Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Why ESPN/ABC/Disney Suck

I can sum it up in two words- well said.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Something's Rotten On Rocky Top

I, as well as most who follow college football, believed that Tennessee was a Top 5 team heading into the season. They would feature two capable quarterbacks n Erik Ainge and Rick Claussen. Gerald Riggs was rated as one of the best tailbacks in the country. Robert Meachem and Jayson Swain were regarded as a solid wide out tandem. Jesse Mahelona and Jason Allen would anchor a solid defense. The Volunteers were a popular pick to win the SEC and to even reach the Rose Bowl. But something was wrong, terribly wrong. The writing was on the wall as early as the 17-10 win over UAB. Unfortunately, no one really saw it until the embarassing loss to South Carolina.

What exactly went wrong at Tennessee? I don't know. I can only offer an outsider's point of view. However, as a Penn State fan who watched our proud program crumble to nothing from 2000-2004, I have a fair idea of how something like this happens. And unfortunately for the Vols, the conclusions are not pretty.

It is very rare to see a traditionally successful program like Tennessee or Penn State or Nebraska have a losing season. Penn State had 49 consecutive winning seasons from 1939-1987. The Nittany Lions, and coincidentally Tennessee as well, suffered a 5-6 season in 1988. Both the Lions and Vols rebounded and made it back to bowl games the following season. Nebraska followed up their first non-bowl season since 1968 by going 7-4 this season. However, there are several cases where a 5-6 season is just the beginning of a long decline. Between 1986 and 1997, Texas suffered six non-winning seasons. Between 1992 and 1998, Oklahoma suffered six non-winning seasons including three losing seasons in a row between 1996 and 1998. Both are proud programs that fell on hard times. Obviously Penn State between 2000 and 2004 is another extreme example with four losing seasons in five years after only one losing season under Paterno prior to 2000. Then there are the cases such as Auburn. After losing seasons in 1998 and 1999, the Tigers rebounded to win the SEC West title.

The downfall of a traditionally successful program typically occurs because of one or more of the following- poor recruiting of late, poor coaching, NCAA violations and just bad lcuk. Penn State's downfall was caused by the first two and the last. The Nittany Lions strategy of taking the first players they offered and not waiting on the "big fish" were what produced the 2003 and 2004 seasons. The 2000 and 2001 seasons were just a lot of bad luck. There was more talent there than on the 2003 and 2004 teams. Poor coaching has already been tabbed as a contributing factor after Randy Sanders resigned as offensive coordinator. Obviously bad luck has contributed to it as well. The fumble near the goal line against Alabama and the touchdown by Vanderbilt late in the fourth quarter were two of the biggest.

I think Fulmer will right the program and Tennessee will get back to a bowl next season. There's too much talent at his disposal to suffer another disappointing season like 2005. A couple years from now, 2005 will just be looked back upon as a hiccup, not the new norm.

The Nittany Blog Top 25 (11/27/05)

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

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Notre Dame pulls out a 38-31 win in the final minute against Stanford. The Cardinal really played a tremendous game and hung with Notre Dame throughout. This would also be a good time to remind folks that this is the same Stanford team that LOST to 1-AA newbie Cal-Davis earlier in the season. The Irish are overrated and don't deserve the BCS bid that they will receive. Oregon deserves it more than they do. Maybe TCU deserves it more than they do, considering the Horned Frogs beat 7-4 Oklahoma. Notre Dame's crowning victory was against 7-4 Michigan. The Irish lost to 5-6 Michigan State AT HOME. "Near wins" don't count. ND receives the majority of their credit for almost beating Southern Cal. "Almost" isn't good enough.

Notre Dame will get smacked by their bowl opponent and extend their streak of years without a bowl win. If Penn State doesn't back into the Rose Bowl, I hope PSu gets a shot at dear old ND.

Nevada Stuns Fresno State

Yet another good example of why college football is FAR SUPERIOR to the NFL. Anything can happen on any given weekend and have a dramatic affect across the entire college football landscape. In addition to this one, Arkansas-LSU was close, Texas A&M hung around with Texas, Kansas upset Iowa State and Stanford is battling Notre Dame to the end in Palo Alto. Just amazing. I feel sorry for people who don't watch college football. It is by far the most exciting sport to watch whether your team is playing or not. I have a hard time getting excited about pro games that don't involve my teams but that's far from the truth when it comes to college football (and college hoops too).

Anyway, how do you go from almost knocking off Southern Cal to losing to Nevada? Chris Ault's Wolfpack played a great game and they are well deserving of being co-WAC champions with Boise State and likely earning a bowl bid as well but I just can't help but wonder how the Bulldogs let this slip away. Pat Hill always has team prepared for games like this. More and more signs continue to point towards Southern Cal as being ripe for an upset at the hands of UCLA. The Bruins have had nearly a month to prepare for the Trojans. If UCLA doesn't get USC next Saturday, Texas (or Penn State) will.

Big Ten Bowl Projections

Since every Big Ten team has now finished their schedule after Wisconsin's victory at Hawaii on Friday night, here are where I expect Big Ten teams to be headed for the holidays. All bowls are selected on the thought that Ohio State will receive a BCS at large bid.

BCS Bowls- Penn State (10-1) and Ohio State (9-2)

Capital One Bowl- Wisconsin (9-3)
The Barry Alvarez Era will come to an end with a trip to Orlando in what has been a surprise season for Wisconsin, picked by many, including myself, to finish towards the bottom of the conference. The Badgers will get a formidable SEC opponent. Perhaps a rematch of last year's Outback Bowl if the reps select Georgia. However, if Ohio State doesn't receive a BCS bid, they Buckeyes will be headed to Orlando.

Outback Bowl- Iowa (7-4)
This is a tough call and it seems to be between Michigan and Iowa with 7-4 Minnesota left out of the equation. Both Iowa and Michigan will bring tons of fans and both have been to the game recently (Michigan in 2002 and Iowa in 2003). It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Michigan squeak into this game. However, it will all be moot if Ohio State doesn't get into BCS bowl. If that is the case, Wisconsin will be making a trip to the Outback Bowl for the second year in a row.

Alamo Bowl- Michigan (7-4)
Really a no-brainer here. Michigan travels well and and it will make it two years in a row that the Alamo Bowl gets a top draw from the Big Ten after Ohio State's appearance in 2004. Iowa will end up here if Michigan is selected by the Outback Bowl. Iowa and Michigan will be the choices here if Ohio State doesn't receive a BCS bid.

