as lop-sided as last year.

Big Red Yesterday

Big Red Today wrote on Sunday, which would make yesterday today, that Penn State should finish 9th in the Big Ten.

He backs this premise up with a thorough evaluation of the situation:
9. Penn State (7-6) [last years record, not a prediction for 2011]

Up next: Indiana State, 11 a.m., BTN

Difficult to get excited about a team led by a QB (Rob Bolden) who spent six months trying to transfer. He’s not the only worry. The defense makes few big plays and the O-line is a concern.

The defense makes few big plays?  Per season or per game?  Granted we don't make many of the Pete Giftopoulos type game changing plays every game, but I think our defense holds its own most seasons.

Not a lot of respect from a team just joining the league.

I thought I was pretty easy on the Huskers in my preseason report.  Maybe we will have a Rich Gardner type game-changing defensive play to answer this slap in the face.

But I guess I'm not one to talk since Dick has accused me of spewing Big Ten venom.

And I will grant him the other observations.  Quarterback position could be a problem, and our offensive line has been rebuilding since 2002.

BRT has the BEST Husker coverage.  With a name like Barfknecht, it has to be good!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pre-Season Countdown: #2

The post you knew was coming before it got here.  So much for suspense.

12. Indiana State University
11. Eastern Michigan University
10. Temple
9.   Indiana
8.   Purdue
7.   Illinois
6.   Northwestern
5.   Iowa
4.  Ohio State
3.  Nebraska

And the #2, second most difficult game is . . .


On Wisconsin.  Off Wisconsin.  Wax on.  Wax off. 

Wisconsin came out second on this list for a variety of reasons.  It is the final game of the season and the third of a brutal November that features back-to-back-to-back games with Nebraska, Ohio State and the Cheeseheads.

What can you say about a fan base where cheddar is a fashion statement, not a food?

The Badgers went 10-2 last year with losses to co-Big Ten Champ MSU and a heart-breaking, two-point loss to TCU in the Rose Bowl.  They return 13 starters but not the QB.  In fact, the top two teams on this list will be breaking in new signal callers.  Yet both are ranked and expected to do great things.  Let's see how that works out for them.

After I put this list together, I found out that Jon Budmayr, who was supposed to start for the Badgers at Quarterback, has been injured.  NC State transfer Russell Wilson is going to be thrust into the job early on, according to the ESPN Big 10 Blog.  Of course, he may be back by the last game of the season, but who knows if he can win his job back (ala Bolden last year) or if he will mentally and physically be able to manage the team.

Had I known this, I might have dropped the Badgers down to 4th.  But maybe not.  Does it really matter who is the quarterback?  They are going to line up a herd of cattle across the field and pound the ball at you come hell or high water.  They have depth at running back--Montee Ball (are you kidding me!), James White and Zach Brown.  Despite losing two all-Americans on the line, the Badgers are expected to reload.  That's what they do.  Big.  Offensive.  Linemen.

Defensively, the Badgers were 20th in the nation overall last season, and don't appear to have any glaring weaknesses.

The Badgers have won 9 or more games 6 of the last 7 years.  Can they sustain that kind of success?  The experts say yes.  The final outcome might be shaky, with the injury to their projected starting QB.  But we can expect physical football from the Land of Cheese.

Prediction:  We lose.  We might win, but I just don't have the confidence (stupidity) that I used to have.  I think a lot will come down to how banged up these teams are after the Big Ten season.  It should be an interesting finale, and hopefully will have some championship implications.

Pre-Season Countdown: #3

The Pre-Season Countdown continues toward the most difficult game . . .

12. Indiana State University
11. Eastern Michigan University
10. Temple
9. Indiana
8. Purdue
7. Illinois
6. Northwestern
5. Iowa
4. Ohio State

And the third most difficult game on our schedule this season is . . .


Not to be a spoiler, but I think we all know who the #1 team will be, even though they are ranked #2 in the nation pre-season.  That leaves Wisconsin and Nebraska to battle it out for #2 and #3 spots.  The Badgers are returning 13 starters from a 10-2 team while the Huskers return 11 from a 10-4 team that lost to Washington in the Holiday Bowl (a team they defeated during the season 56-21.)

Moreover, the Wisconsin game is at Camp-Randall Stadium, while we have the luxury of playing the Huskers at home, after a bye week.

There is some evidence that the bye week IS NOT beneficial, according to this WSJ article.

In the Big Ten in particular, byes seem to hurt more than they help. The Big Ten's 11 teams are a combined 17-32 since 2002 when playing conference games on extra rest. Ohio State, which is 56-10 in Big Ten play over that span, is 1-3 on extra rest against conference opponents. Among the defeats was a 2004 loss to Northwestern, the Buckeyes' only loss to the Wildcats since 1971. Penn State and Iowa also are 1-3.

Not exactly what you want to hear.  Reality can be a bitch.  But I am going to over-rationalize this and assert that that bye week will help us.  Why?  This bye week comes late in the season.  Penn State has Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin in consecutive weeks to close out the season.  I think the chance to take a breath here might be helpful.  In some cases, I think it hurts if you are on a roll--it throws your timing and emotion off.

This is not the Husker team of the Tom Osborne era.  The offense has a "west-coast" flavor to it and a dual threat quarterback in Martinez who could give us fits if he stays healthy.  Jamal Turner was recruited as a QB, but switched to WR during spring practice.  That opens the door for some gimmick style plays ala Randel El for the Steelers in Super Bowl XL, where he threw a TD pass to Hines Ward off a reverse play.

The Husker defense ranked 11th overall in the nation last season, and looks to be their strong point again this season.  DT Jared Crick, LB Lavonte David and CB Alfonzo Dennard are all stars, and according to most of what I've read, they have pretty good depth and are set to reload for another great year.  Teams only managed 17.4 points per game against them in 2010.

The Huskers will already be immersed in Big Ten football by the time they come to Happy Valley in November.  They will already have faced Wisconsin at Camp Randall in the Big Ten opener, and they will follow that rude awakening with a trip to Columbus.  They pull MSU at home in late October, and they have a trip to Ann Arbor planned for the week after Penn State.  Could they be looking ahead?

