Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Nittany Blog Top 25 (10/30/05)

1. Southern Cal
2. Texas
3. Virginia Tech
4. Alabama
6. Louisiana State
7. Penn State
8. Florida State
9. Georgia
10. Wisconsin
11. Miami (Florida)
12. Notre Dame
13. Ohio State
14. Oregon
15. West Virginia
16. TCU
17. Florida
18. Boston College
19. Auburn
20. Texas Tech
21. Fresno State
22. Colorado
23. Georgia Tech
24. Michigan
25. Louisville

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Week Nine: Penn State 33, Purdue 15

Penn State pretty much did what everyone expected today. The defense kept Purdue's offense in check and the Penn State offense did enough. Neither unit looked legendary out there but it was a game Penn State was supposed to win and didn't disappoint. Michael Robinson had another solid performance but is still over shooting some of his wide receivers. He missed Deon Butler by a couple of yards too many on a handful of plays. Robinson also fumbled the ball for only the second time since the Northwestern game. Tamba Hali was absolutely dominant on defense. He was causing #74 of Purdue fits all day long. Hali also made a rather athletic play for a lineman, knocking down a Brandon Kirsch pass in the third quarter on a 3rd down play. Penn State's lack of depth along the defensive line seemed to show on Purdue's second touchdown drive, they just seemed to get a little sluggish, similiar to the Michigan game. Unfortunately, there's not much that can be done about that at this point in the season. A.Q. Shipley has provided some nice depth at DT but the losses of Ed Johnson and Lavon Chisley has had a large impact as many forsaw.

Why is Calvin Lowery still returning punts? He isn't a smart returner and he doesn't have good hands, as Brent Musberger alluded to right before he touched and fumbled a punt that Purdue recovered that led to their first touchdown. Rodney Kinlaw had another nice kick off return this week. Anthony Scirrotto at least seems capable of making smart decisions on punt returns. I just don't understand Joe's logic behind continuing to allow Lowery to return punts. There are so many more effective returners to choose from.

Now Penn State prepares to host Wisconsin next week in what is a quasi-Big Ten championship game. The winner controls their own destiny for receiving the Big Ten's BCS bid. Playing at home will be a big advantage for Penn State. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the game and decibel level are of the same intensity of the Ohio State game. I think Penn State matches up very well with Wisconsin. The Badgers rely on a strong running game led by Brian Calhoun and Matt Bernstein. Bernstrein, as some may remember, was one of the few running backs to run well against Penn State last season. Penn State sports one of the best front sevens in the country and should be able to contain the Badger running game. John Stocco is not capable of winning this game for Wisconsin. The Badgers' defense is nowhere near as good as it was last season, the Nittany Lions should be able score enough to win.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Week Nine: Purdue (2-5, 0-4) at #11 Penn State (7-1, 4-1)

Back in the summer, this game had been targeted by almost every Penn State fan as a sure loss. Purdue was returning almost their entire defense and they would feature a plethora of options on offense and Brandon Kirsch would be just as good or better than Kyle Orton. Well, that didn't quite happen. Purdue, the sexy pick to win the Big Ten, has fallen to pieces. The defense is no good, Curtis Painter is now the starting quarterback and Purdue has been manhandled by every opponent that they have faced. Penn State should be no different. Beaver Stadium will be packed for homecoming and the emotion from the last home game, the emotional win over Ohio State on October 8th, should carry over. Happy Valley will be rockin' and loud. Paternoville has been reinhabited this week. A win will potentially guarantee Penn State a New Year's Day bowl game bid. This Penn State team is ready but Purdue is fighting for a bowl bid.

Last week, Penn State's offense proved that it could be explosive even without Derrick Williams. Deon Butler stepped up with a couple of touchdown catches, Ethan Kilmer had a career day and Michael Robinson tied a school record with six touchdowns. This Penn State offense is polished and on top of their game. Purdue's defense has looked extremely pourous and if Wisconsin can hang 33 on them, Penn State should be able to match or top that easily. Purdue's only hope is that the turnover bug bites Penn State, something that hasn't happened since the Northwestern game, and that the defense comes out flat like they did against Northwestern and Illinois. I don't see either thing happeneing. Robinson is making good decisions and holding onto the football. Penn State doesn't usually come out slow at home, it's the road where it is a concern.

Penn State's Keys to Victory:
  • NO turnovers
  • Attack Purdue's secondary with Deon Butler
  • Feed it to Tony Hunt
  • Put Painter under pressure

My Prediction- Penn State 35, Illinois 10

The same score that I predicted last week for the Illinois game. I think Purdue is a better team than Illinois and won't allow Penn State's offense to annihilate them as Illinois' defense did. Purdue has some weapons on offense but this will be Curtis Painter's first road start and it will be againt one of the nation's top defenses in a hostile environment. It sounds like a recipe for disaster. Look for Tony Hunt to rush for over 100 yards and another nice day for Deon Butler. Penn State just can't afford to look ahead to Wisconsin, the unofficial Big Ten championship game next Saturday.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

BlogPoll Roundtable #11

1. The Envy Poll (as seen on rsfc)Name the five teams, other than yours, whose accomplishments you respect / envy the most. Use whatever criteria you feel is appropriate (wins, titles, consistency, academic integrity, competitive integrity, NCAA violations, general thuggery, mascot intimidation factor ...).
No particular order...
1. Notre Dame- How can you not? They have the largest fanbase of perhaps any team in the United States, guaranteed national TV every week no matter who they are playing, a plethora of national championships and one of the best fight songs. Unlike most PSU fans, I don't dislike ND, I just can't stand a subset of their fans.

2. Alabama- Great tradition, great fans, great fight song, Bear Bryant. What's not to like?

3. Tennessee- The same can pretty much be applied here outside of fat Phil.

4. Nebraksa- Apply the same as the first three. They have a pro-like following. Almost everyone in Nebraska is a Huskers fan.

5. Georgia- Same. Uga is the best live mascot in the country.

2. Admissions with regard to Question #1, what is the most damaging criticism of your program that you will admit is a legitimate criticism? That is, what negative trait does the most damage to the overall respect level of your program (in your eyes, or to others, interpret as you will).
Too much loyalty. Joe will never shake up the coaching staff and the chances of the the university looking outside of the program to find Joe's successor is unlikely. While Penn State has several outstanding coaches (Tom Bradley, Galen Hall, Larry Johnson Sr., Mike McQueary, etc.), there are some other who arguably don't deserve to keep their jobs. But of course, winning heals all wounds. Even Jay Paterno has been exempt from criticism with Penn State's 7-1 start.

3. Unrelated Discussion Question- Who do you think is the best player in the history of your program? Tell us a little about him (especially if he's not a household name). Feel free to pick someone from 50 years ago that none of us has seen play.
This is really, really tough. I will say Shane Conlan. Penn State is Linebacker U. and Conlan is one of the greatest of all time. He played on a national championship team and went on to have a very successful pro career. Current potential All-American LB Paul Posluszny has been compared to Conlan. Frankly, I think Posluszny will leave Penn State as one of the greats if he isn't already there. He's simply a beast.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Joe Finally Gets It- Kinlaw on Kick Offs; Why is Lowery Still Returning Punts?

