NCAAF  > Penn State Nittany Lions  > Season Analysis: PSU
November 23, 2009, 10:48 AM
I like closer.21's idea of the Season Analysis thread.

At the start of the season, I expected 11-1 and predicted a worst case scenario of 10-2. A loss to THE Ohio State University was quite possible, especially if Terrelle Pryor developed. Also, Penn State had not won all of the Big 10 road games in one season since 1994. I had hoped they would take care of business at home and figured they would lose one on the road.

Going into the year, there were three question marks:
1. O-line was hit with graduation.

The "Spread HD" blocking scheme is complicated. Lots of movement on those counters, QB and HB draws, screens, bubble screens, and roll-outs. This is an offense based on timing and misdirection; so different from the grind-it-out, cloud-of-dust lines from PSU's past.

We saw all year long that the O-line struggled against tough defensive lines (Ohio State and Iowa). They lacked a massive tackle and were undersized across the board. The line was vulnerable to blitzing up the middle... time and time again, a linbacker and defensive tackle could blitz to each side of the center and disrupt Daryl Clark. Two men against one center, and no tackle support. Against teams without a dominating tackle in the middle, PSU did fine. Once the middle was disrupted, the protection collapsed and PSU had no answer. The running game struggled at times for the same reason.

Clark and Royster both dropped off in production this year. Good but not great seasons for them. The blame lies squarely on the Big Uglies.

2. Wide receivers were hit with graduation.

I was pleasantly surprised by the WR play. This year's corp had more size than the smurfs from last year. They created mismatches on deep routes and gave Clark good targets. There was some early issues on timing and a few dropped balls, but otherwise the WRs were excellent.

3. Defensive backs were not very good.

I still haven't answered this question. PSU never played a passing team that could test the corners. No Houston, Texas, or Cincinnati on the schedule. No Heisman-trophy candidates or first-round draft pick arms. Decent passing teams like Michigan State and Northwestern showed mixed success at times, but the DBs didn't have to be great due to the stellar line and LB play. Odrick and Bowman spent all season in the backfield of opposing offenses. The ends were quick enough to contain mobile qbs and prevent sideline runs. I'm afraid Colt McCoy would torch our secondary, however.

I cannot be disappointed with the 10-2 season. I also felt all year long that this team was not as good as the 11-1 Big 10 championship team from 2008. In that respect, they played just about to my (fairly high) expectations. Great job, Lions!

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