Sun Bowl- Minnesota (7-4)
Minnesota came to the Sun Bowl back in 2003 and will likely be selected again over Northwestern because they will bring more fans than the Wildcats. If Ohio State is left out of the BCS, Iowa or Michigan (whoever isn't selected by the Alamo Bowl), will end up here.

Music City Bowl- None
This was supposed to be the Big Ten's final year with the Music City Bowl. However, with the expected lack of bowl eligible teams from the Big Ten, the Music City Bowl has agreed to take a team from the ACC.

Motor City Bowl- Northwestern
Northwestern's last bowl trip was to the Motor City Bowl in 2003, a loss to Bowling Green. Unfortunately for the Motor City Bowl, they have no choice as to whom they will select since they have the last selection from the Big Ten. I'm sure that the reps are disappointed that Michigan State couldn't come up with that sixth win that would have satisfied the Motor City Bowl with the local Spartans and the Northwestern fans with a trip to Nashville. If Ohio State doesn't go to a BCS bowl, Northwestern will be at the mercy of the bowls with at large bids. If Ohio State doesn't get into a BCS bowl, Northwestern could end up in one of the SEC's empty bowl slots, likely the Independence Bowl or the Music City Bowl.

So Much For Iowa State

Make it 93 years without a conference title. Now sad and pathetic Colorado, who got thwarted at home by Nebraska, gets to be embarassed on national TV by Texas next Saturday. With the win, Kansas is now 6-5 and will go to a bowl game for the second time in three years, last going to the Tangerine Bowl (now Champs Sports Bowl) in 2003 against N.C. State.

I guess the good news is that once every couple of years these Big 12 North teams who have no business even being in the game, find a way to win. In 2001, Colorado upset Texas to earn a Fiesta Bowl bid. Most recently in 2003, Kansas State upset undefeated Oklahoma. Now four years later we get a rematch of the 2001 game.

As a Penn State fan, I can only hope for a similar outcome.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Iowa State Looks to Advance to Big 12 Title Game

The Iowa State Cyclones football team has not won a conference championship since 1912. Iowa State has never won an outright conference title, sharing it with Nebraska in both 1911 and 1912. They never had so much as a share of the Big Eight or Big 12 title since. With a win over Kansas, Iowa State will win the Big 12 North for the first time and have a shot at #2 Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game.

The Cyclones have had an interesting season to say the least. After starting 3-0, including a huge win over Iowa, Iowa State almost stumbled at Army, escaping with a 28-21 victory. The Cyclones then followed with three straight losses to Nebraska, Baylor and Missouri. Now the Cyclones have reeled off four consecutive wins over Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Kansas State and Colorado. Iowa State won those games by an average of 24 points and they are now 7-3. Bret Meyer, Todd Blythe and Stevie Hicks combine to form a lethal trio on offense. Meyer is Vince Young Lite. He can run, throw and make plays. Todd Blythe, as well as converted QB Austing Flynn, have combined for nearly 90 catches and 9 touchdowns. Stevie Hicks is a speedy tailback who can bust long runs and spark drives. Ryan Kock is a tremendous goal line back who has scored 12 TD's this season. Iowa State runs a well balanced offense and if Texas A&M's rather one dimensional attack gave them trouble, Iowa State is well capable of giving them all they can handle.

Unfortunately for Iowa State, closing out the season is a concern. Last season in the same position, Iowa State faced 4-6 Missouri at home. The Cyclones ended up losing to the Tigers in overtime and Colorado won the Big 12 North title. Now Iowa State has to travel to 5-5 Kansas. The Jayhawks can become bowl eligible with a victory and spoil Iowa State's hopes of the North title (which Colorado would win for the third time in four years). It isn't a marquee match up by any means but both teams have a motivation to win.

As Though I Needed More Proof That College Football is Irrelevant in Connecticut

Oprah is currently on the local CBS affiliate instead of the Arkansas-LSU game. Thank God for the NYC CBS affiliate I guess. I can guarantee you that they wouldn't not show a huge college hoops match up the day after a holiday. This state isn't as bad as I sometimes make it seem but things like this really irritate me. As well as the fact that I can't go into local sports memorbilia stores and find any college football memoribilia. Not even Connecticut or Notre Dame.

Go Bruins! PSU needs your help.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Funny Lloyd Carr Picture

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving Football

I'm in Pennsylvania visiting some relatives. Here's a quick rundown of Thursday and Friday's key match ups.

11/24- Pitt at West Virginia- The Mountaineers control their own destiny to the Big East's BCS bid, needing wins over Pitt and South Florida. Pitt, meanwhile, needs to win at WVU to avoid going from a BCS team to bowl ineligibility. Pat White, Brandon Barrett, Steve Slaton and the rest of the WVU offense have been tearing it up lately and rarely do the Mountaineers drop an important against Pitt in Morgantown. Wannstedt has done poorly in the big games this season and I don't see him improving on that. 35-21 West Virginia.

11/24- Akron at Kent State- Playing at 10 AM on Thanksgiving Day, it is clear that both are desperately looking for national exposure. The Zips can become bowl eligible for the second consecutive season with a victory and the Golden Flashes can salvage an awful 1-9 season with an upset over hated Akron. Luke Getsy has done a serivceable job replacing Charlie Frye and RB Brett Biggs and WR Domenik Hixon are gamebreakers. The Zips should roll the Flashes and get the Wagon Wheel. 45-17 Akron.

11/25- Texas at Texas A&M- A trap door game for the Longhorns. A win and they are a win in the Big 12 Championship Game away from the Rose Bowl. A loss to Texas A&M could and likely would, crush their dreams of a championship. The Aggies need a win to become bowl eligible and Aggie Land is one of the toughest places to play and they would obviously love to spoil their hated rival's season. Vince Young and the Longhorns will put up points but I expect the Aggies to make this closer than most would believe. 45-31 Texas.

11/25- Arizona at Arizona State- The Wildcats already spoiled UCLA's hopes of an undefeated season, now they have a chance to prevent the hated Sun Devils from getting a bowl game. Arizona State needs a win to reach 6-5. Arizona could take a huge step towards a brakout season in 2006 with a second consecutive victory over the Sun Devils. Mike Stoops will have his team well prepared and they will step up to the challenge. This should be a fun Pac-10 shootout. I think Arizona takes that step towards a breakout season. 41-38 Arizona.