Penn State has not had a great returner since Bryant Johnson in 2002. That was the last time Penn State had a kick off or punt return for a touchdown. Since then, Penn State's kick return game has been less than stellar. That was up until this season, when Derrick Williams and Justin King were penciled in as the two kick off returners. Both did a good job in the first seven games but Derrick Williams's untimely injury on a return against Michigna will likely be the final time he ever returns a kick. It is simply too risky to put your best playmaker in a position where he can easily get hammered to the ground. Insert Rodney Kinlaw, the redshirt sophomore tailback from South Carolina who is the fastest player on the team not named Williams or King. While most of us would like an explanation as to why it took Paterno so long to use him, almost everyone is glad that he finally is. Kinlaw broke several nice returns against Illinois, including a 77-yarder that almost went for a touchdown. The kid can simply fly. Obviously Illinois isn't the greatest competition but it was very encouring to see Kinlaw tearing it up on kick offs. Since he isn't a starter he can take chances that a starter like Williams can't/shouldn't take since he is so valuable. Kinlaw will be a weapon on special teams for years to come. Not many positives have/will come from Williams's injury but the emergence of Kinlaw has to be among the few.

Why is Calvin Lowery still returning punts? He had some nice returns against Illinois but he has generally struggled most of the season. He is an outstanding safety and it is too bad that his poor special teams play has overshadowed how well he has played on defense. With the emergence of Kinlaw, it is puzzling why Joe continues to play Lowery as the punt returner. My theory is trust. Joe trusts Lowery to bring in the punts and not let them get away. It's a sound strategy but it gives PSU very little opportunity to make a big play out of punt. My lasting memory of Lowery as the punt returner is his decision to fair catch a punt against Northwestern at the 5 yard line. That's just not having your head in the game. Anyone returning punts should be aware of where they are on the field and what they need to execute in the situation. Lowery seems to just know how to wave his arm in the air. The good news? Joe will have no choice but to put someone new back there next season since Lowery will have graduated. Hopefully it will be Kinlaw or King.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Week Eight: Penn State 63, Illinois 10

Just unbelieveable. I have never, in all my years of watching football, ever seen one team dominate another quite as much as Penn State dominated Illinois in the first half of their game that saw Penn State go to halftime with a 56-3 lead. Just to put that in perspective, Penn State scored only 41 points TOTAL in their six Big Ten losses last season and only 48 total in their seven losses. Michael Robinson was on fire, he simply looked unstoppable. He found Ethan Kilmer and Deon Butler, multiple times, wide open for touchdowns. Robinson threw for four TD's, rushed for two and tied Harry Robb's record of six touchdowns in a game, set in a 1917 contest with Gettysburg. In all probablility, Robinson would have broken the record with one drive in the second half. Few, if any, starters saw time in the second half. Penn State did not attempt a pass. Both Anthony Morelli and Paul Cianciolo played in the second half. Morelli didn't throw many passes in the game but he did have a very nice completion to Lydell Sargeant near the end of the second half to set up a touchdown. Morelli has a cannon for an arm. Morelli is going to have a plethora of weapons, both at RB and WR, next season. Penn State's offense will be very impressive. Even this early, I'm predicting that it will easily be Penn State's best offensive performance since 1994.

The defense, starters to end of the bench reserves, were all around solid. Donnie Johnson looks like he will be a solid DB in some capacity next season, as does Anthony Scirrotto, who recorded an interception. Even true freshman Devin Fentress made some very impressive plays. The pundits continie to knock Penn State's depth along the defensive line but they were pretty darned impressive against Illinois. A.Q. Shiply leveled Tim Brasic in the backfield for a sack near the Illinois 1 in the third quarter. Shipley has played well on the offensive line this season but it has to be tempting to keep him on defense after an impressive performance like the one he had against the Illini.

Penn State now prepares to play host to 2-5 Purdue next week. The Boilermakers remain winless in the Big Ten after losing to Wisconsin on Saturday. Illinois is the only other team winless in Big Ten play. A game that many tabbed as a very likely loss for Penn State in the pre-season now looks like another tune up before the unofficial Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin on November 5th. Purdue's defense is lousy and Curtis Painter played QB against Wisconsin. I don't know what happened to Brandon Kirsch but the PSU defense will feast on whoever is dropping back for the Boilermakers. I wouldn't expect another annihilation but PSU should beat Purdue handily, especially since it's at home.

The Nittany Blog Top 25 (10/23/05)

1. Southern Cal
2. Texas
3. Virginia Tech
4. Georgia
5. Alabama
7. Miami (Florida)
8. Louisiana State
9. Penn State
10. Florida State
11. Boston College
12. Notre Dame
13. Wisconsin
14. Oregon
15. TCU
16. West Virginia
17. Ohio State
18. Texas Tech
19. Florida
20. Northwestern
21. Auburn
22. Cal
23. Fresno State
24. Louisville
25. Missouri

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Week Eight: #12 Penn State (6-1, 3-1) at Illinois (2-4, 0-3)

I'm not really sure how to preview this game. I know next to nothing about Illinois outside of the fact that they came back to beat Rutgers from down 27-7, played Cal pretty tough and Pierre Thomas and E.B. Halsey are a decent tailback tandem. Judging by the stats, Penn State should obliterate Illinois. Penn State's defense will be far too tough for the young Illini offense to penetrate and the PSU offense should have no problem scoring. Michael Robinson continues to play well at QB. Outside of the fumble and interception against Michigan, Robinson has minimized his turnovers since the Northwestern game. He had gutty and gritty performance against Michigan and made some plays that really saved Penn State. It's too bad his performance was overshadowed by the Michigan victory. Tony Hunt racked up another 100 yard performance against Michigan. Many are predicting a breakout game against Illinois for Hunt. It wouldn't surprise me at all. Other than Purdue, this will be Penn State's best opportunity to run the play at will on an opposing defense. The loss of Derrick Williams will be noticeable but Justin King is going to play exclusively on offense and perform the same roles as Williams did. King is just as explosive and Illinois's defense will give him a chance to learn on the fly. Terrell Golden is also going to need to step up and make plays to make up for the loss of Williams. Golden found himself in Joe's doghouse last season after celebrating a TD catch against Purdue and he wasn't heard from for the remainder of a season. This will be a good chance for him to step up and make a name for himself. There's not much to say about the defensive other than that a couple of position changes have been made. A.Q. Shipley will move to DT for the remainder of the season and return to center in the spring and Tyrell Sales will be utilized as an upright DE, similar to Brandon Short in 1997.