As for the game against the Badgers, some, like Athlon Sports, are predicting this could be a preview of the inaugural Big Ten Championship game.  For what it's worth, these may be the two teams to beat in the Big Ten race.

Overall, I like our chances against the Huskers and look forward to this game.  Nebraska has not won at Beaver Stadium since 1980.  Their loss in 1982 ruined a chance at the national championship for them and paved the way for Joe Paterno's first national title.  The loss in 2002 was simply an electric atmosphere, when Penn State knocked off then 7th ranked Nebraska by a score of 40-7.  That is one game I will never forget.  Penn State fans had a chip on their shoulder after losing to the Huskers in the polls in 1994.  A decade of frustration was taken out on them that night in one of the loudest games ever at Beaver Stadium.

And as an historical aside, PSU beat Central Florida 27-24 the week before pasting the Huskers.  Granted, Nebraska ended the season unranked and was probably over-rated.  This season, we open with a team like Indiana State before hosting Alabama.  Could history repeat itself????

Hey!  I can dream can't I?

Prediction:  If Nebraska is as good as the experts claim them to be, then I don't think PSU can win this game.  But I do think it is winnable.  I'm not sold on QB Martinez, and he had an ankle injury last season which may play a factor in his play this year.  I think Nebraska is going to find play in the Big Ten to be a little different than the high scoring shoot 'em up Big XII conference, where the only Big D they have heard of is Dallas.  Officially, I call this a loss.  Off the record, I think we can win this game.

I'm so good at hedging, I ought to start a hedge fund!

For your enjoyment . . .

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pre-Season Countdown: #4

A recap of the list of games so far, from #12 the easiest to #4 . . .

12.  Indiana State University
11.  Eastern Michigan University
10. Temple
9.  Indiana
8.  Purdue
7.  Illinois
6.  Northwestern
5.  Iowa

And the #4 spot goes to . . .


If the Buckeyes still had Jim Tressel as coach, and Terrell Pryor at the helm, this game would definitely be in the Top 2. But both are gone, don't let the stadium gate hit you on the ass on your way out.

Luke, I am yo daddy!
First year head coach Luke Fickell will have to prove himself.  He will be dealing with a new quarter back, the suspensions of Dan Herron, Mike Adams, and DeVier Posey for five games, as well as the general fall-out from last season's scandal.  If he can manage to get this mess back to a Big Ten Title, he deserves to be named coach of the year.

Don't get me wrong . . . O$U returns a load of talent,and there is no reason why they shouldn't be contending for a title.  But it is my humble opinion that teams in a conference like the Big Ten can't do that with a new, inexperienced  quarterback or a new head coach.  The Buckeyes have a double whammy.

With the loss of Pryor, the team returns only 11 starters.matching Wisconsin and Iowa for the fewest returning starters in the conference.

Penn State has won only one game in Columbus since joining the Big Ten.  But unlike Iowa, whom we can't seem to beat to save our life, we have matched up with the Buckeyes cleat to cleat with major victories in 2005 and 2008.  Two big games in a decade, though, is probably nothing to crow about, but at least we do have some wins.  We're 12-14 all-time against Ohio State.

NO ONE KNOWS HOW WELL OHIO STATE would have done, had they not cheated.  If recruits picked Ohio State because of the perceived benefits, then the record of the Buckeyes this past decade is suspect.

Now it may seem that I am counting the Bucks out this year.  Au contraire.  (That's French for not so fast.)  I don't think we will win any game from this point on in the countdown.  But of the remaining games, we might have a chance at this one if the wheels come off in Columbus.  And I wouldn't be surprised if they do.

Will the team rally around Fickell and use this adversity to become better? They might. Or the distractions and changes might disrupt the Big Ten juggernaut and throw it out of its groove.

Prediction: I don't think we will win this game, as of typing this in August. If Penn State shows me something on the field, and Ohio State struggles with new coach/quarterback, then I might reconsider. I just hope that win or lose, we play a competitive game, and don't throw the game away with an overly conservative game plan on the road that plays right into their strength. Both wins over the Buckeyes came when we played conservative and they made the mistakes (the Troy Smith fumble in 2005 and the Pryor fumble in 2008.) Both were relatively low scoring, conservative games. Maybe that's the way to go, but if we get behind, I hope we try to make something happen instead of falling apart.

From the creators of "Friends with Benefits"

Weather Report: Opening Day

From The Weather Channel, it looks good for next Saturday.  And weather predictions are always accurate!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pre-Season Countdown: #5

At this point, things change dramatically.  The last seven games (#12 thru #6) are very winnable games.  Penn State should win them.  That doesn't mean they will, but on paper, that should be seven wins.  As such, we would be bowl eligible.  Toilet Bowl eligible.

But these next five games . . . these will separate the wheat from the chaff.  The contenders from the pretenders. 

Our nominees for #5 include:  Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.  This is a formidable group, and if the 2011 Penn State team doesn't show some major improvement over the 2010 version, we will be staring down the barrel of five losses here.  All but Iowa are ranked in various pre-season polls.

So is it any surprise that the #5 honor goes to . . . .


It's a four-letter word.  So is Ohio.  And Bama.  And Corn.  Wisk?

What can you say about Iowa?  It's the cornfield that separates Minnesota from Missouri.

For whatever reasons, there are just some coaches that Paterno cannot figure out.  Bear Bryant.  John Cooper.  Lloyd Carr.  And among the worst . . . Pennsylvania native Kirk Ferentz.

Seriously, in the annuls of college football, Iowa shouldn't be in the same chapter as Alabama, Ohio State or THEM.  No offense, Iowa.  You are what you are.  There's the Iowa Caucuses, so you've got that going for you.

Yet, this is a team that despite not being able to win anything significant, always seems to be able to beat Penn State.  This is a team that can stumble its way to a loss against the Pittsburgh Panthers, but then play like the freaking Pittsburgh Steelers when they face us.  (They did that in 2008 and have a chance to repeat that feat this season, although I doubt we will be ranked 3rd when we play them.)  Perhaps we should be honored that they save their best game for us.  Perhaps they should be honored that we always find a way to lose this game.