11/25- Nebraska at Colorado- The Buffaloes are looking for a second consecutive victory over Nebraska and the Big 12 North title. Both teams will be going bowling no matter the outcome but Nebraska will be trying to avoid only a one win improvement over last season's mark and avenging last season's loss to Colorado that kept them from going bowling for the first time since the late 1960's. The Buffaloes stumbled against Iowa State but thye have otherwise only lost to Miami and Texas. I don't see Barnett letting this opportunity slip away, while Callahan has become notorious at Nebraska for the exact opposite. I always enjoy this game, one of my Black Friday favorites. The whipping Colorado laid on Nebraska in 2001 is one of my favorite, non-Penn State memories. 24-14 Colorado.

11/25- Arkansas at LSU- LSU can clinch the SEC West title with a victory while Arkansas is trying to win their third consecutive game and finish the season with a huge upset and the Golden Boot. LSU clearly has the favorable match ups and superior talent but the Razorbacks are playing wiht confidence with wins over Ole Miss and Mississippi State to go from 2-6 to 4-6. The Bayou Bengals should win handily. If this game was in Fayetteville or Little Rock, I would call for the upset. Instead, I'll just say that Arkansas makes LSU earn that SEC West title. 23-21 LSU.

And my Turkey Day NFL selections....

Atlanta over Detroit 28-21
Denver over Dallas 21-17

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

JoePa and Penn State on This Week's SI Cover

This is Penn State's first appearance on Sports Illustrated's cover since the 1999 college football pre-season issue when LaVar Arrington was featured on the cover. Joe Paterno was also on the cover in Decemeber 1986 when he was named SI's Sportsman of the Year. I'm going to have to buy a couple of these to put away in addition to the one I receive in the mail.

2006 Starter Projections

While Penn State still has a BCS bowl game to play this season, I think it's imporant to take a look at Penn State's potential in 2006. While the Nittany Lions lose a lot of talent, especially on defense, the past two recruiting classes and this year's as well, have put Penn State in a good position to rebuild, not reload. Here is my early projected starters. Returning starters are in bold, committed by unsigned prospects in this year's recruiting class are in italicized.

QB- Anthony Morelli
RB- Tony Hunt
FB- BranDon Snow
WR- Derrick Williams
WR- Chris Bell
WR- Jordan Norwood
LT- Levi Brown
LG- Dennis Landolt
C- A.Q. Shipley
RG- Robert Price
RT- Gerald Cadogan

DE- Josh Gaines
DE- Jim Shaw
DT- Jay Alford
DT- Ed Johnson
MLB- Tim Shaw
OLB- Paul Posluszny
OLB- Dan Connor
CB- Justin King
CB- Deon Butler
H- Donnie Johnson
FS- Anthony Scirrotto

Special Teams:
K- Kevin Kelly
P- Jeremy Kapinos
KR- Rodney Kinlaw and Justin King
PR- Anthony Scirrotto

Othr Players to Watch:
RB- Rodney Kinlaw
WR- Kevin Cousins, James McDonald, Mark Rubin
TE- Brennan Coakley, Jordan Lyons
OL- Chris Auletta, Wyatt Bowman
DE- Eric Lattimore, Aaron Maybin
DT- Tom McEowen, Ollie Ogbu
LB- Jerome Hayes, Sean Lee, Tyrell Sales
CB- Willie Harriot, Knowledge Timmons
S- Nolan McCready

M-Rob Named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Hali Best Defensive Linemen, Paterno is Coach of the Year

After several Nittany Lions were shafted last season, not making the All-Big Ten team, Penn State made up for it this year in a big way. 13 Nittany Lions were named 1st team, 2nd team and honorable mentions to the All-Big Ten team. Tamba Hali, Paul Posluszny and Alan Zemaitis were consensus 1st team selections. In addition, Michael Robinson was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year by the coaches (Northwestern QB Brett Basaenez was named player of the year by the media), Tamba Hali was the unanimous selection as the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year and Joe Paterno received the Dave McClain Coach of the Year award.

This is just more proof of how far Penn State has come since last season. In 2004, the Nittany Lions had only three 2nd team selections by the coaches and media (Hali, Posluszny and Zemaitis) and two honorable mentions (Andrew Guman (coaches and media) and Jeremy Kapinos (media) ). Going from 5 to 13 is a sizeable jump. Hopefully Penn State will be able to reel in some national awards in a couple of weeks as well.

Monday, November 21, 2005

BlogPoll Roundtable #13

1. Since the end of the 2004 season, there have been 23 head coaching changes in Division I-A college football. Thus far, which new coaching hire is working out the best? Which is working out the worst? Who has been the most pleasant surprise? Who has been the biggest disappointment?
It's hard to argue with Charlie Weis' turnaround at Notre Dame. Despite playing a weak schedule and losing to a lousy Michigan State team at home, he has done a good job and he should have Notre Dame competing for national titles regularly. The worst hiring has to be Hal Mumme at New Mexico State. He ran a corrupted program at Kentucky and he has done little to improve over what Tony Samuel accomplished in Las Cruces. Walt Harris has been a pleasnat surprise at Stanford. While the Cardinal appear to be headed for a 5-6 finish and could have reached a bowl by just beating 1-AA Cal-Davis earlier in the season, Harris has already done more in one season than Buddy Teevens did in his three seasons. Stanford will reel in some solid recruiting classes and Harris should make them a bowl regular. The biggest disappointment has been Dave Wannstedt at Pitt. He go back the component parts of their Big East "championship" season in 2004 and big things were expected at Pitt this season. Instead the Panthers appear headed ot a 5-6 season unless they beat 8-1 West Virginia in Morgantown.

2. Which school's fans need to be more patient with their new head coach? Which school's fans need to beat the Christmas rush and get rid of their new head coach sooner rather than later? Which school's fans are happy with their new head coaching hire now but will be disappointed in him after another couple of years have passed (a la Tyrone Willingham at Notre Dame)?
Urban Meyer at Florida. Chris Leak isn't the right QB for his offense and he is still working with Ron Zook's players. He needs to get some of his own recruits into the mix before we can judge his performance. Dave Wannstedt is going to drive the Pitt program back into the ground, a la Paul Hackett and the second coming of Johnny Majors. Wanny will likely miss a bowl game with a supposedly "BCS-caliber" team, so what will he do with a decimated team next season? Tough call here. I think Weis, Spurrier and Harris will all have success at their new schools. I've already used Wannstedt and Syracuse fans are probably ready to throw Greg Robinson under the bus. Maybe Ty Willingham again.