Penn State's Keys to Victory:
  • Show up
  • Stop Thomas and Halsey
  • Let Tony Hunt run the ball down their throats
  • No special teams mistakes

My Prediction- Penn State 35, Illinois 10

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Time to Move On

I'm still as distraught as any other Penn State fan after the heartbreaking loss to Michigan this past Saturday. We got screwed, it happens every single time we come close to beating Michigan, but it's time to move on. Penn State is the only team in the Big Ten that controls its own destiny- win out and we will most likely earn a Fiesta Bowl bid. If someone told me before the season started that Penn State was going to be 6-1, #12, #10 in the BCS and co-leading the Big Ten on October 20th, I probably would have doubted it. After the past two seasons, who wouldn't? And while we're all disappointed to not have beaten Michigan since 1996, we still have a lot to be thankful for and an awful lot to look forward to the rest of the season. No matter what happens from this point, Penn State will be in a bowl game for the first time since 2002. I don't know about the rest of you but my Christmas/New Year's always seems incomplete without a Penn State bowl game to look forward to. I know it's wrong to compare these but it was a lot like being without a close relative. The holiday season was still enjoyable but something familiar was missing. Well not this year. Hopefully PSU will be bowling on January 2nd. It also looks as though a potential Fiesta Bowl match up could be Penn State against one of its old time opponents such as Alabama, Notre Dame, West Virginia of the Paterno-Bowden Bowl if Florida State joined the Nittany Lions in Tempe. No matter what happens, this season should be looked back on as the re-emergence of Penn State football. Unlike the 2002 that had a strong corps of seniors, this is a very young team that may be contending for a national championship very soon. Penn State football has finally emerged from the dark ages.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Penn State Lands Top WR Prospect

Chris Bell, a standout wide receiver from Norfolk, Virginia, gave a verbal commitment to Penn State on Monday evening. He is rated as a four-star prospect by and is a Rivals100 prospect. Bell is Penn State's top prospect landed so far in this class. I will post more on this tomorrow as well as the verbal comittment of Maryland DE/LB Aaron Maybin to Penn State. Both are tremendous prospects who have started to get Penn State's recruiting class rolling. Bell is going to to further strengthen an already lethal Penn State corps of wideouts. How many defenses are going to want to see Derrick Williams, Chris Bell, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood, among other various young receivers staring at them across the line of scrimmage. Bell may be the final piece of Penn State's offensive puzzle. As long as the offensive line comes together, the 2006 Penn State offense may very well be the best Nittany Lion offense since 1994, considered one of the greatest offenses in the history of college football.

Maybin is one of the top defensive prospects in the mid-atlantic region this year. He can play DE and LB and with Penn State's lack of depth, he, as well as fellow verbal Eric Lattimore from Delaware, will likley see playing time as true freshmen as a mostly veteran defense in 2005 will transform into a very young defense.

Congrats to Chris and Aaron. The best of luck to them in their Penn State careers.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

D-Will Derailed, Out for Season With Broken Arm

Derrick Williams will miss the remainder of the 2005 season with a broken arm. This is certainly disheartening and disappointing news, especially coming off such a tough loss to Michigan. I guess the silver-lining here is that unlike last season, PSU has several wide receivers, some who aren't even playing regularly, that can get the job done. Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Terrell Golden are a solid three. Obviously they will all face better defensive backs with Williams out but all three have been contributing of late. Ethan Kilmer will likely be the fourth wide receiver with Justin King perhaps seeing a little but of playing time. However, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the staff almost completely faze out four receiver sets for the remainder of the season. The offense didn't bank everything on the play of Williams so a total collapse will not happen. There are too many good players for that to happen. This is just going to put more pressure on Robinson to keep his mistakes down and the offensive line and the running game. This will almost certainly result in more touches for Tony Hunt both on the ground and through the air. Not neccesary bad news considering Hunt has busted off some nice runs this season and is one of the most underrated players in the Big Ten.

I would be lying if I said losing Derrick Williams wasn't going to have a large impact on the Penn State offense. Williams was the playmaker and opened things up for the other wide receivers and Tony Hunt. The offensive production will suffer but this offense will still score points. Hopefully Williams will make a full recovery and will be ready for spring practice.

Week Seven Thoughts

Despite Penn State's horrible, terrible, screw job loss because of the referee's decision to put two seconds back on the clock and lose for seventh straight time to Michigan, 27-25, it was an all around memorable day in college football.

Perhaps in the most surprising upset of the day, Virginia, ten years after their memorable first win over Florida State, defeated the Seminoles 26-21 to knock them from the ranks of the unbeatens. The Cavaliers still look like a decent team to me, I bumped them into my Top 25 this week, and I think they are capable of making some noise in the ACC. Florida State needs to get their act together with Boston College still hanging tough. So far the Eagles' only loss was at the hands of Boston College. Much like Virginia Tech last season, BC is off to a fast start in their first season in the ACC.

The Big Ten race went into absolute chaos as Penn State lost to Michigan, Wisconsin knocked off Minnesota, Northwestern beat Purdue on the road and Ohio State rolled past Michigan State. Penn State, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Ohio State and Iowa are all tied for the Big Ten lead right now. Penn State has already beaten Northwestern and Ohio State and play Wisconsin in early November. The Lions do not play Iowa. Wisconsin lost to Northwestern last Saturday and Iowa has already lost to Ohio State. Needless to say, it will be an exciting stretch run in the Big Ten. The only teams truly out of the race are Illinois and Indiana.

The Penn State-Michigan game was absolutely painful to watch. The Nittany Lions gave a less than stellar effort on defense, allowing Mike Hart to gain some (really) tough yards on the ground and consistently left Michigan wide outs wide open. Two such incidents allowed for Mario Manningham's two touchdown catches. As a good fan and good writer I shouldn't sit here and criticize the referees but that would be impossible. They were simply terrible- again. I admit that the Wolverines have beaten PSU far and square in the early games of the infamous streak but the last two have been absolutely ridiculous. The "no-catch" in 2002 that could have set up the game winning field goal and no in 2005 the mysterious two seconds reappearing. The refs gave Michigan great spots the entire game. On one run, Michigan looks to be about a yard short but the ref moved the ball up an entire yard and gave it to them. The Big Ten hates Penn State. It gets sickening after awhile. This game just makes me wish even more that Penn State could team up with West Virginia and help make the ACC into a 14 team super conference. Penn State belongs in the ACC. Last I checked, Pennsylvania was a middle atlantic state, not midwestern.

Ohio State and Michigan State played a downright ugly game. Michigan State made some horrible mistakes, the biggest of which was the botched field goal attempt at the end of the second quarter. Ohio State really gained back momentum at that point, taking it all the way back for a touchdown. Michigan State regained the lead in the second half but that was really the turning point. Santonio Holmes' final touchdown could have easily been stopped by the Spartans the defender made his first mistake by looking off of Holmes and instead focusing on Ted Ginn or the snap from center. Holmes was easily abole to adjust and come back in to make the catch and run.

Purdue is just a terrible team. The loss to Northwestern 34-29 (ironically the same score by which the Wildcats lost to Penn State) confirmed that. Meanwhile Northwestern looks like a pretty good team. Boy am I glad that Penn State played them early and escaped with a victory. I wouldn't want to play them right now, they look dangerous and should at least strike some fear into the Big Ten's big boys. At 4-2, I bumped them in my Top 25 this week. The Wildcats looks like, at worst, a 6-7 win team to me. I think they might even be a little better than that. Tyrell Sutton may be the best tailback in the Big Ten by the time he graduates.

West Virginia took control of the Big East on Saturday, knocking off Louisville 46-44 in Morgantown. The Mountaineers have really been flying under the radar this season at 6-1, their only loss to Virginia Tech. They will get into the Top 25 this week and clearly look capable of running the table in the Big East and reaching a BCS bowl at 10-1. Having beaten Louisville and Rutgers, they have, sadly, gotten past the class of the Big East this season.

Alabama barely escaped Ole Miss, winning 13-10 on a last second field goal. While it certainly was far from an impressive performance by the Tide, every team has that scare everntually. The defense was stelllar, as usual. and Ken Darby ripped off a very nice run in the third quarter to get Bama back into it after trailing at half time. With Florida State's loss, Alabama will move into the Top 5 for the first time in a very, very long time.