Iowa will return only 11 starters from a squad that went 8-5 last season, beating Missouri in a bowl.  They only lost to the Badgers by a point, to the Buckeyes by 3, but then lost to Minnesota.  Michigan State pwned them, much the same way Iowa has pwned this series.

Gone forever is the Stanzi Scheme.  I'm doing jazz hands just thinking about it.  The offensive line will largely be intact and solid.  But will there be anything to protect? Coker looked good at RB in the Insight Bowl (219 yards + MVP), and with a veteran line, should take some pressure off new quarterback, junior James Vandenberg, who threw only 8 passes last year.  WR McNutt is 5 receptions away from tying Iowa's career record holder, so there's someone to throw to.

But there is a lot of rebuilding on the defensive line, and to make matters worse, special teams have been less than special.  They cost the Hawks a couple of games last year.

All in all, they are a team on par with Penn State.  I think Penn State is better on paper, and paper beats rock, but I have no idea how that means anything here.  Questions at QB. A couple good skill players here and there.  Offensive line is their strength.  Defensive line may be ours.

Given this is a home game for PSU, that ought to amount for something.  Well forget that.  White Out was a fizz out.  We play Iowa no better at home than any other damned place in the world.  I still can't get the nightmare of 6-4 out of my mind.

Prediction:  For the sake of my sanity and all that is holy, PENN STATE MUST WIN THIS GAME.  This Iowa team will probably be no weaker in the near future than they are this season.  We must strike while the oven is hot and pop the corn while we can.  The game will be close because for the life of me, there isn't enough Kool Aid in the world to make me think we could defeat these guys.  I know how the Buffalo Bills feel about Super Bowls.  It defies all explanation.  I'd rather have corn stuck in my teeth for the next year than lose another game to Iowa.
Cpl. Radar O'Ferentz of Ottumwa, Iowa

Proud Papa

My daughter was working on setting up trips to various colleges this past week.  She is a senior and will be applying this year.

As she was looking at her schedule, she asked my wife, "do we have anything on for October 8th.  My wife replied innocently--and incorrectly, "no, I don't think so."

I looked up briefly at her across the room and simply said, "that's the Iowa game."

She frowned.  "Shoot.  That's a good game.  I can't go that weekend."  She flipped through her calendar.  Before trying another date, she looked up at me and asked, "when's the white out game?"

"September 10th.  Alabama."

"Shoot.  I have to go to that.  I can't use that weekend either."

That's my girl!  Planning her life around the Penn State schedule.  I'm so proud of her.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pre-Season Countdown: #6

The sixth most difficult game on the schedule this season is . . .


This game is sandwiched between home games with Purdue and Illinois. 

The Wildcats return a remarkable 17 starters, with an offense almost completely intact.  The Prince of Persa returns as starting quarterback.

Last season, Penn State fell behind by 21 points in the first half, only to roar back to a 35-21 victory that gave Joe Paterno win #400.  Interestingly, Penn State has a pretty good chance of going into this game 6-1 (with a loss to Bama) which would put Paterno at 407 victories.  A win against the Wildcats would tie Eddie Robinson's record at Grambling.  IF--and its an if the size of an elephant--Penn State rolls into Evanston undefeated, it would be a chance to break that record.  Either way, there may be some historical excitement accompanying this game again.

I'm surprised that Northwestern doesn't have a better defense.  They ranked 97th in the country last year and will lose three of their front seven.  I'm surprised, of course, since Fitzgerald was a tenacious linebacker.  Maybe I expect too much.

But Northwestern always seems to be one of those opponents dubbed as a trap game for some reason.  In fact, this idiosyncrasy made it into a top five list of potential message board meltdowns this season:

5. The Northwestern Trap Game – I love this argument because this year it can actually happen. If this were to happen, all of the previous meltdowns would merge into one massive meltdown where... I don't even want to think about this one...

Obviously, Northwestern has that capability to come up with a marquee win now and then.  They knocked off Iowa last year the week after blowing a three touchdown lead to Penn State.  Then they lost to Illinois and followed up with a blowout loss to the badgers, giving up 70 points.  Of course, I believe Persa was out at that point, but 70 points off a defense has nothing to do with the starting quarterback.

But with a schedule that includes Eastern Illinois, Army, and Rice, the Wildcats look capable of keeping their head above .500 and seeking a fourth straight bowl appearance.

While we will be coming off a homecoming game against Purdue, Northwestern will be returning from a trip to Iowa.  That's never a good thing.

Prediction:  I think Penn State will be 6-1 going into this game and building momentum.  I look for a shaky start, a solid third quarter and pulling away with a win by at least 10 points.  Don't ask me why.  It's just a feeling I have.  It might be gas.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pre-Season Countdown: #7

So let's recap the list of opponents from the easiest game (#12) to the the most difficult (#1):

#12  Indiana State University
#11  Eastern Michigan University
#10  Temple
#9  Indiana
#8  Purdue

Which brings us to #7 . . .


Why do I put the Illini here?  Why not?  There are far more important and philosophical questions to ask before this season starts. 

Basically, I don't see Illinois being a more formidable foe than Iowa, Alabama, Ohio State, Nebraska, or Wisconsin.  The only other team to be ranked yet is Northwestern, and quite frankly, that game is on the road and I fear Pat Fitzgerald more than Ron Zook.  And perhaps that, in the end, is the reason that Northwestern went higher in the draft than Illinois.

In looking at this Illinois team--if you read about what is being written--you wonder why they haven't already been named Big Ten champs.  Their schedule is favorable, albeit with a September 17th home game against Arizona State.  The Illini should be able to win OOC games against Arkansas State, South Dakota State, and Western Michigan.  They open the Big Ten with their fifth consecutive home game against Northwestern.  Won't I look like an idiot if they win that game?  Well, I already look like one, so it's a moot point anyway.

Last season, Zook replaced both his offensive and defensive coordinators.  Fortunately for PSU fans, neither of those gentlemen were named Larry Johnson, Sr.  But despite that, Illinois fielded an offense that set a program record 32.5 points per game.  RB Leshoure set a school record with 1,697 yards.  Of course, he is gone in the NFL draft along with Corey Liuget and Martez Wilson on defense.