Bonus. If you knew now that your school's head coach would not be back next year and you could hire anyone now living to replace him, which successor would you pick and why? (No fair reaching back in time and getting Knute Rockne or Bear Bryant when they were alive or taking Bobby Bowden in his prime. Anyone you pick, you're picking right now, at his current age and with his current resume, baggage and all.)
Joe Paterno is a legend and cannot be replaced easily. I suppose my short list would include Mike Stoops, Kirk Ferentz and Randy Walker.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Nittany Blog Top 25 (11/20/05)

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

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Game 11: Penn State 31, Michigan State 22

It was an ugly affair but the Nittany Lions did it. For the first time in 11 years, Penn State is the Big Ten champion. While the Lions technically share the title with Ohio State, we all know what happened on October 8th in Happy Valley. Penn State has earned its first BCS bowl bid and Joe Paterno is a top candidate for Coach of the Year. But the Nittany Lions still have a shot at the ultimate prize- a national championship. And after Miami's untimely loss to Georgia Tech, Penn State's road to Pasadena just got a little easier.

The offense dropped passes, the defense wasn't up to par and the punting was spotty at times but Penn State was able to get past Michigan State's 9-1 record against Top 10 teams and 6-0 record at home. Michael Robinson played very well, fumbling the only once and it was late in the game after it had long been decided. Unfortunately, Deon Butler, Ethan Kilmer, Justin King and Jordan Norwood dropped some easy passes that could have helped Penn State to make it look a little prettier on the scoreboard. Tony Hunt became the first Penn State tailback since Larry Johnson in 2002 to rush for 1,00 yards in a season. Michigan State's offense was very much like the Spartan team itself- bipolar. At times, the Spartans looked unstoppable and tore up the Penn State defense into a similar fashion as Northwestern. Michigan State took advantage of the open field and he gained a lot of ground running the ball himself just like Brett Basaenez. Javon Ringer looks like a future star for the Spartans. Unfortunately for Michigan State, the banged up offensive line just didn't give him many opportunities to make plays.

The Penn State defense did what it had to to win this game. They didn't dominate the Spartans but came up with the important plays, including four interceptions, three of them by Alan Zemaitis. The Nittany Lions came up with a big special teams play when Donnie Johnson blocked a Brandon Fields punt that was recovered by Matt Hahn for a touchdown. Donnie Johnson recorded the other Penn State interception. Johnson has looked very good in the playing time that he has received since Justin King was switched over to offense. It should be an interesting battle between Johnson and Tony Davis for the other starting cornerback spot next season (Justin King already has one locked up). No matter who starts, the Nittany Lions have a bright future at CB even with the losses of Zemaitis and Anwar Phillips.

Congratulations to Penn State on a great season. As a fan, this season has been a lot of fun and has certainly been successful in bringin Penn State back. The 2002 season was the product of great senior talent. This season it was the freshmen who made the difference. This isn't a one and done deal. The Nittany Lions are back for real.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Game 11: #5 Penn State (9-1, 6-1) at Michigan State (5-5, 2-5)

No one thought it was possible for this Penn State team to get this far. Ever since the Minnesota game, the pundits and opposing fans alike have been saying that Penn State is going to trip up eventually and things would end up just like they were in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004. Instead this Penn State team is one second from perfection and one win away from their second Big Ten title and first BCS bowl bid. I was there to witness the victory over Ohio State. It was an emotional night and it really made the "We're Back" statement. Now Penn State has a chance to lay a huge slap in the face of all the doubters and the Big Ten itself. The most important game in Michigan on Saturday is not being played in Ann Arbor, rather it is in East Lansing.

The Michigan State Spartans have but one glimmer of hope going into this game. That is that they are 9-1 against the last ten Top 10 teams that they have faced. Included in that is a 49-14 victory over Penn State in 1997. But you also must consider that Michigan State has lost their last two games to Purdue and Minnesota, teams that Penn State defeated by a combined 48 points. The Spartans has also lost their last three season ending games with a bowl bid on the line, including their 37-13 loss in Happy Valley last season. Drew Stanton may be the best quarterback in the Big Ten and he also gives them a glimmer of hope but the defense has been atrocious and the team as a whole has been in a large decline since the heartbreaking loss to Michigan. The Spartans have only beaten Indiana since then. The Spartans feature some offensive weapons with Stanton, tailback Javon Ringer and wide receivers Kyle Brown and Matt Trannon. However, the defense has been subpar, even when the Spartans jumped out to a 4-0 start. The Spartans led Notre Dame 35-17 before blowing that lead and winning in overtime. John L. Smith has become public enemy #1 in the state of Michigan and Spartan fans have talked of a boycott of the Penn State game. With ESPN's College GameDay coming to East Lansing, how will a pro-PSU crowd effect recruiting? This team is playing for no better than the Motor City Bowl. How motivated can they possibly be for a trip down the road to Detroit?

Penn State comes into this game after a week off following the 35-14 stomping of Wisconsin. This was a good two week break before the season finale to get fully healthy and get a chance to really focus on Michigan State in a game that carries the reward of a BCS bowl game with a victory for Penn State. Nothing major on the injury front other than that Justin King suffered a mild concussion. However, Joe says that he will be ready to go against the Spartans. To be perfectly honest, I don't think it would have made much of a difference if King suited up or not. He hasn't contributed much on offense since Derrick Williams went down. It's too late at this point but I bet that the staff would have left King at corner if they realized that the receiving corps could get the job done without Williams. Michael Robinson will be looking to make a strong case for himself for the Heisman against the Spartans. He should have plenty of opportunity against a porous Spartan defense. Tony Hunt needs only about 50 more yards rushing to break 1,000 yards on the ground. He should be able to easily reach that plateau. I'll be looking to see if Rodney Kinlaw becomes more involved in the offense. We have been seeing more of him lately and he has left me impressed. Another name to look for on Saturday is Lydell Sargeant. He hasn't played much this season but may get some playing time if Penn State finishes off Sparty early on. It should just be business as usual for the defense. Paul Posluszny was recently named as a finalist for the Butkus Award and Lombardi Award. Tamba Hali was named as a finalist for the Nagurski Award as well. We may see some future 2006 starters such as Josh Gaines, Tony Davis, Nolan McCready, Donnie Johnson among others if the game is wrapped up early on. This could be a good opportunity to get the younger guys some valuable playing time.