LSU defeated Florida 21-17. The Gators are now two games back of Georgia in the SEC East and a loss in the World's Largest Outdorr Cocktail Party would spell the end of the the Gators' hopes of a BCS bowl. Perhaps even a New Year's Day bowl. Not an outstanding first season for Urban Meyer as the Gators may be a loss away from dropping out of the Top 25.

Southern Cal and Notre Dame played a classic South Bend and it couldn't have ended in a crazier fashion. I have never seen anything quite like those final seven seconds. Leinarts's fumble out of bonds, the fake spike that ended up being a Leinart QB sneak to win the game for the Trojans. It was a well played and exciting game that will be talked about as a legendary game in the USC-Notre Dame rivalry. I have to give credit to the Notre Dame defense. I didn't think that they were capable of holding USC under 45 points but they got the job done, unfortunately the offense just didn't have enough.

Cal lost to Oregon State and may drop out of the Top 25. It looks like still undefeated UCLA will have the best chance to knock off the Trojans before the Rose Bowl.

The Nittany Blog Top 25 (10/16/05)

1. Southern Cal
2. Texas
3. Virginia Tech
4. Georgia
5. Alabama
6. Miami (Florida)
7. LSU
9. Texas Tech
10. Florida State
11. Penn State
12. Boston College
13. Notre Dame
14. Oregon
15. Auburn
16. Wisconsin
17. Ohio State
18. West Virginia
19. TCU
20. Florida
21. Tennessee
22. Nebraska
23. Virginia
24. Northwestern
25. Cal

Friday, October 14, 2005

Life in College Football's Wasteland

These past two weeks have been LONG! It's even harder living in college football's wasteland where no one else cares or can even imagine the feeling of two big game weeks back to back. Here in Connecticut hoops has already become the main sporting focus. This despite the fact that Connecticut is looking in pretty good shape for a second straight bowl appearance. Anyone who has seen me with my PSU cap on this week has said one of two things to me- When's JoePa leaving? or Michigan is going to beat you bad. Then I ask them what UM's record is and they have no clue. Then I say 3-3 and they say "oh". This is the world I live in. The most intelligent college football discussion I have is on internet message boards and my writings in this blog. No one in this state can imagine what last Saturday night at Beaver Stadium was like unless they are a displaced Buckeye or Nittany Lion like myself. College hoops fans think that 9,500 screaming fans at Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke is a hostile environment. I would like to see how they would react to being seated in the freezing cold, rain pouring, shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers. Beaver Stadium was absolutely electric. The stadium literally shook at times because of the noise, bouncing and genuine joy that Penn State fans displayed from kick off to the final seconds. I have never been to a college basketball game but I can safely guarantee you that there isn't another venue, pro or college whatever, that could compare to the noise in the stadium. I know a lot of people who don't like college football. It is absolutely unfathomable to me. College football is better than any other sport in existence. There is nothing that can match the intensity, pagentry, tradition, game and noise. I feel sorry for people who don't follow college football but instead follow college basketball exclusively. I, myself, follow both. However, I would be lying to you if I said that I enjoyed college hoops as much as I enjoy college football. It ain't even close. There is a reason State College becomes the third largest city in Pennsylvania on gamedays. There is a reason over 100,000 pack into Knoxville, Columbus and Ann Arbor as well. College football controls certain regions on Saturdays. It is a darn shame that some people don't give it a try. Unfortunately, once you get hooked, it's like any other addiction- it just gets much worse over time. I started out as a casual Penn State fan years and years ago, simply because I was a Pennsylvanian. Now I bleed Blue and White like no one else can believe. That is one of the reasons I started this blog. The addiction just keeps growing. If you're not convinced, read Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer by Warren St. John. That will explain everything you need to know. I highly recommend it everyone. Even if you have never watched a down college football, it is an interesting read.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Bradley to Temple? Get a Clue.

I'm sick and tired of hearing of hearing the "Tom Bradley to Temple" rumors that have begun to swirl since Bobby Wallace was fired by Temple earlier this week. Temple is about the worst place anyone can coach, let alone start off their career as a head coach. Pete Carroll wouldn't win there. Joe Paterno wouldn't win there. Bear Bryant wouldn't win there. It is asking to end your head coaching career early on. Temple football is the most pathetic 1-A football program in the country bar none. The team hasn't been to a bowl game since the 1970's, hasn't had a winning season since the early '90's, got voted out of the Big East and plays in a near-empty rented stadium. That's not even mentioning the brutal schedule the Owls have this season. While things will get easier as Temple prepares to enter the MAC, this program is an absolute trainwreck. I can't imagine Tom Bradley, the unofficial successor to Joe Paterno, leaving Penn State to risk losing that status. Not even PSU AD Tim Curley and president Graham Spanier would be stupid enough to allow Bradley back if he went to Temple and unsurprising failed miserably, just as another ex-Penn State assistant did- Ron Dickerson. While people have been predicting Joe Paterno's retirement since the mid-'80's, you have to believe that good ol' JoePa going to call it a career within the next couple of seasons. Fran Ganter and Jerry Sandusky were both regarded as successors to JoePa at some point in their careers, passing up Temple-like and better head coaching opportunities, and Joe has outlasted both of them. Bradley was there during those days, he is well versed in what went on. If he didn't already know something about his future he would have likely jumped to the NFL (supposedly the New York Giants were interested in him as linebackers coach) or taken a head coaching job this past offseason when some had named him as a potential candidate for the Pitt job. Bradley knows something that no one else does. I expect that before the beginning of next season Joe will name Bradley as his successor and put a plan into place. If Bradley is indeed the future leader of Penn State football, Penn State won't be stupid enough to let Bradley slip away. If he does leave, he was never in the mix as a successor. I seriously doubt that that will be the case.

For the record, I believe that Mike McQueary has the best potential of anyone on the PSU coaching staff to become a head coach. He has been instrumental in turning around Penn State's recruiting woes and he is the wide receivers coach of perhaps the best corps of freshmen wideouts in the country. He is young, has Penn State ties and has been a successful position coach and recruiting coordinator. Don't be surprised at all to see McQueary as offensive coordinator and Larry Johnson Sr. as defensive coordinator if Bradley becomes head coach. Bradley isn't exactly a spring chicken. It may not be mentioned in a potential succession plan but McQueary may be the real future leader of Penn State football. A couple of nice seasons and Bradley may be ready for retirement.

Week Seven: #8 Penn State (6-0, 3-0) at Michigan (3-3, 1-2)

Last week's win against Ohio State was incredible. It was easily Penn State's biggest victory in the past decade. However, I want a Penn State victory over Michigan more than anything. I'm tired of hearing about the six game losing streak, how Michigan pillages Western Pennsylvania talent and how Michigan football is superior in every way to every other school. Well I have news for you, Michigan fans. The Wolverines ARE NOT a good football team this season. The offense is sporadic, the defensive secondary is in shambles and the defensive unit as a whole is overrated. Michigan lost to Minnesota and possession of the Little Brown Jug for the first time since I was before I was born. The only team that Michigan was flat out dominated this season was Eastern Michigan. Let us not forget that the Minnesota team that Michigan lost to had been throttled by Penn State 44-14 the previous week. All of this makes you wonder why Michigan is a 3 point favorite. While I wish Las Vegas would give PSU a little more respect, this is exactly where Penn State wants to be- underdogs with a chance to thrash yet another big time opponent. Penn State has now been an underdog for the past three weeks to Minnesota, Ohio State and now Michigan. So far, Penn State is obviously 2-0 in those games.

