It is with great sadness that I reflect upon the current state of PSU football. The offense is scaled back for the freshman and the play-calling is predictable. The defense rolled over in the second half vs. Illinois as the realization dawned on them: maybe we're just not that good. The Rose Bowl-inspired classes contemplated their fates..."We're highly recruited and we're playing for Penn State, we should be winning!" I don't know if they feel entitled or spoiled or lazy - but the attitude on the team matched the play on the field vs. Illinois. Which came first: the attitude or the crappy play? I don't know. But I do know that leadership used to overcome a declining team attitude. Leadership used to drive and mold a new team attitude. Right now I don't see it.
Even with JoePa's increasing age, over the past decade, he has appeared as animated and fiery as someone 20 years younger. Was it that long ago that JoePa chased down the ref at Iowa? No, not too long ago... It was inspiring to the team to watch Joe chew out an official or rip into an o-lineman for a missed block. It inspired confidence when all of the stadium's eyes turned to Joe on 4th and inches from the 42 yard line.
More than ever before, things have changed along the PSU sideline. Frequent camera cuts to JoePa show one of three expressions: anxious pouting, asking Coach McQuery "What happened?" after every play, or just plain confusion. The press conference transcripts are edited more than ever to remove muttering, pauses, ramblings, and half sentences. JoePa's got a paunch, gimp, and old-man boobs. He's actually MORTAL (shock from PSU faithful).
Joe's had young teams that have struggled before - but the FIRE inside JoePa went a long way towards inspiring the kids to get better. I just don't see the FIRE anymore - in Joe or in the team. For the good of PSU, Joe has to go, soon - but not right now. I love the man like my own Grandpa. I want to see him reach Eddie Robinson's 408 next year - but that's the only reason I want him coaching this team right now.
WE ARE Penn State. JoePa is not Penn State. JoePa has been great for Penn State and deserves a shot at the wins record (if he cares about it). He's earned that lifetime achievement for a lifetime of service and a lifetime of greatness.
But the Penn Staters watches helplessly as Oregon, Boise State, Ohio State, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan, Auburn, Alabama, Missouri, Nevada, even Notre Dame evolve the game of college football with power or up-tempo offenses and innovations from the quarterbacks, running backs, and wide outs. WE ARE Penn State but WE ARE not evolving.
I can't wait to join them - in 2012. Then JoePa can watch from his living room and cheer along with the rest of the faithful, "We are."
Purdue over Minnesota
I have to pick that one. I'm not at all confident the Boilermakers are good enough to win this. They are coming off a nice victory over Northwestern despite having a 6 of 18, 1 Int. performance from Rob "Wildcat" Henry. What the third stringer lacked in his passing, he made up for it rushing for 132 yards and one key 67 yard scamper. Throw in some NW Special teams miscues and it was enough for Purdue to get the win last week, but barely.
Penn State takes a much needed break.
Northwestern wins a Nobel Prize in Physics or something.
Indiana over Arkansas State - Don't bother me with such nonsense.
Michigan State over Illinois - Could Illinois be better than advertised? The Illini are feeling good after pounding the favored Nittany Lions and hanging with the heavily-favored Buckeyes. Is Michigan State as good as advertised? Pounding Wisconsin and Michigan in back-to-back weeks has gotten the nation's attention. Don't look past the pesky Illini or Wildcats next week, and the Spartans will practically lock up a BCS bid. The lone remaining bump on the schedule is a trip to Iowa before closing with Minnesota, Bye, Purdue, and Penn State. 11-1 or 12-0 and a Big Ten title for the Spartans is shockingly possible - don't screw it up.
Michigan over Iowa - Remember gym class in elementary school? There was always the bully that snuck up behind the nerdy kid and pulled his gym shorts down to make all the little girls laugh. The kid had to return to class and endure the giggles after being exposed. The Michigan defense feels like that little kid right about now - Michigan State yanked their Underroos around their ankles. But all is not lost for the Wolverines. The Iowa offense isn't as prolific as Michigan State at the moment. Iowa cannot afford to get into a track meet and it has been a full month since they Hawkeyes have been tested. Going from practice speed to Denard-on-a-redemption-Mission speed will be difficult. I see the Wolverines tripping up the Hawkeyes and keeping the hope alive for Rich Rod.