Penn State's Keys to Victory:
  • Supply a steady pass rush
  • Feed Hunt the ball
  • No careless turnovers

My Prediction:

Penn State 35, Michigan State 17

I think Penn State jumps out to an early lead and buries the Spartans before they even have a chance to get into it. Joe will call off the dogs in the third quarter and we will see some of the back ups in the second half. Michigan State adds a score or two late to make it look closer in the box score

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Penn State Men's Basketball Preview

Being a Penn State fan in UConn territory is, at times, strange. The oddest time of all comes during basketball season. Ever year the Huskies seem to be a perennial Top 10 team and with the hope of a national championship. Then there are my beloved Nittany Lions, a team that hasn't been to the postseason since the run to the Sweet 16 in 2001 and hasn't won more than 9 games in a season since then. The Lions have won a combined 31 games since the 2001-2002 season, the season after the Sweet 16 appearance, and has won only a total of 16 games under Ed DeChellis. The Lions have been in a continual struggle since DeChellis took over with a mass exodus of transfers (DeForrest Riley-Smith, Sharif Chambliss, etc.) in and before year one and a crippling number of injuries last season. Now with seven true freshmen on the roster and only six returnees from last season's squad, perhaps the Nittany Lions will finally be able to keep together a solid base to start building on.

The unquestioned star of the team is swingman Geary Claxton. Claxton, from West Haven, Connecticut, was passed over by UConn but has come to Penn State and became an instant star. He may be the best player in the Big Ten that you have never heard of. He's an excellent shooter and is the Nittany Lions' most consistent scoring threat. Claxton will once again need to play well if Penn State is going to stay competitive in a tough league like the Big Ten.

Ed DeChellis managed to land yet another decent class this past year, led by David Jackson, a Junior College transfer, Maxwell Dubois, Jamelle Cornleya and Joonas Suotamo. Jackson has a chance to play right away at the point and Cornely is being looked at as possibly another Claxton. Suotamo, from Finland, can play power forward and possibly center. Serbia and Montenegro countrymen Nikola Obradovic and Milos Bogetic will also be in the mix for playing time. Bogetic may have a chance to play regularly from the get-go as the tallest player on the team at 6-10. Though with Brandon Hassell playing well lately last season and looking impressive on the Big Ten traveling squad this summer, Hassell likely already has the lock on the center position.

The six returners, sans the injured and now redshirted Danny Morrissey, will all have a chance to play a lot this season. There was a noticeable increase in playing time and talent level last season for these five players- Geary Claxton, Brandon Hassell, Travis Parker, Mike Walker and Ben Luber. This may very well be the starting five that takes the floor against Cornell tonight.

Here is the projected starting line up that I would use, at least in the early part of the season.

PG- David Jackson
SG- Ben Luber
SF- Geary Claxton
PF- Travis Parker
C- Brandon Hassell

Alright, prediction time. Ed DeChellis has his work cut out for him. With the football team headed to a New Years'Day or better bowl game, he has bought himself at least a year as no one will even notice the basketball team until January and if the losing continues, no one will even bother to do that. I think this team will be hard pressed to break the ten win plateau, something that has not happened since the Sweet 16 season. At best, Penn State should win 8 or 9 games. But if DeChellis can get this team some early wins against Clemson and Texas A&M and then upset Pitt, perhaps there will be hope for an NIT bid. Penn State usually comes up with a win no one expects them to get. Last season it was at Rutgers, a couple of years ago it was Indiana, perhaps this year it could be Pitt. A win like that would give this team a lot of confidence headed into the Big Ten schedule.

Here's how I see the Big Ten shaking out:
1. Michigan State
2. Illinois
3. Indiana
4. Iowa
5. Ohio State
6. Wisconsin
7. Michigan
8. Minnesota
9. Purdue
10. Northwestern
11. Penn State

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Berwick's Curry Calls it a Career

I don't follow Coal Region football as much as I would like to. Living in and growing up in Connecticut, it is extremely difficult to follow my own high school team, let alone one hundreds of miles away. But I check the scoreboards on WNEP every Friday night and I'm well aware of the legend that is George Curry and Berwick football.

Today George Curry, the head coach of the Berwick Bulldogs for 34 seasons, announced his retirement. Despite the fact that I don't follow Northeastern Pennsylvania high school football, this is rather depressing. Curry is a Coal Region legend. He has led Berwick to six state championships and three national championships. He has sent numerous players to the elite level of college football, such as ex-Notre Dame QB Ron Powlus and ex-Penn State OL Gus Felder. Curry is the reason that Berwick is regarded as one of the best football programs not only in Northeastern Pennsylvania but the entire commonwealth and Mid-Atlantic region.

Curry has been rumored to have interest in the Wyoming Valley West job, as well as the Lake-Lehman job, where he began his coaching career. I for one hope that he decides to continue coaching. He is an asset to high school football in Pennsylvania. Berwick will likely go on to continue as one of the most successful programs in Northeastern Pennsylvania. But a legend has moved on and can never be replaced.

Chalk up one more football legend hanging it up before Joe Paterno.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Week Eleven Thoughts

Alabama showed us why they aren't deserving of a BCS bowl bid against LSU yesterday. Ever since Tyrone Prothro went down, Alabama has been no more than a glorified version of the 2004 Penn State squad that finished 4-7 and had no offense. Any team with a defense as good as Alabama's can squeak by teams like Ole Miss (who lost to pitiful Arkansas yesterday), Tennessee, Utah State and Mississippi State. I'm not surprised at all to see LSU win in Tuscaloosa. LSU has a tremendous defense and can make plays on offense. If LSU didn't get Alabama this week, Auburn would have taken care of them next week, something they still might do.

Auburn looks like a different team than the one that got thrashed at home by Georgia Tech on the first weekend of the season. Since then, they have lost only once, at LSU. Tommy Tuberville has done a great job rallying the troops to put together a pretty nice season considering they lost three first round picks out of the backfield. Next week's Iron Bowl should be fun to watch. Georgia just can't win the big game. With a chance to wrap up the SEC East at home with a win over a rival, they let this one slip away. However, the fourth down fumble rule really did them in. If Auburn had gotten the touchdown, they would have had a better shot at winning. They should just be glad all they have to do is beat Kentucky to win the SEC East.