Penn State couldn't draw Michigan at a better time. The Wolverines' secondary is banged up and they are coming off a heartbreaking last second loss to Minnesota. Some would say this will make them hungrier for victory but I'm going to play devil's advocate and say that it negatively impacts them. With three losses already, the fans are throwing in the towel (many fans are selling off their tickets) and Michigan will have to win out just to have a prayer at a New Year's Day bowl game. While Penn State's offense didn't dominate Ohio State last week, the Lions did enough to win. It was raining the majority of the game and it was clear that Jim Tressel wasn't going to go out of his way to challenge Penn State's defense. The key stat to take away from the Ohio State game is zero, as in zero turnovers. Penn State has now gone two games without any turnovers since Michael Robinson's four turnover performance in the first half against Northwestern. Robinson has been making smarter decisions with the football when it comes to both running and passing. He had been rather careless with the football through the first four games. If the Penn State offense once again plays turnover-free football, the offense should produce like the well-oiled mahcine it has evolved into from last season's two runs and a cloud of dust offense. Tony Hunt will need to continue running the ball well. When Hunt runs the ball well, it opens up the pass game and against a week Michigan secondary, that could result in some of the long plays that we saw earlier in the season.

Penn State's defense has been playing lights out for the past two games. Ever since Northwestern hung 23 points on Penn State's offense in the first half of that game, the Nittany Lions have surrendered only 30 points in two and a half games. Paul Posluszny has been playing like an All-American all season long and he earned his third consecutive Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award (it was shared this past week) for his performance against Ohio State. Posluszny's play made supposed superior Ohio State linebackers Bobby Carpenter and A.J. Hawk look run of the mill. There is not a linebacker in the nation that I would trade Poz for right now. He has been playing balls to wall all season long and is well deserving of the comparisons to such great Penn State linebackers as Shane Conlan and Greg Buttle. The play of Poz, Dan Connor, Tim Shaw and Tyrell Sales have gone a long way to re-establishing Penn State as "Linebacker U." Michigan is going to have to pass the ball to win this game. Mike Hart may pull off a couple of nice runs but the Penn State front seven is far too good for him to run all over them, just ask Laurence Maroney. I like Penn State's secondary against Michigan's wide receivers. Don't get me wrong, Michigan's offense will score points but Penn State is clearly a better defense than anyone else that Michigan has seen thus far. As a matter of fact, it ain't even close.

This game is going to come down to one thing- Penn State is the better team with the better defense. I see a well played football game that sees Penn State pull away at the end with Tony Hunt hammering away at the Michigan defense in the second half.

Penn State's Keys to Victory:
  • No turnovers
  • Tough run defense
  • Contain Hart and Avant
  • Pressure Chad Henne
  • Control the clock

My Prediction- Penn State 28, Michigan 17

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

M-Rob's Progression Fuels Penn State's Rejuvenated Attack

To be blunt, Michael Robinson's performance in Penn State's first four games was abysmal. Other than ex-Penn State reserve Chris Ganter, he was one of the worst prepared senior QB's that I have ever watched. Legendary Berwick (Pennsylvania) High head coach George Curry looked like a fool after he had praised Michael Robinson's development during the offseason when Robinson appeared at a Curry QB clinic at Berwick in the spring. Now it appears that Michael Robinson will have the last laugh.

I will admit that I was one of the many Penn State fans who called for Anthony Morelli after Michael Robinson's four turnovers in the first half against Northwestern. Robinson hadn't looked particularly sharp against South Florida, Cincinnati and Central Michigan either. He threw poor passes that ended up getting run back the other way and he was careless carrying the football. Michael Robinson has not committed a turnover, fumble or interception, since the Northwestern game and has been instrumental in Penn State's two biggest victories since 1999 against Minnesota and Ohio State over the past two weeks.

We have all known that Michael Robinson is a very gifted athlete. He has been a regular for Penn State on offense since his redshirt freshman year in 2002 when he burst onto the scene as a slash-type player and made for a dangerous combo in the backfield with Larry Johnson when Robinson lined up at QB or RB. Zack Mills was only a sophomore at that point but we all thought that M-Rob was going to be our stud QB of the future. Unfortunately, the staff then for two years misused Robinson, moving him from position to position on offense and then forcing him into the starting QB role when Mills was injured. It was no wonder Robinson looked so awful in most of his performances, having usually just a week to prepare to face some of the best defenses in the country. All of that culminated into absolute doubt from just about every Penn State fan. It was written in stone- Robinson can't throw. Robinson turns the ball over too much. Robinson won't use all of wide receivers. The list went on and on. And it held true too through the season's first three and a half games. Then everything changed in the second half against Northwestern. At one point down 23-7, the Nittany Lions rallied back and won 34-29 on two instrumental Robinson passes. The first came on a 4th and 15 deep in Penn State territory. Instead of locking onto a receiver or scrambling, Robinson found tight end Isaac Smolko across the middle for the first down. The Lions continued to move the ball down the field and approached the Northwestern 35. On 3rd down the Lions snapped the ball and Robinson found himself under immediate pressure from the Wildcats defense. He ducked and found Derrick Williams near the 10 yard line. It looked like Robinson had just heaved it away to avoid the sack but instead it was the much heralded freshman who not only made the catch but ducked the defender and scored, giving PSU their fourth victory and it marked the end of Robinson's struggles.

Since the Northwestern game, Robinson has been outstanding. Against Minnesota, Robinson was 13-32 for 175 yards and he rushed for 115 yards. This past weekend against Ohio State, Robinson was 11-20 for just 78 yards but he rushed for 54 yards and a TD. While those aren't outstanding numbers, they are solid, especially the no turnovers. Tony Hunt has emerged as a tremendous tailback and has taken some of the load off of Penn State's passing game. Robinson has looked much better carrying the ball, not running as wreckleesly with it. He is also starting to force less passes. Robinson continues to improve week to week but he may get a little bit of a breather this week. While Michigan's defense isn't a slouch, it is nowhere near as talented as Ohio State's. Penn State should be able to move the ball on the ground and pass enough to win. However, Joe Paterno has said that Penn State will exploit the weaknesses of the opposing defense so they're going to take what Michigan gives them. Frankly, I like Penn State's offense against Michigan's defense

Monday, October 10, 2005

Temple Fires Bobby Wallace

I can't believe that Temple allowed this to go on for so long. Temple football is still the same sad shape that it was when Bobby Wallace took over as head coach in 1998. The Owls have gone only 19-66 under Wallace and were booted out the Big East, a conference that has been scrambling to find football schools to fill up the conference. While Temple has found a new football home in the MAC, the program isn't in any better shape. The Owls are 0-6 and have already blown their best shot at victory this season when they lost at home to Western Michigan. The Owls also lost 70-7 to Bowling Green, one of four MAC teams they have already or will face this season. Things don't exactly get much easier for the Owls as the Miami Hurricanes roll into Lincoln Financial Field next Saturday. The only thing bright for Temple football is their 2007 "home" game with Penn State. It is the only time you will see the Linc soldout for a Temple football game.