The Illini went 7-6 with a bowl victory over Baylor.  They return 14 starters.  Ron Zook is known for recruiting.

But Zook is not known for winning.  At Illinois for 6 years, the team has not gone to consecutive bowl games since 1992.  Consistency, thy name is not Illinois.  So if you're a gambling man, this is a year NOT to make a bowl game.

Yet, there is a strange sense of optimism in Illini country.

Kevin Elliot of ChiCitySports writes:

You won’t hear me say this often, and I may regret it soon, but here it goes: I’m excited for the 2011 Illini football season to commence.

Hope has taken residence in Champaign-Urbana, a cautiously optimistic vibe coursing through the streets. And perhaps I’m crazy to admit this, but there are legitimate reasons to believe the Illini could put together a successful 2011 campaign.

Reason #1: Schedule.

Goodbye, Missouri. Hello, Arkansas State.

Reason #2: Talent.

While Mikel LeShoure, Corey Liuget, and Martez Wilson will be missed, the Illini return 15 starters, including starting QB Nathan Scheelhaase and leading receiver A.J. Jenkins.It remains to be seen whether RB Jason Ford can emerge from his backup role and become a consistent workhorse, but he will be helped by an experienced offensive line, a group Zook has specifically mentioned as being a major strength. The defense has lost some key pieces, but the Illini will look to Senior LB Ian Thomas, CB Terry Hawthorne, and DL Akeem Spence to be significant contributors.

Reason #3: Coordinators

The hiring of Paul Petrino to run the offense and Vic Koenning to run the defense paid big dividends last season.

But in the end, this is still a Ron Zook team in a tough league and even though Illinois smacked us in the mouth last year, they are still--in the end--just Illinois, a big block I with no mascot. 

Penn State will play Illinois before facing Nebraska--but we will have a bye week before that juggernaut game, so it's not likely we will be looking ahead.  Illinois is the third triumvirate of swing games--games which PSU should win but you never know for sure--that includes sequentially Purdue, Northwestern and Illinois.  This is October in Penn State football, along with an opening game against the Hoosiers.

Prediction:  I may be drinking the Kool Aid here, but I do think we will be improved from last season.  I am not as optimistic for Illinois as their fans may be.  I call this a close win by Penn State, maybe one of those where we kick a field goal late in the game and hope that Illinois doesn't pull a 1999 Minnesota or a 2005 THEM miracle out in the end.

I haven't posted a final season prediction, but I'm leaning towards 8-4.  I could be talked into 10-2.  Either way, I think Penn State needs to win this game to achieve that level of success.  A loss to Illinois means 6-6 or 7-5.  There's too many Big Ten teams better than the Illini, so if we can't get past this game, then another outcome like last year is likely (7-6 overall.)


You're right, Yoda.  Penn State wins this game!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pre-Season Countdown: #8

The nominees for the eighth most difficult team to beat this upcoming season are Purdue (for their short documentary in chicken commercials,) Northwestern (for their role in Hitchcock's North by Northwestern) and Illinois ( for the most cartoonish head coach surname--Zook.)

And the winner is . . .


In looking at the remaining schedule, these three teams not only occur in order in October, but they are fairly clearly a yard or two behind the others:  Ohio State, Alabama, Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin.  If you don't believe me, check the various polls out so far.  All but Iowa seem to be making appearances in various spots in the Top 25.  You won't find any of these three teams even receiving votes.  (Truth be told, Northwestern got one point in the AP poll, but who outside of Evanston gives a fark?)

Oh Danny Boy!
In contrasting these three nominees, Purdue gets the nod for several reasons.  In regards to schedule, this home game is sandwiched between Iowa and a trip to Evanston.  Iowa has given us fits the past decade or so, and while it should be a game we win this season, there are no automatic W's when it comes to the corn boys.  As such, we might be emotionally down after that game depending on the result.  We certainly have tougher games to be looking ahead to than Northwestern.  No offense, wildcats.

Purdue's weakness is offense, which plays into what I perceive as our strength--our defense.  Gone is Joe Tiller and the spread run and gun.  Purdue ranked 105th in the nation last year  averaging 19.7 points per game.  To make matters worse, their D gave up 28.8 points per game.  However, they are returning most of their defensive unit (9 starters) but are without Ryan Kerrigan, the Washington Redskins first round draft pick.

Purdue is coming off a 4-8 season in 2010, which includes wins over Ball State and Western Illinois.  They lost to Toledo, but hey, that shit happens.  They did beat Northwestern (no offense wildcats, but that's kind of embarrassing) 20-17.  Their fourth win was against Minnesota. 

Despite finishing with six straight losses, they did seem to improve to some degree, only losing to Michigan State 35-31 and taking Indiana to OT while coming up short 34-31.

Danny "thanks for the memories" Hope, is 9-15 at Purdue and is in his third year.  Is third time the charm?  More likely, this will be strike three.  Most of the publications I have read put the Boilers around 9th in the Big Ten.  That's not as bad as it used to be since we now have 12 teams, but the twelfth team--Nebraska--is ranked ahead of them, so it's pretty much a wash there.

Penn State is 10-3-1 all time versus Purdue.

This game is homecoming for Penn State, and the Lions are 65-21-5 in homecoming games and have won 39 of the last 45.

Prediction:  While you never know for sure how a team will come together, it certainly doesn't look promising for the Boilermakers.  I think Penn State will be able to score against them, and I don't think they will offensively be able to move the ball consistently against us.  I look for an impressive homecoming victory--solid but not a blow out.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Trophy Tragedy Comes Up Short

Those crazy folks from the Corn Belt have tried to one-up the famous Land-Grant Trophy.  They have made a good effort, but they have failed.

Here is the unveiling of the new and improved Cy-Hawk Trophy:

Which bird will crap on it first?

The guy on the left is Corn Man (known as Maize Man in Michigan.)

Here is how the new trophy compares to the old one:
Is that an ear of corn, or are you just happy to see me?

At least the old trophy had a football on it.