Steve Spurrier has done a tremendous job in his first season at South Carolina and the win over Florida was just icing on the cake. After tough early losses to Alabama, Auburn and Georgia, it looked as though the Gamecocks would struggle to reach a bowl game. Instead, Spurrier has this team on the verge of an eight win season and possible January 2nd bowl game if they can knock off hated Clemson next week. You have to keep in mind that Spurrier is doing this all with kids brought in by Lou Holtz. The Gamecocks are an emerging power in the SEC and will only improve as Spurrier brings his own players to Columbia. Also, if Kentucky somehow manages to upset Georgia, South Carolina will win the SEC East.

Northwestern was exposed by Ohio State, losing 48-7 in Columbus. It has been a nice season for Randy Walker and the Wildcats, picked by most to finish 8th or 9th in the conference, and they will be going to a bowl. But most expected them to give the Buckeyes a better game than this. The Buckeyes look hungry and they have looked very good since they left Happy Valley with their second loss over a month ago. The Buckeyes can now focus all of their attention on hated Michigan with a share of the Big Ten title on the line for them and the possibility of a BCS bid.

Michigan State was thwarted by Minnesota 48-17. Now the Spartans prepare to host #5 Penn State. Now as a Penn State fan, for the next week I will hear about how Sparty will knock us off because they only beat Top 10 teams. The Spartans have lost their confidence and it sounds as though there is some dissention among players. Penn State should roll the Spartans. The Lions will be focused, JoePa wouldn't allow it any other way.

Wisconsin still seemed to be feeling the affects the beating laid on them by Penn State last week as the Badgers lost Barry Alvarez's final home game to Iowa. The win guarantees Iowa of a bowl game and the loss will likely send the Badgers to Florida for the holidays- at best. Brian Calhoun was another non-factor as his last bit of Heisman hope was destroyed. Much like the loss to Michigan State last season, the loss to Penn State seemed to bring the Badgers back down to Earth.

Clemson knocked off ACC Atlantic champion Florida State 35-14. How pathetic. The Seminoles have dropped two games in a row to teams they should have beaten after falling to N.C. State last week at home. They already have the ACC Atlantic wrapped up but if they don't get it together, it might be another trip to the Gator Bowl- at best. Meanwhile, Clemson got it together late enough in the season to get the six wins for a bowl game and likely save Tommy Bowden's job for at least one more season. A win against South Carolina could salvage the season for them.

Nebraska is a terrible team. They have really lucked out playing in the awful Big 12 North. The Cornhuskers will be going bowling this season after escaping with a 27-25 win over awful Kansas State. This a week after Nebraska lost to Kansas for the first time in 38 years. One more season like this and Nebraska will not only have to consider replacing Bill Callahan, but AD Steve Pederson as well. Chances are, the Huskers lose to Colorado the day after Thanksgiving and finish 6-5.

Colorado was upset by Iowa State, 30-16. Joel Klatt blew the game for the Buffaloes late in the fourth quarter when one of his passes was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by a Cyclone defensive lineman. The Buffs, prior to the turnover, were driving towards the endzone for the tying touchdown. While Colorado has all but assured themselves of a second consecutive Big 12 North title, the loss will prevent them from the possibility of ending the regular season with a 9-2 (7-1) record. Before this loss, Colorado had lost only to Miami and Texas.

Oregon barely escaped Washington State, winning 34-31. Oregon is not a good team without Kellen Clemens. A loss to rival Oregon State next week would take them out of the BCS picture completely.

Cal didn't bother to show up and allowed Southern Cal to demolish them. The Trojans defense still looks a bit shakey despite giving up only 10 points to the Golden Bears.

Stanford defeated Oregon State to go to 5-4 on the season. Their best chance to get their bowl eligibility win will come in the Big Game against Cal next week. They close out the season with Notre Dame.

West Virginia looks unbeatable after pounding Cincinnati 38-0. The Mountaineers still have to stave off Pitt on Thanksgiving and surprising South Florida on Championship Saturday but they are looking good for a BCS bid. Considering that they are the only school that travels well in the Big East, the BCS bowl reps are all praying that West Virginia finishes the job and prevents a repeat of the debacle that occured with the Big East last season.

The Nittany Blog Top 25 (11/13/05)

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

25. Wisconsin

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Enough is Enough Already

I am so sick and tired of hearing about Michigan State's success against Top 10 teams already and the game week hasn't even started yet. Enough already. The Spartans got smoked by a Minnesota team today that PSU defeated by 30. Their confidence is destroyed. Spartan fans have turned their attention to basketball season. They dont' care anymore. Half of the fans that bother to show up next Saturday may be in Blue and White.

Here's hard proof if that isn't enough. Two of the three times that Michigan State has beaten Penn State, the Spartans won their previous game. The only time, 2003, was against the worst Penn State to ever take the field under Joe Paterno. So against ranked PSU teams, MSU has never beaten the Nittany Lions after losing their previous game. 1997, 1999 and 2003 were all played in East Lansing.

Michigan State defeated Illinois 27-17
Won 49-14 over Penn State

Michigan State defeated Northwestern 34-0
Won 35-28 over Penn State

Michigan State lost Wisconsin 56-21
Won 41-10 over Penn State

Penn State one the best football teams in the country. Michigan State is below average. They folded up against Purdue and Minnesota. Why would you expect them to show up now? This Penn State team is focused on one thing- winning the Big Ten. A win against Michigan State gives Penn State at least a share of the Big Ten title (can earn it outright if Michigan beats Ohio State) and the Big Ten's BCS bid. This team has come to far to surrender it to a lousy Michigan State team. I expect the Spartans to give Penn State a game but they don't have enough left to win.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Penn State's Season Grades- Offense

With only one regular season game and the bowl game left and really feeling the bye week blues, I figured I would do my season grades for the Nittany Lions.