Now the big question needs to be answer- who will succeed Bobby Wallace? More like, who in their right mind would want to succeed Bobby Wallace? Temple is a graveyard for head coaches. The Owls are going to have a very limited number of candidates to work with. Not many successful 1-A coordinators, 1-AA head coaches and even 1-A position coaches would take this job. Failure is expected. What strong minded coach would risk his career to become the head coach at Temple? Early reports are that Temple is going strong after Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. Bradley is widely regarded as the top choice as Joe Paterno's successor. Is he going to throw that all away to go coach (and fail) at Temple? Look at what happened to three past Penn State coaches who went on to coach at 1-A schools. Jim Caldwell was fired by Wake Forest, Ron Dickerson was fired by Temple and Dick Anderson was fired by Rutgers. Jerry Sandusky, Penn State's legendary defensive coordinator, passed up the Temple job. Here are a couple of candidates who might be interested in the job or guys that Temple should look at:

  1. Paul Pasqualoni, Tight Ends Coach, Dallas Cowboys- He had a pretty successful run at Syracuse, he played at Penn State and his name carries some wait in Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, some of Temple's prime recruiting territory, and he would bring some national attention to Temple just as Dave Wannstedt did to Pitt.
  2. Ron Vanderlinden, Linebackers Coach, Penn State- The ex-Maryland coach turned down Eastern Michigan a couple of years ago and he is currently the linebacker coach at Penn State. Since he turned down Eastern Michigan, I would hazard to guess that he won't be interested if Temple comes calling.
  3. Dana Bible, Offensive Coordinator, Boston College- I can't believe that he hasn't already been hired away by a mid-major school. He has produced some tremendous tailbacks and quaterbacks at Boston College as their offensive coordinator and he has ties to Philadelphia, serving as the Philadelphia Eagles' offensive coordinator in 1998. He doesn't have any head coaching experience but I think he would make an excellent hire if Temple decides to go the coordinator rout.
  4. Jay Paterno, QB Coach, Penn State- Why not? He couldn't do any worse than Wallace and his name alone would create a buzz throughout the state. Besides, it would add some excitement to the upcoming Penn State-Temple games, Paterno vs Paterno.

Week Six Thoughts

I didn't watch much college football this weekend outside of the Ohio State-Penn State since I spent most of my Saturday and then Sunday going to and from State College and Connecticut so this will be an abbreviated version of my weekly thoughts. Last week my thoughts were linked on

Boston College appears to have bounced back from their early loss to Florida State and they are beginning to climb the polls after a win over Virginia. I'm still not sold on BC but I think they deserve credit for how well they have played in their first season in the ACC, agruably the deepest league in the country this season.

Georgia Tech, a team I was very high on coming into the season, lost a hearbreaker to N.C. State on Thursday night on a pass that was intercepted after falling through the hands of Calvin Johnson. I still think the Yellow Jackets are a good team but they really need a win against a big time opponent to get people's attention again. Thus far they still look like typical 7-8 win and a bowl game Georgia Tech. There are few teams in the nation that put up the same type of seasons as Georgia Tech does year in and year out.

Penn State entered the Top 10 in both polls for the first time since 1999 after beating Ohio State 17-10. Derrick Williams continued to prove why he is emerging as one college football's best playmakers and the PSU defense was once again stellar. Ohio State looked downright lost out there at some points and ran the same plays over and over again. Their offensive playcalling reminded me of Penn State's in 2004- predictable, repetitive and unproductive.

Michigan lost to Minnesota for the first time since 1986, 23-20 at home and surrendered the Little Brown Jug. The Wolverines have their worst team in several years. A loss to Penn State on Saturday would drop the Wolverines to 3-4.

Texas ended their losing streak to Oklahoma in big fashion, taking it 45-12. The Sooners are a bad football team. Ever since that loss to TCU, I have seen a 5-6 season for them. That loss to TCU could have the same damaging affect on them that Penn State's 2000 home loss to Toledo had. The Lions finished a disappointing 5-7 and had, at that point, only Joe Paterno's second losing season.

Texas Tech, after putting 70 on them last season, escaped Lincoln with a 34-31. Texas Tech is clearly the second best team in the Big 12 but a mile. The Red Raiders are the only team left on the schedule that the Longhorns should fear.

Southern Cal defeated Arizona 42-21. It wasn't a particularly convincing win that could have been a lot closer. I think the Trojans beat Notre Dame next week but unless they get their act together, they will lose in the Rose Bowl. All of the unbeaten teams left with a decent shot at the national championship- Texas, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Florida State, Alabama and Penn State- all have tremendous defenses and offenses that score points. The Trojans should be concerned because only the Pac-10 you can go undefeated by outscoring everyone.

UCLA upset Cal and the Bruins have flown under the radar at 5-0. The re-emergence of Alabama, Notre Dame and Penn State certainly hasn't helped get the Bruins ay attention but they are certainly deserving. They have the best shot of anyone out the Pac-10 to knock off USC.

Georgia, in what was supposed to be a down season, has quitely ascended to #4 in the polls and won some support after beating Tennessee on Rocky Top. The Bulldogs look like the best team out of the SEC East but they will need to get past the Gaotrs in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Week Six: Penn State 17, Ohio State 10

They said Ohio State had too much speed. Ohio State's defense was too good. Our quarterback would turn the ball over. Our freshmen receivers would disappear. Our defense wasn't good enough.

Well, to those who thought the Buckeyes were going to come into Happy Valley and throttle the Lions- I laugh at you. All those arrogant Buckeye fans who didn't think we belonged on the same field as them, take a nice large piece of humble pie and get ready for Michigan State.

Penn State finally proved to the nation that the Lions are back. The defense was outstanding, Paul Posluszny was once again a monster patrolling the field and Calvin Lowery came up with one of the biggest interceptions in Penn State history. The offense wasn't as potent as past weeks but it didn't matter. The young receivers made the catches when they had to and it was Derrick Williams who scored the first Penn State touchdown. Michael Robinson, despite some poor decisions, looked poised and confident against the "nasty" Buckeye defense. Tony Hunt had some nice runs and continues to emerge as one of the best backs in the Big Ten.

The crowd was absolutely electric. After each touchdown, I though the overhang of the north endzone upper deck was going to collapse on me. The noise was deafening when Scott Paxson picked up Troy Smith's fumble to seal the game for Penn State. Then there was the end when the final second ticked off the clock. It was the most deafening noise I have ever heard. I woke up this morning and my ears were still ringing and my voice still a little hoarse. The student section proved why they are the best in the nation. They were loud from kickoff until the final seconds ticked off the clock.

Unfortunately, Penn State still isn't getting any respect. The Nittany Lions will be a 3.5 underdog against 3-3 and unranked Michigan next Saturday. This team has overcome every challenge thrown before them. Next weekend will be different. No more 0-6. The Wolverines are going down for the count. The Buckeyes better save some of that humble pie for the arrogant Michigan fans who still believe that they are better than Penn State.