The new Cy-Hawk trophy barely edged out its competition:

But no one can hold a candle to the Land Grant Tragedy Trophy when it comes to sheer ugly:
Complete with its own furniture dolly!

Pre-Season Countdown: #9

Here's our list of games from easiest to most difficult:

#12  Indiana State University
#11  Eastern Michigan University
#10  Temple

And with a great big YAWN, we introduce #9 . . .


I came to the Big Ten so I wouldn't have
to play Oklahoma State anymore!
As we touched on in our Countdown to the season #10 (Temple), the Hoosiers are sporting a new head coach, former OC for the Oklahoma Sooners.  Unfortunately, offense has not been the biggest problem with the Hoosiers the past few years.  Their defense allowed 34 points per game (ranked 102nd in the nation) last season. 

But the Hoosiers return five of their front seven, so with some experience on the line, hopefully that stat will improve.

That said, the Hoosiers need to replace QB Ben Chappell who passed for 3,295 yards a year ago.  Both candidates for the job are listed as 'good passers who can run.'  Kevin Wilson is also planning on adding the hurry-up offense, which will be a change for the team.

Overall, the team returns 14 starters (six on offense, 6 on defense, plus the kicker and punter) from a team that limped to a 5-7 season last year.

The first four games for the Hoosiers are Ball State, Virginia, South Carolina State, and North Texas.  With a little luck against the Cavaliers, Indiana might come into this game undefeated.  Penn State must overcome the Tide to make the same claim.  The safe odds are that these two teams will meet with records of 3-1.

Both PSU and Indiana will open Big Ten play, with the Lions coming off a prep game against EMU and the Hoosiers returning from a trip to North Texas.  Both teams may be in a sugar coma from their cupcake.

Penn State has struggled in Big Ten openers over the years, and strangely seems to open on the road more often than at home.

1993MinnesotaHW 38-20
1994MinesotaAW 56-3
1995WisconsinHL 17-9
1996WisconsinAW 23-20
1997IllinoisAW 41-6
1998Ohio StateAL 28-9
1999IndianaHW 45-24
2000Ohio StateAL 45-6
2001WisconsinHL 18-6
2002IowaHL 42-35 OT
2003MinnesotaHL 20-14
2004WisconsinAL 16-3
2005NorthwesternAW 34-29
2006Ohio StateAL 28-6
2007THEMAL 14-9
2008IllinoisHW 38-24
2009IowaHL 21-10
2010IowaAL 24-3
8H - 11A7-11

Although we have opened with OSU or THEM 4 times, NONE have been at home.  We opened with Indiana in 1999, a great season until the Minnesota fiasco.

Prediction:  It may seem like a repeat of Temple, but new coach, new system--> rebuilding or transition year for the Hoosiers.  Rebuilding yearHoosier Football:  Rebuilding since 1967!  Penn State wins, but with Iowa up next, I suspect we play conservatively.  Do we play any other way?  Okay--more conservatively.  Expect a low scoring, too close for comfort kind of game on the road.

Pre-Season Countdown: #10

So let's recap. 

We started with the easiest game/opponent on the schedule at #12 with Indiana State University.  Number 11 was Eastern Michigan University. 

The nominees for #10 include Indiana, Temple, Ohio State and Illinois.  Well, even without Pryor and Tressel, I don't think the Buckeyes have a chance at coming in at #10.  So without further ado . . .


I almost declared a tie between the Hoosiers and the Owls.  Let's face it, we're talking six of one and half a dozen of the other here.  More interesting is that both schools are sporting new coaches this season.  Former offensive coordinators are all the rage on the fashion runways in the NCAA this fall.  The Owls have Steve Addazio, erstwhile offensive coordinator from Florida and the Hoosiers hired Kevin Wilson from Oklahoma where he was, coincidentally enough, their offensive coordinator.

In the end, I had to give the nod to Temple, though.  Big Ten lower tier trumps mid-level MAC team.  Both are road games, although the Temple game will essentially be an Eastern Home Game for Penn State.

The Owls went 8-4 last season and gave Penn State a bit of a scare with a 22-13 contest at Beaver Stadium.  Truth be told, many Temple faithful believed that last year was THE YEAR they would finally beat Penn State.  Maybe the Hoosiers thought that way as well.  Neither team took the Cinderella title and lived happily ever after.

The big question is what kind of team will this be in the post-Golden Age?

Offensively, Temple should be okay.  They have an offensive coordinator from an offensively strong program like Florida, which incidentally pasted quite a few points against us in the bowl game.

But according to Greg Doyle of CBSsports, the Addazio hire is not a good thing.

In one fell swoop, Temple football is back to being Temple football. Which is to say, Temple football returned to irrelevance today by hiring a man who did the impossible: failing to score points with Urban Meyer's offense and Florida's recruits.

Hold the presses, Nellie.  That was with the talent that FLORIDA and URBAN MEYER accumulated.  Can Addazio be able to replicate his success with what Al Golden was able to assemble?  Doyle doubts it and I'm inclined to agree.

My gut feeling?  Addazio won't be successful right away.  Give him a few years to recruit "his people" for "his system" and maybe he'll enjoy some success.  I've also never been impressed that former OC's do well defensively, and as we shall see in the next paragraph, that could be a problem.

But while Temple may have some good running backs (Brown and Pierce) and experienced quarterbacks (Stewart and Gerardi), they will have to find some way to plug the defensive losses to the NFL.  Muhammad Wilkerson was a first-rounder to the Jets and Jaiquawn Jarrett, a free safety, went in the second round to the Eagles.

In case you are wondering, Addazio hired former Florida defensive co-coordinator Chuck Heater to be his defensive coordinator.  But unlike the offense that may have some talent to work with, Heater will not have the level of athletes he was accustomed to with the Gators.  Can you say rebuilding year(s)?

Overall, the Owls return 15 players--8 on offense, 6 on defense and the kicker.  But their kicker was only 13-20 on field goals last year and 5-9 from 40+ yards.  They will have a new punter.