Michael Robinson has had a tremendous senior season. After some tough growing pains during the first four games, Robinson emerged during the second half of the fourth game at Northwestern. His "coming of age" came on the 4th and 15 pass to Isaac Smolko that eventually led to the game winning TD catch by Derrick Williams. Robinson has been on a tear ever since both running and passing. Outside of Vince Young, there may not be a better dual threat QB in the country. Yes, M-Rob is a better QB than Marcus Vick. Also consider that Robinson played well in Penn State's toughest games this season against Michigan and Ohio State. Vick folded up like a cheap suit against Miami. It really is too bad that Robinson doesn't have another season or two at PSU. He could have really developed into a great QB. Instead he play his final two games at QB before switching positions in the NFL. Robinson deserves to be the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Penn State's other QB's haven't seen the field very much. Anthony Morelli looks like a star in the making in the limited opportunities that he has had. He's very unpolished but a spring as the starter should fix that. Paul Cianciolo has hardly seen the field. Grade- A-

Running Backs:
To be blunt, Tony Hunt is the most underrated tailback in the country. Hunt blows through blockers and picks up extra yards on many plays where most backs would be flat on their back. Hunt needs only 42 yards against Michigan State to become Penn State's first 1,000-yard rusher since Larry Johnson's 2,000-yard season in 2002. Hunt is a blue collar player who does all of the little things right. He blocks well, runs well and catches well. I'm glad that he will be back next season. He will really have a chance to make a name for himself and perhaps finally garner some recognition. I doubt that he will be named to the All-Big Ten team but he is certainly deserving. Rodney Kinlaw has emerged as a change of pace back and stellar return man. His stats aren't flashy but he has made some nice contributions. He is also only a redshirt sophomore, so he still has two more years to improve. Austin Scott has been a big disappointment. He looks like he is a step slower than when he arrived and looks to round out the final group of disappointments to arrive in Happy Valley. Redshirting him next season and working on regaining his speed would be a good idea. BranDon Snow has stepped up as one of the best blocking fullbacks in the country and true goal line threat. His production will be hard to replace and it may spell the end of the I-formation at Penn State as we know it. With all of the depth at receiver, three receiver formations will probably be the norm. Grade- A-

Wide Receivers:
Amazing. The difference between the receiving corps of 2004 and 2005 is just astounding. Terrence Phillips, Gerald Smith, Kinta Palmer, Brendan Perretta, Michael Robinson and Mark Rubin made up the corps of wide outs last season. They helped to produce what was the worst Penn State offense under Joe Paterno. No one made the clutch catch, or any catch for that matter. But that all changed during the offseason when Derrick Williams commited to Penn State. And so began the revolution of Penn State's offense into the 20th century. Derrick Williams was brought in to be a playmaker and spark the offense. He did what was expected. It is the other guys, Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Terrell Golden, who have been the big surprises. When Mark Rubin went down with a season-ending knee injury in August, many felt that it would cripple the passing game to some degree. Instead, Butler and Norwood got the chance to emerge. Both have done an outstanding job. Butler has become a tremendous playmaker with break-neck speed and Norwood is a sure-handed possesion receiver. Even with Williams out, the Penn State offense has thrived. Golden has only had a couple of catches but he has been used more in recent weeks. I look for him to be a big factor next season. Penn State is stacked at wide receiver for years to come, especially when you consider Mark Rubin will be back next season, perhaps as a tight end, and the addition of top recruit Chris Bell. The Nittany Lions have gone from being desperate at wide receiver to having a plethora of options to choose from. Grade- A

Offensive Line:
The offensie line, much maligned in 2004, has bounced back to have a solid season that has helped to open up the entire offense. Levi Brown is emerging as a future NFL player at left tackle. He is an absolute beast. Tyler Reed and Charles Rush have both improved at the guard positions. Reed should be an NFL draft pick. With the revolving door at center between Lance Antolick and E.Z. Smith, this line has performed well. Granted, having a tremendous running QB is a big help but this unit has a whole has been greatly improved. They have opened large holes for both Hunt and Robinson and have done a very good job at protecting Robinson. With four of the five starters graduating, only Brown will likely be back, this unit will be missed. Breaking in a new offensive line and pocket passer at QB will be a challenge. But if Dick Anderson and Bill Kenney have prepared the back ups as well as they have the starters this season, PSU will be in good shape. Isaac Smolko has had one moment of glory this season, the 4th and 15 catch against Northwestern. Otherwise, he will hardly be missed next season. Jordan Lyons or Pat Hall will make a fine replacement. Grade- B+

I will unveil the overall team grade in the "Defense" section, as well as the special teams grades.

Putting the "Happy" Back in Happy Valley

Numb. Numb to the losses. That's the first word I think of when it comes to the 2003 and 2004 Penn State football teams. Only seven wins in two seasons. Seven wins in one season was considered disasterous. Suddenly JoePa was too old, Penn State couldn't recruit the playmakers on offense and the offensive gameplan hadn't received a facelift since 1985. On November 9th, 2004 the fortunes of Penn State football began to change when Justin King, one of the top recruits in the nation, chose Penn State over Michigan and Florida. The Nittany Lions were coming off of a 14-7 home loss to Northwestern and dropped Penn State to 2-7 and faced possibly losing to Indiana for the first time ever. The game was ugly. Indiana went toe-to-toe with Penn State for the full sixty minutes. Then it all came down to one last play with three seconds left from the one yard line. On the play, PSU's defensive line pushed Indiana's tailback backwards and ended the game, giving the Lions their first victory since September. And so began the exorcism of the demons that had plagued the Nittany Lion football program since 1999. The Nittany Lions came within three feet of losing to Indiana.

Everything has been rainbows and lollipops in State College ever since. Derrick Williams, the #1 recruit in the nation, jumped on board two days before Christmas and promised to return Penn State to glory. To say the least, his goal has been accomplished. Perhaps to an extent even he did not truly imagine to be attainable. I would have laughed if someone told me in mid-summer that Penn State would be a second away from a perfect 10-0 start. I thought this team would be good but I didn't think 9-1 and a win away from the Big Ten title good. I figured that this team would have to go to East Lansing just to have a shot at a New Year's Day bowl game. Instead Penn State has a chance to capture their first Big Ten title in 11 years.