The Nittany Blog Top 25 (10/9/05)

1. Southern Cal
2. Texas
3. Virginia Tech
4. Georgia
5. Florida State
6. Alabama
7. Penn State
8. Notre Dame
9. Miami (Florida)
10. UCLA
11. Louisiana State
12. Florida
13. Texas Tech
14. Michigan State
15. Boston College
16. Louisville
17. Minnesota
18. Auburn
19. Cal
20. Colorado
21. Wisconsin
22. Oregon
23. TCU
24. Tennessee
25. Ohio State

Friday, October 07, 2005

Week Six: #6 Ohio State (3-1, 1-0) at #16 Penn State (5-0, 2-0)

It is absolutely mind boggling hearing some of these "experts" and their picks regarding Ohio State-Penn State. Now I don't blame Buckeye fans for projecting a victory or the "experts" for projecting an Ohio State victory, I take disdain in the fact that people are expecting Ohio State to blow out Penn State. I have but one word- why? There is nothing in the history between these two schools (10-10 in 20 games) that indicates a blow out. Two years ago the Buckeyes and their 14 future NFL draft picks rolled into Happy Valley and escaped by the hair on the their necks, 21-20 against what is widely regarded as the worst team in the history of PSU's program. Then last season in Columbus, the Buckeyes won 21-10. The score isn't indicative of what a close game it was. The Buckeyes lucked out and ended up getting a pick six and a Ginn kick off return TD. Penn State could have easily won 10-7. So someone please explain to me why in the biggest game in Happy Valley in years, in front of a 110,000+ crowd and with a clearly improved offense and still solid defense, OSU is going to win a blow out. Ohio State hasn't beaten anyone yet that PSU couldn't have. Minnesota was even ranked higher than Iowa when Ohio State knocked off the Hawkeyes in their most recent game. The Buckeyes lost their biggest game to date against Texas, at home, at night in a game that they should have won. The Nittany Lions are pumped and ready to go and if the Buckeyes roll in expecting to push this PSU team around, Jim Tressel's record after a bye will fall to 1-4. Also, keep in mind that Ohio State traditionally loses a Big Ten game every season that they shouldn't. Last season it was at Northwestern, under the bright lights on ESPN. Two years ago they lost to Wisconsin, under the bright lights of ESPN. Why not turn the trick and make it three in a row?

The key to victory for Penn State is minimizing turnovers. The Lions and Michael Robinson in particular made great strides last week in protecting the football. They will need a repeat performance to win this game. I honestly believe that PSU's wide receivers are fast enough to force Ohio State to either commit to stopping the pass and allowing PSU to run on them, just not to the degree that Minnesota's confused defense allowed last week. The key for Ohio State will be to get the ball to Ted Ginn more than they have recently and stop Penn State's wide receivers. Ohio State is going to have to beat Penn State through the air. Pittman is a nice back but he isn't going to have much success against the PSU defense that ended Laurence Maroney's Heisman run. The Penn State defensive backfield surrenders a big play once in awhile but is otherwise solid. Chris Harrell will keep Holmes and Ginn from coming across the middle on a regular basis unless they mind getting laid out regularly. Some people think this will be high scoring, some think it will be a defensive battle. I say that it will fall somewhere in between.

My Prediction- Penn State 28, Ohio State 21
The Penn State crowd will push the Nittany Lions to a big, big victory. Derrick Williams will score a big touchdown late in the third quarter and the defense will step up big and shutdown the Buckeyes in the final 15 with Tony Hunt running the clock out. Suddenly all will be right again in Happy Valley.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Make or Break for Penn State This Weekend

It has been a long time since Penn State has played a game of this magnitude. I keep racking my brain, trying to think of a game that had so much riding on it for both teams involved. While everyone this week has been talking about how a Penn State victory would truly restore Nittany Lion football to glory, a loss for Ohio State would end their hopes of a national championship season and perhaps their shot at the Big Ten title with Michigan State looming after Penn State and Michigan in Ann Arbor to end the season.

Some interesting news has surfaced regarding Penn State this week:

  • Starting LT John Wilson is out for the season with a knee injury. Andrew Richardson, who started several games last season, will take over as the starter. If he struggles, don't be surprised to see the staff go to one of the outstanding lineman signed in the Class of 2004.
  • Joe Paterno cancelled all (4) official vists this weekend. Apparently he did not feel that the staff could handle a game of this magnitude and properly conduct official visits. However, the Lions have some very big recruits who will be attending the game on unofficial visits. I'm sitting on the fence with this issue. A win over Ohio State is a bigger recruiting tool than almost anything else right now and if these kids truly want to be Nittany Lions, they will reschedule. However, Joe should have given sooner notice to these recruits and not caused some hurt feelings.

Check back tomorrow for my indepth Ohio State-Penn State preview.

BlogPoll Roundtable #9

1. Assuming that USC, Texas, Alabama and Virginia Tech all go undefeated at the end of the season, who deserves to play in the Rose Bowl for the BCS Title?
Basing it on what I have seen so far- Texas and Virginia Tech. I'm sorry Trojan fans but Southern Cal has not been overly impressive against the two best teams they have faced so far in Oregon and Arizona State. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech handled Georgia Tech, a team I still think is still grossly underrated. Texas beat Ohio State in Columbus and they have otherwise handled their opponents. I need to see more from Alabama. Yes, the win over Florida was nice but they didn't look outstanding against Arkansas the week before or Middle Tennessee State earlier in the season. Alabama is only being discussed because they destroyed Florida. I suppose we'll be talking about Penn State as a national title contender next week if they beat Ohio State since one win is the only reason we're talking about Alabama.

2. With most of the teams in conference play, which games have the greatest implication in defining the broader BCS picture (at larges, etc.) this year?
Southern Cal at Notre Dame- The Irish are still fighting for a BCS bid and this may be Southern Cal's biggest challenge left on the schedule.

Ohio State at Penn State- Both teams should be in the BCS hunt down the stretch.

Florida State at Florida- With Virginia Tech ahead of FSU in the ACC and Alabama and Georgia ahead of Florida, this will be a potential fight for an at-large bid.

3. In addition to the BCS Title, the Associated Press, FWAA and several other groups award National Championship Trophies. What award should be given to the winner of the final College Football Blogpoll?
The Bryant-Paterno Trophy.

Bonus Football Question: Since I am going to be in London this weekend and the only “football” I will see will be the World Cup Qualifying…are there any Germany 2006 Qualifying games you’d watch if it weren’t College Football season?!?
No. I would watch an NAIA football game before I would watch soccer.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Nittany Blog Top 25 (10/2/05)

1. Southern Cal
2. Texas
3. Virginia Tech
4. Georgia
5. Florida State
6. Alabama
7. Tennessee
8. Miami (Florida)
9. Ohio State
10. Notre Dame
11. Cal
12. Wisconsin
13. Louisiana State
14. Florida
15. Penn State
16. Texas Tech
17. Michigan State
18. UCLA
19. Georgia Tech
20. Boston College
21. Auburn
22. Louisville
23. Michigan
24. Nebraska
25. Oregon

Week Five Thoughts

Virginia Tech took it to perhaps the best team in the Big East, West Virginia, winning 34-17 in Morgantown. The Hokies continue to look good and push Texas for the #2 spot in both polls.

Virginia lost a high scoring game to Maryland. Maryland isn't a very good team, probably 5-6 at best. Virginia had been undefeated and climbing the polls but now get slammed back to Earth. The stellar defense led by Ahmad Brooks and the running attack with Wali Lundy should be enough to get the Cavaliers to 6 or 7 wins but this team has been overrated since they entered the Top 25.