As for scheduling, this game follows the Alabama game.  IF--and that's a big IF--the Lions can find a way to win that game, this could certainly become a trap/let-down game.  The talent at Temple won't fall dramatically because Golden left.  But, the next game is Eastern Michigan, so the Lions won't be looking ahead at anything.  If Penn State loses badly to Bama, this could be bad for Temple, who may get beat up out of frustration.  A close emotional loss to the Tide, though, might bode well for the Owls, who could capitalize on the emotional down.

So many ifs, so few ands or buts.

My prediction:  Temple will not be as good this year under a new head coach and a new system.  They don't have the talent level that Florida has.  Addazio has yet to prove he can be a head coach.  I think Penn State wins this game, but if we are sloppy and come out sluggish, the final score could be close like last year.  Personally, I think it won't be that close, though.

As an interesting side note, did anyone notice who the offensive coordinator is for the Owls?

Scot Loeffler.  Yes, that Scot Loeffler.  The same one that convinced Chad Henne to go to THEM.  Since leaving THEM, he has been on the staff at Florida, and came with Addazio to Temple.

THEM to Florida to . . . Temple?  What direction is his career going?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pre-Season Countdown: #11

Nominees for the 11th spot (the second easiest team to beat on our schedule next season) are pretty much the same as the nominees for the 12th spot sans Indian State: Indiana, Temple, Wisconsin, and Eastern Michigan.  Wisconsin?  Forget that.  This is like the opening question to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.  The Badgers are thrown in there as a junk answer that only a llama would pick.

And the winner is:


The Eagles were 2-10 last year with victories over Buffalo (21-17) and Ball State (41-38 in OT.)  Which begs the question, are Ball State and Buffalo that bad???  The Buckeyes pummeled EMU 73-20.  Northern Illinois polished them off 71-3.

EMU returns 15 starters from a not so good team.

Defense is the problem.  The Eagles gave up 40 points or more in 7 games, with an average of 43.9 points per game.  Interestingly enough, their head coach, Ron English, used to be a defensive coordinator under Lloyd Carr at THEM.  English is 2-22 since taking over as head coach.

The front four are small and pass rushing has been a significant problem.  Giving up 70 + points twice is pretty significant too.  EMU had only 10 sacks all season last year, third worst in the nation.

Offensively, they should be better off.  Alex Gillett (The best the team could get?), a junior, should be the starting QB, and is supposedly a dual threat.  He did lead the team in rushing with 766 yards last year.  But he threw an equal number of INTs as TDs (13.) Perhaps his experience will translate into more consistency.  Last year, they averaged 19 points per game, but scored only 6 against Vanderbilt and 7 against Toledo.  The whole thing is moot, though, if the defense can't keep PSU from scoring.

Special teams shouldn't be an issue either way as this game won't be that close.

Schedule-wise, this is the fourth game of the season, coming off a trip to Temple and a week before we open Big Ten play at Indiana.  I don't think we need to be worried about injuries from the Temple game, or looking ahead to Indiana.

This will also be an early game, so I expect the team to come out sluggish, and be perhaps only up by a couple of scores at the half (10-14 points.)  Look for them to put this game well out of reach late in the game, with the back-up QB getting some reps.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pre-season Countdown: #12

Each year, I try to put together a countdown of the Penn State season, starting with the game we are most likely to win (the easiest opponent) at #12 and ending with the game we are most likely to lose (the most difficult opponent) at #1.

As is the case most seasons, the #12 game is not a highly disputed spot.  The nominees for #12 are Indiana State, Temple, Eastern Michigan, Indiana and Alabama.  Okay, I'm just kidding about Alabama.

And the winner is . . .

The Sycamore Defense--good for blocking field goals; not much else

Unfortunately for the Mighty Sycamores, this game will be played on grass and not inside the Bryce Jordan Center.

When this game was first scheduled, the Sycamores had won just one game in four seasons.  They doubled their wins to two games in five seasons, and last year, they had their first winning season (6-5) since 1996.

The Sycamores have been to three bowl games all-time, the Shrine Bowl in 1949, and the Pecan Bowl in 1983-4.  They have never won a bowl game.  In the championship subdivision, they have made it to the play-offs twice (1983/4) with an overall record of 1-3.  Not much to cheer about since the early eighties.

Not only are we playing a team not in the Bowl Subdivision, but we are playing one of the worst teams in the Championship Subdivision.


Can ISU build on that winning season of 2010?

The answer really has no bearing on whether Penn State will win this game or not.  Seriously, this is not Appalachian State we are discussing here.  Even if the Sycamores ARE better than a year ago, or any other season this past decade, they will not be able to defeat Penn State.

Don't Holy Toledo me here.  This is not the Penn State team of 2000, and this Sycamore team is not the Toledo team that went to a bowl game in 2000.

Penn State has never lost to an FCS level team and this will not be the first. 

So do you even need to watch this game?  No.  But you should nonetheless.

The excitement of this game will be to see who has won the starting QB job.  That's it.  Nothing else to see here.  The game should be over by halftime and the stadium will never be full.  The game itself will be plain vanilla.  There is no way Paterno is going to show Saban anything on tape that will be remotely useful for the next week.

I'm not sure I agree with that theory completely.  It might be nice to show something just to make them worry about things, but not the enough to know our entire gameplan.  I type this as if other teams DON'T KNOW our gameplan!  I sometimes wonder if WE know our gameplan.  Further, whichever QB is selected, he needs some quality reps.  Just dinking the ball to the sideline and handing off will be enough to win this game, but not enough to prepare for the Bama defense.

On the other hand, whichever QB is selected, that person likely sees better competition week in and week out in practice against our own defense, than anything he will face from ISU.

This game isn't even worth the bandwidth to discuss X's and O's.  So let's discuss their mascot.

Originally, ISU was a teacher's college, but the fighting teachers apparently didn't make opponents shake in their cleats like the mighty Sycamore.  Thus was born the Fighting Trees with a Tree mascot.
A tree named Woody????

In 1969, or thereabouts because who really cares outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, they voted Chief Quabachi (cookin' on his Hibachi) as their mascot.

Unfortunately, the University bent to PC pressure and ditched the Indian Chief for no mascot at all.  But in 1995, Sycamore Sam was born.  They didn't win a game that year.  You do the math.  Sam is a woodland animal, like a fox, but not a fox.  Whatever.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Friday Funnies

A few hours early and 50 cents short . . .