Ohio State over Wisconsin
This is what they've been waiting for in Madison. After the pounding on the stat sheet that Wisconsin gave the Buckeyes last year, they've been eyeing up this date. Can the Buckeye's match up toe-to-toe with the muscle in Madison? They have prayed into their glasses of milk and wheels of cheese for a chance at REDEMPTION. OH Lawd, the Buckeye sinners shall at last suffer and the faithful shall be re-wahded for their faith and suffering! Have mercy. Have FAITH, mah milky brothahs and sistahs! For I have seen the light and the GLORY and HONOR of the Badgers shall be RESTORED in the Camp of the Randall. Hallelujah! For HE is risen again and the feet of Clay shall possess the wings of Mercury! What has been done WRONG shall be set RIGHT!
Nah. Not really. Wisconsin still doesn't have a secondary or enough speed on special teams.
No. 12 Arkansas over No. 7 Auburn
The SEC prides itself in the "Best Conference" status. "The SEC schedule is too tough and the teams simply knock each other off," they say. "Well you're overrated because you don't play anyone," the others say. Two of the top five SEC teams face off again this week in the round-robin phase of the BCS Beauty Pageant. The winner of the Arkansas-Auburn matchup gets to hang on to the chance for the Golden Ticket to the BCS Championship and the loser gets to chant "S-E-C" for someone else's hopes. You won't find two bigger QBs in a game this year. Hide the children (and your women) because the winner will be hungry for a NC title in a way Campbell's Chunky Soup cannot satisfy.
Cam Newton is the perfect example of the NCAA trend to put the team on the back of your best player. How many do-it-all QBs are we going to see in the next few years? Of course it isn't a new trend - heck, go all the way back to Otto Graham or Knute Rockne's Gipper. Charlie Ward, Tommy Frazier, Tim Tebow became legends winning National Titles. The QB has gotten bigger, strong, and faster to run that type of offense and match up against the speedy Defensive Ends and Linebackers hoping to take shots.
The advantage Ryan Mallet has over Newton in the matchup is a better set of wipeouts. Mallet won't have to win the game all by himself. He just needs to avoid the mental breakdowns caused by pressure from the Crimson Tide's front seven. Auburn simply cannot put the same pressure on Mallet and I expect a big day from the Arkansas Senior QB. The Razorbacks put up 40 points and the Tigers won't keep up.
No. 19 Nevada at Hawaii
You won't watch it. But I'm a little bit curious at the explosiveness of the Wolf Pack. They are fifth in the nation in rushing at 314 yards per game and 7th in total points. The Wolf Pack destroyed California and Brigham Young so I don't expect them to struggle against Hawaii. However, travelling to Hawaii is a pretty tough road trip full of long miles of travel and infinite distractions. I'm disappointed I'll miss the duo of Via Taua (139.5 yards per game) and QB Colin Kaepernick (106 ypg). The Nevada ground game faces off against Bryant Moniz and the nation's leading passing attack (421.7 ypg). Look for the Wolf Pack to keep the passing game off the field enough to pull away in the fourth quarter. But it will be fun.
No. 5 Nebraska over Texas
Are we ready for Texas to follow Penn State and USC out of the Top 25? These two teams are heading in opposite directions. One peaking, one rebuilding. Texas still has teeth and talent, but this isn't their year and most reasonable Longhorn fans know it. Good, but not great, on both sides of the ball - the Longhorns simply do not have enough defense to slow the NCAA's best rushing attack (2nd in yards behind Air Force but I dare you to tell me the #23 Falcons are better). Taylor Martinez is just a freshman, but shows great athleticism and decision making in the read-option. The Huskers see the next Eric Crouch in the youngster. He'll get his first signature win (of many) this weekend against the reeling Longhorns.