This season has been a dream come true. It was humiliating the past two seasons to see Nittany Lion football decompose in such an ungraceful manor. The 2003 team just simply could not overcome the loss of six first and second round draft picks and the lack of effort put into recruiting began to show. The 2004 team really was just a player or two away because we are seeing the finished product in 2005. With almost the same defense intact, the offense finally came into 20th century. I myself knew that Penn State was back on October 8th around 10:45 PM when Scott Paxson fell on Troy Smith's fumble. Beaver Stadium erupted. The Nittany Lions had done the impossible and upset the Ohio State Buckeyes. The mighty Buckeyes. They said their linebackers were better, their defense was stronger, their quarterback was faster and their receivers were better. Unfortunately for them, Penn State dispelled all of those myths. 17-10. It wasn't the prettiest victory but it was still a victory. I was way up in NG, jumping up and down on the bleachers. It was the culmination of the long road back. For two years, PSU fans suffered loss after loss, just numb to it all. But now it's all changed. Penn State is back where we rightfully belong. Joe Paterno could never go out on a losing note. But everyone said it was time. What this has taught me at least is that what JoePa said was always closer to the truth than what any fan or beat writer ever said. JoePa said Penn State was "only a player or two away". People laughed. Said the game had passed him by. Now Joe is getting the last laugh. And so are the Penn State fans that believed in him. I can guarantee one thing. If this season Joe Paterno wasn't pacing the sidelines, PSU wouldn't be anywhere near a 9-1 record. Welcome back to Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions have finally returned.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Week Ten: Penn State 35, Wisconsin 14

Unbelieveable. If someone told me that after ten weeks of play that Penn State would be 9-1, a win away from a BCS bid and a second away from perfection, I would never would have believed it. Don't get me wrong, I fully expected Penn State to have a good season. I figured that 8 or 9 wins was in the realm of possibility and a trip back to Florida on January 2nd. Instead the Nittany Lions are a victory against struggling Michigan State away from earning the Big Ten's BCS bid and a likely trip to Tempe or Miami. Even a trip to Pasadena isn't out of the question if the stars align. Joe Paterno should be the Coach of the Year if Penn State finishes 10-1 considering that PSU would be 11-0 if not for Lloyd "Crybaby" Carr's successful petition of the referees for an additional two seconds. Job well done, JoePa. Penn State really was only a "player or two away".

The Wisconsin game was a great way for the senior class to go out. After suffering through three losing seasons in the five years that some spent in Happy Valley it has to be very satisfying to know that you have the opportunity to be remembered as a part of the team that rejuvanated Nittany Lion football. The game displayed what this Penn State team has done all season long- score points, run the football well and play spectacular defense. I wish this defense was going to be back next season for Anthony Morelli to fall back on. I have no reservations in saying that this defensive unit is PSU's best since the 1986 championship squad. Tamba Hali is an absolute beast at defensive end. I don't want to hear about Virginia Tech's Darryl Tapp or even Boston College's Mathias Kiwanuka, Tamba Hali is the most dominant defensive end in the nation. He absolutely dominated Wisconsin's offensive line all game long. He record FOUR sacks and had John Stocco on his toes. Paul Posluszny was once again flying all over the field making tackles and helped hold Brian Calhoun to 38 yards on the ground and end his Heisman candidacy, just like Laurence Maroney when the Gophers came to Happy Valley and felt the rath of the Heisman Graveyard. Alan Zemaitis helped end Wisconsin's only real threat of making a game of it when he picked off a Stocco pass in the endzone. The offense was once again well balanced with Robinson tossing it to Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood along with Tony Hunt tearing up the Badgers' defense on the ground. Tony Hunt is the most underrated tailback in college football. He has meant a lot to the Nittany Lions' rejuvanated offense but has not received the same recognition as Michael Robinson and Derrick Williams. With Penn State breaking in a new starting QB next season, Hunt will have to continue his strong running and perhaps finally garner the recognition he deserves.

Congratulations to Penn State's senior class. Without their will to win and outstanding leadership, Penn State's turnaround would not have been possible.

The Nittany Blog Top 25 (11/6/05)

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

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Week Ten: #14 Wisconsin (8-1, 5-1) at #10 Penn State (8-1, 5-1)

This season as simply flown by. The 2004 season seemed to take forever to end. It was one brutal loss after another because the offense was less creative than that of a pee wee team. Now that Penn State has started 8-1, it feels like the season just started. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Penn State has two regular season and one bowl game left in the 2005 season, one that will be looked upon as the reemergence of Penn State football. The thing that many people must remember about 2002, Penn State's last bowl team, was that it was led by a mostly senior team that featured six first and second round draft picks. This Penn State team is different. While there are many important seniors, Robinson, Zemaitis, Hali, Paxson, Reed, Harrell, among others graduating, the corps of the team is made up of young players. While having so many new starters on both lines, a brand new secondary, and breaking in a new starting QB will likely prevent Penn State from repeating the success of this season, they will be far from slipping back to mediocrity. Now on to the Wisconsin game.

Penn State must do only one thing to win this game- stop Brian Calhoun. While it is easier said than done, keep in mind that Penn State's defense absolutely shutdown Minnesota's Laurence Maroney way back in early October. All of the "Maroney for Heisman" campaiging died and we haven't heard a whole heck of a lot about him since. Now Penn State has a chance to do the same to Calhoun, who has been gaining some Heisman momentum. Happy Valley was once known as the Heisman Graveyard, hopefully Calhoun will be the next to have his canidacy derailed at the hands of the Nittany Lions. The only other concern for the Nittany Lions will be stopping fullback Matt Bernstrein. Bernstein was one of the few backs all season to really hammer away at the PSU defense last season in the Badgers' 13-0 win in Madison. John Stocco shouldn't scare the Penn State defensive backs. If Stocco is forced to throw, Penn State will have a field day.

Unlike last season, Penn State should have no problem scoring points on the Wisconsin defense. The Badgers defense took a large hit after last season, losing a large chunk of their stellar defensive unit. If Illinois QB Tim Brasic can run for over 100 yards on the Badgers, Michael Robinson should have no problem reaching that mark. Tony Hunt should be able to break 100 yards as well. As long as Robinson continues to get the ball to Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood through the air and mix in Justin King, PSU will easily score enough to win.

This Penn State team has come too far to let this one slip away. No one believed that this team would make it this far, myself included. If someone told me in August that PSU and Wisconsin would be playing , for all intents and purposes, the Big Ten championship game on November 5th, I would have laughed. I never would have expected Penn State to be here and I didn't think Wisconsin would be here. I really thought that Wisconsin would struggle to reach a bowl game. Wisconsin has turned out to have a nice team but I think their magic ride ends in Happy Valley. If the game was in Madison, I would feel differently but the seniors want to go out on a strong note, the fans will be a big boost and Paternoville, the student tent community, is ready to get wild. The Nittany Lions will leave everything on the field, win or loss.

Penn State's Keys to Victory:
  • Shutdown Calhoun and Bernstein
  • Let Robinson run wild
  • Get the ball in King's hands
  • Keep the defense on the sidelines and as well rested as possible

My Prediction- Penn State 31, Wisconsin 13

The Badgers will put up a good fight but Penn State will keep Calhoun from running wild and slow down the Badgers offense. The Nittany Lions will add a late touchdown to make it look a little better on the scoreboard.