Rich Ripley writes a blog with a "full day's worth of fiber."

He pokes fun at coaches press conferences.  For instance:

Reporter: Hey coach, thanks for taking a moment out of your busy schedule to talk to us this morning.

Coach: No problem Phil. We appreciate letting our avid fans get the inside scoop on our big game against State Tech.

Translation: Since my DUI conviction two summers ago it’s in my contract that I have to sit through these idiotic Q & A sessions.

Reporter: First things first, how’s your relationship with State Tech coach Bobby Franklin? Rumors are flying since your wife left you for him and he owns a 5-0 record against you.

Coach: Well let me tell you a little something about Coach Franklins teams…you gotta be well prepared ‘cuz Coach Franklins one of the best coaches in the nation. He’s assembled a top-notch staff, recruited some of this nations best football players and is thoroughly prepared for every situation. As for Marlys leaving me, I wish her well and there’s absolutely no hard feelings. End of story.

Translation: I can’t stand Franklin! He’s handsome, muscular, has great hair and screws anything in his path, including my Marlys. He’s intelligent, plays the guitar, writes poetry and no one, and I repeat NO ONE mentions the prick’s name in my presence, and I miss Marlys horribly. Tell her I said “hi”…would ya?

Reporter: If you can get Myers slowed down, that will open the door for their four time All-American quarterback, Troy Aikman Jr. to throw the ball downfield. How do you intend to counter that threat? He’s set and broken national records each time that he’s played against you. He’s a genuine Heisman candidate.

Coach: Aikman Jr has been a thorn in our side each of the times that he’s played against us, and he’s a real class act. Our secondary coach, Steve Peters, has been working around the clock on a plan to take away State Tech’s air superiority. Look for Coach Peters to have a few tricks up his sleeve this Saturday. I guarantee it.

Translation: Isn’t Aikman in the NFL yet?! HONESTLY!! Oh. My. GOD. It’s like watching a superhero play the position of quarterback against a team of eighth graders whenever we have to play against him. I really hate him. I told our secondary coach that his job was on the line this Saturday if Myers broke another single game passing record against us. Last year Myers threw for 975 yards in one game!!! 975 YARDS!!! How on earth does that happen?

Old School Fark

From those zany farkers on TigerDroppings:

Wait a minute???

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Joe Back At Practice

"What do you think I need to reach the green from here?"

"You don't golf Joe."

"Awww C'mon.  I'm a new man.  Just a few years ago, I couldn't download a jar of peanut butter.  Now I can Twiddle, techs, use My Face and Spacebook.  Why can't I golf?"

"How are you going to swing with that bum arm?"

Long silence.

"Damn!  Turn this thing around and head back to practice!"

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tackling Technicalities

Penn State Coach Joe Paterno was injured during practice, apparently sustaining hairline fractures of both his pelvis and right arm.

It does not appear that surgery will be required, according to Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli, Penn State Director of Athletic Medicine.
As a result, a new tackling primer has been developed for the players to study.

On the other hand . . .

Ok, that would be confusing!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lions Den has ESP

Earlier this week, I posted about the quarterback situation and how the decision process has been made easier, so to speak, by the ineligibility of Paul Jones.

I didn't talk at all about Newsome in that process, because . .


Naturally, I was a bit surprised when the articles and rumors came out that Newsome is leaving.

At first, I was a bit embarrassed that I hadn't recalled the situation correctly.  Certainly, there had been rumors, at the end of last season, and Newsome did not even travel to the bowl game.  But he DID return for the spring semester and did participate in the Blue-Wet game.

Maybe I'm psychotic psychic.

But the premise of my article stands.  The starting position is now a two-horse race.  If Jones is academically ineligible, then the third-string position will fall to one of two walk-ons:  Shane McGregor and Garret Venuto.

If you consider that Matt McGloin was a former walk-on, then 75% of our potential quarterbacks were/are walk-ons.

How did that happen?

Who's in charge of quarterbacks?

Notice my accusation question is about who is handling quarterbacks, not who is recruiting them.  Paul Jones was highly sought after.  So was Newsome.  So was Bolden.  OK, maybe they weren't being recruited by Miami or USC, but we weren't fighting Temple or Ball State to get them either. 

The problem does not appear to be recruiting them; it appears to be development and retention, although even I can't blame the academic status of Jones on the staff, unless they were remiss on following up on his grades and allowing the situation to get to the point of ineligibility before something could have been done with tutoring, etc.

I'm sorry, but I fail to see that the successes of Michael Robinson and Daryll Clark were due to the ability of the PSU staff to develop their talents.  When you look more closely, you see that Michael Robinson was misused for 3 years before finally getting the starting job.  Daryll Clark seemed to regress a bit his second year, but an injury (concussion) may have something to do with that.

Instead, I think those two "success" stories succeeded in spite of the system.

Don't forget that the Devlin transfer also occurred during this period.

This is no longer an isolated event.  It is a pattern.  And for Penn State fans, it is becoming a problem.  We are a bad grade and a couple of injuries away from disaster.  Maybe that can be said about most college football teams, but Penn State isn't like most college teams.  The most important position on the field shouldn't be resting on a walk-on when the Big Ten Championship could--NO, SHOULD--be on the line.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Poll Dancing

The USA Today PreSeason Coaches Poll is out and Penn State has made it to the dance, so to speak, coming in at #25.

Rank Team (first-place votes)2010 recordPoints Final 2010 rankingDelta
1Oklahoma (42)12-21,45465
2Alabama (13)10-31,414119
3Oregon (2)12-11,30930
4LSU (2)11-21,29684
5Florida State10-41,1161611
7Boise State12-11,06570
8Oklahoma State11-2933102
9Texas A & M9-48852112
12South Carolina9-57792210
13Virginia Tech11-3767152
16Ohio State12-16315-11
17Michigan State11-253614-3
18Notre Dame8-5440NRN/A
20Mississippi State9-430117-3
25Penn State7-6161NRN/A

Five teams are ranked that didn't make the final ranking last season: Notre Dame, Georgia, Florida, Texas and Penn State.  Not bad company, the Irish notwithstanding.