Clemson continues to lose close games, this time losing at Wake Forest 31-27. The Tigers have now lost three consecutive games to Miami, Boston College and Wake Forest by no more than six points. It's a shame that Charlie Whitehurst, who has really improved his accuracy, can't get this team a win. The Tigers could easily be 5-0 right now and in the same breath could be 0-5. The Tigers need to figure out how to win close games again, as they did against Texas A&M and Maryland, or it will be a long season. I really like this Clemson team and their much improved passing attack but they need to get it together or six wins will be a stretch and Tommy Bowden's job will be on the line again.

North Carolina defeated Utah. Just a score that caught my eyes on Saturday night. After the woodshed beating the Utes laid on the Tar Heels last season, it must have been sweet redemption for North Carolina. They are another ACC team that could be 6-5 or 7-4 at the end of the season.

Big East:
Pitt gets embarassed once again, losing at Rutgers 37-29. However, both teams showed how weak the league is as the Scarlet Knights blew what was a 27-0 lead at one point. The only positive thing I took away from this game was the play of Rutgers' FB Brian Leonard. Leonard is going to make a great NFL H-Back a la Frank Wycheck. Leonard can line up as tailback and run it up the middle or to the outside, catch passes as a tight end and block as a FB. He is a complete player and I expect to see him playing on Sundays very soon.

Figuring this league out is a mystery. The only team you can really ignore at this point is Cincinnati. Even pathetic Pitt still has a shot. Despite their hiccup against South Florida, Louisville is still the best team in the league. Michael Bush is a tremendous athlete and creates some mismatches against linebackers with his 250 pound frame. His speed is outstanding for such a big guy.

Connecticut looks like the sleeper in the Big East. The Huskies are currently 3-1 with wins over Buffalo, Liberty and Army and a loss to Georgia Tech. I'm curious to see how they play against a decent Big East team and with Syracuse next, that should be a good test. The running game is solid with Cornell Brockington and Terry Caulley and QB Matt Bonislauski improves with each passing game. I doubt he will ever be as good as Dan Orlovsky but he certainly seems to have agood command of the Connecticut offense.

Big Ten:
Michigan and Michigan State played another classic in East Lansing with Garrett Rivas hitting a FG in overtime to knock of the Spartans 34-31. Drew Stanton still looks like the best QB in the Big Ten, hiting some big pass plays against the Wolverine secondary. Michigan really saved their season with this win and deprived Michigan State of their dream season.

Penn State knocked off Minnesota 44-14. Even as a PSU fan, I never saw a woodshed beating coming. However, Penn State's defense did exactly what it needed to do, stop Laurence Maroney. The defense did exactly that, holding him to 50 yards, by far his lowest output of the season. Penn State's offense took advantage of Minnesota's commitment to preventing Penn State from stretching the field with the passing game and Tony Hunt and Michael Robinson both went over 100 yards rushing. The Nittany Lions look poised for Ohio State next week, the biggest game for Penn State in a long, long time.

Big 12:
Nebraska won an OT thriller over Iowa State 27-20. Huskers QB Zak Taylor looks like a much better fit for Bill Callahan's West Coast offense than Joe Dailey last season, as he went over 400 yards passing and had two TD passes. Cory Ross is one of the most underrated tailbacks in the nation. He is a strong runner between the tackles and can burn you from the outside as well. He is a real weapon for Nebraska.

Not much else of note in the Big 12 this week. Texas looked good against Missouri, Colorado hammered Oklahoma State 34-0 and Texas A&M needed OT to beat Baylor 16-13. As some remember, Baylor stunned the Aggies in OT last season in Waco.

Once again, it took Southern Cal an entire half to wake up but just like against Oregon, the Trojans had a big second half, putting up 35 points and taking out Arizona State 38-28. LenDale White and Reggie Bush combined for over 300 yards rushing. White really doesn't get much press standing in the shadow of Leinart and Bush but he is a terrific tailback in his own right. He can get the tough yards between the tackles but just like Bush, he is a burner. Despite the impressive second half, USC needs to get it together early on. If USC has a first half like they did against ASU versus Notre Dame or Cal, they may not recover. The Trojans can score and are never out of the game but both the Irish and Golden Bears have tremendous offenses in their own right.

Alabama had their "statement" game, hammering #5 Florida 31-3. The Crimson Tide have now become the sexy pick to win the SEC and certainly looked good against the highly touted Gators. The Tide defense was able to take away Florida's running game early on and pretty much made Leak throw the ball to beat them. With one of the best defenses in the country, Alabama was in control from early on. Brodie Croyle looked very poised in the pocket and made some rocket throws. Unfortunately, the Tide lost WR Tyrone Prothro with a broken leg. He really energized the offense and it will be interesting to se how Croyle adjusts without his go-to guy.

Vanderbilt's dream took a big hit last night as the Commodores had a field goal blocked as time expired and lost to Middle Tennessee State 17-15. It's not impossible for Vandy to reach a bowl game. They should beat Kentucky at home and South Carolina would be their best chance to get their sixth victory.

South Carolina has looked bad against Alabama and Auburn. The Gamecocks were whipped by the Tigers 48-7 last night and were beaten 37-14 by Bama two weeks ago. Steve Spurrier sure has his work cut out for him if this team is going to reach a bowl game. South Carolina has no problem scoring against the weak defense of Central Florida and Troy but can't seem to score against the top dogs in the SEC, notching only 15 against Georgia, 14 against Alabam and then 7 against Auburn. Blake Mitchell looks like he could be a good system QB for Spurrier but apparantly the team lacks quality wide receivers. Syvelle Newton, a converted QB, looked against UCF, as did Travis Lee, but it looks as though they are having trouble getting open or getting quality passes from Mitchell.

Week Five: Penn State 44, Minnesota 14

Wow. There are not words to describe this win for Penn State. I was fairly confident that Penn State would be able to beat Minnesota and take an important step towards the success of the past. However, I could have never imagined that Penn State's offense would send the Gophers home with a 30-point woodshed defeat. And while PSU's offense has received most of the attention, the PSU defense turned in a spectacular performance, shutting down Laurence Maroney, holding him to just 76 yards. Happy Valley's "Heisman Graveyard" now has a new member. Minnesota managed just one meaningful TD, at the end of the first half when Bryan Cupito hit Ernie Wheelwright for a 49-yard TD reception. The Gophers' other touchdown came long after the game had been decided. Penn State's offense was simply brilliant both running and passing. Tony Hunt went over 100 yards rushing for the second time this season and scored two touchdowns. Michael Robinson also ran for over 100 yards. Derrick Williams is contributing just as Penn State had hoped, scoring two rushing TD's of his own. The vertical passing game wasn't as dominant as it was today and the Nittany Lions showed balance and adjustment on offense. Minnesota committed six players to cover Penn State's four wide receiver sets and the Lions made them pay by running the ball all over them. Hunt looks like he is a star in the making, he just needs to get the ball. Another important stat from the game, Michael Robinson did not turn the ball over once after turning it over four times in the first half against Northwestern. If the Lions are going to beat Ohio State next week, Robinson will once again have to play turnover-free football. The low notes from the game- Deon Butler was open several times and Robinson either misfired or Butler dropped the ball. Derrick Williams and Justin King have gotten most of the attention from the media but Deon Butler has really come out of nowhere as a fast deep threat. This is clearly Penn State's best offense in several years. With Anthony Morelli at the helm next season, I expect to see PSU's best offense since 1994.