Two teams had losing records last season:  Texas and Georgia.

Number one and two fell significantly, dropping 13-18 spots.  Number three remained the same.

Big movers (+8 or more) include F$U, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Nebraska and Alabama.

Big droppers (-8 or more) include TCU, Ohio State, and Auburn.

As a conference, the Big Ten has 5 teams:  Wisconsin, MSU, Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State.

The SEC has 8 representatives:  Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Auburn, and Mississippi State.

The PAC-12 has 2:  Oregon and Stanford.

The ACC has 2 teams:  Va Tech and F$U.

The Big-XII has 5 teams:  Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Missouri and Texas.

The Mountain West Conference has 2 teams:  Boise State and TCU.

The Big East has NONE.

As a Penn State fan, I think just making the rankings is a significant achievement for a 7-6 team that really struggled at times last year.  I think our defense will be able to keep most games close this year, but there are a lot of questions regarding the line and the quarterback position.

To put this in some perspective, the 1986 undefeated Nittany Lions never gave up more than 19 points in any game, averaging 11.1 points given up per game.  They averaged 28.3 points per game scoring.

Last year, our offensive managed 24.5 points per game while the defense gave up 23.6 points per game.

With a margin of 17 points between what your offense can do and what your defense allows, it is easy to see how an undefeated season comes together.  Keep in mind, though, that in 1986, Penn State squeaked by Maryland 17-15.

But with a margin of less than a point per game last year, the result was a believable 7-6.

What I'm trying to say in a roundabout way is that it is just as important to score points as it is to prevent your opponent from scoring.  The defense can't do it alone.

How enthusiatic are you about our 2011 offense?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Decision Revision

Picking a Quarterback or Child's Game?  You decide!
What is that brown splotch?
Going into this season, the staff of Penn State was faced with a very big decision:  who is going to be quarterback?  It looked like a three-headed monster with no clear cut winner.

You had Rob Bolden.  Much heralded.  Won the starting job last year.  Injury.  Shaken confidence.  Let's face it, this is the reason Paterno doesn't like to play freshmen.  He couldn't make it back into the starting line-up and now carries a chip on his shoulder.

Matt McGloin.  The gunslinger.  Afraid of nothing.  Sparked the team.  Looked lousy and confused in the bowl game.  Is he the answer or the question?  Who knows?

Paul Jones.  The only one of the three that looked good in the wet scrimmage this spring.  But that doesn't mean anything.  Talented?  Probably.  But has less experience than the other two.

Well, the game of rock-paper-scissors to decide who gets the starting position has just gotten easier.  According to The Post-Gazette and other sources, Paul Jones will miss 2011 for academic reasons.

"Paul's got a problem academically," Paterno said. "He's not had a good run. He needs to get caught up on some things. ... I think he could be eligible [this fall], but he would just barely be eligible. In all fairness to him, he's young, so we'll probably sit him down."

I was looking forward to seeing this kid play, but this setback may have a silver lining.  The staff now only has two choices, which means there is less of a chance of making the wrong one!  Seriously, I think it takes some pressure off a volatile situation, although it would be nice to have three options if injuries occur.

Lot's of people making bold(en) predictions this year.  I'm going to go with Robo leading the team on the field against Indiana State, and hopefully getting some redemption (and pass protection!) against Bama.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I Miss The Smurfs

And I'm not talking about the new 3-D movie version that will try to resurrect the eighties cartoon on the big screen.  (I hope it does better justice to the little blue guys than Scoobie Doo and Josie and the Pussycats did for their respective cartoons!)
No I'm talking about THE SMURFS.  Before the 1986 Fiesta Bowl, Michael Irvin of the Hurricanes joked about the size of Penn State's defensive backs, jokingly calling them Smurfs.

Miami's Irvin walked over to Penn State's undersized safety, Ray Isom. "You're Isom?" he said. He was laughing; all week, Miami had been ridiculing Penn State's defensive backs, likening them to Smurfs -- they were too small and too slow to cover Irvin and Brett Perriman and Brian Blades.

In another old article, Conlan talks about the DBs:

Conlan felt that Ray Isom, Duffy Cobbs, Marques Henderson and Eddie Johnson intimidated Miami 's receivers.

"They kept talking about how little our defensive backs were," said Conlan. "I told them they better not forget how tough they are. Our little guys knocked them around those Miami kids didn't want to catch the football."

They may have been small, but they were certainly not slow (it had to be the shoes) and they could close quickly and hit hard.  Even without intimidation, they often physically separated the receiver from the ball.

And I miss those Smurfs.

Hole in the Ozone?

Perfect Ten?

Tony Gerdeman writing on the Ozone has come up with 12 steps to becoming sober bold predictions for the upcoming Big Ten football season.

Among these are curiously specific ones like Wisconsin's quarterback will lead the Big Ten in interceptions.  MSU will be better but not win a road game.  Luke Fickell will be named coach of the year in the conference.  Nebraska will have a losing record in conference play. 

But then he comes to this gem:

10 - Penn State will start the season 10-0.

I know, right? I blinked twice as well, and I'm the one who wrote it. This all hinges on a winnable schedule for the Nittany Lions, provided the quarterback(s) and linebackers are better than competent. If they can get by Alabama in week two, then they'll likely be favored until the second-to-last week of the season when they head to Columbus. Road games at Temple, Indiana and Northwestern, are all winnable, and home games against Iowa, Purdue, Illinois and Nebraska are as well. I know it sounds outrageous, but stranger things have happened. Michigan went to a bowl game last year, for instance.

I used to have optimism like that.  I miss it.  I really do.

I can't classify Iowa as winnable until we actually, um, win a game against them.  His claim that Northwestern will have a losing season might be underestimating the Fitzgerald Factor.  The difference between 5-7 and 7-5 is two games.  I hope we can perform well on the road.

He also predicts Indiana going to a bowl game.  I still agree we should win that game, but the Hoosiers are bound to beat us sooner or later.  Let's hope for later.  Maybe in my next lifetime.

But on the other hand, I really, really, really, really hope he's right.  At least about #10.