Teams: there are a lot of them. In our effort to bring you the finest "bullshit" coverage of college football, our Visiting Lecturer Series today welcomes Penn State blogger and zombie aficionado Run Up The Score. He doesn't choose Changes In Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes for the answer to the dreaded Jimmy Buffett Challenge, and for this we salute him already. Enjoy.
One: what color is your season? In other words, please explain the metaphorical state of your program through the metaphor of color:
Hunting jacket orange, the unofficial color of Pennsyltucky and Penn State fans who either forget or refuse to wear blue and white. Orange like the sunset of Joe Paterno's coaching career at Penn State, which by practically all accounts seems destined to end after the 2008 season. Orange like the brilliant dawn of both the post-AnthonyMorelli era at quarterback and offensive [sic] coordinator [sic] Jay Paterno's "Spread HD" offense. "HD", presumably, an abbreviation for "Hilariously Disasterous."
The last time Joe Pa had horses on offense: either 1994, or in his immortal quadri-car race with Bobby Bowden.
Two: What historical nation and period do you resemble most right now?
Canada, whenever. Always present but only occasionally entertaining. Happily and drunkenly punching around the periphery of relevance, desperately in need of a rival to provide moments of passion.(We respectfully disagree, sirs. Yours, the Canadian Foreign Ministry-ed.)
The Big Ten tried to provide that rivalry when it linked Michigan State and Penn State in a season-ending game which never rotates off the schedule. The conference even invented The Land Grant Trophy, which appears to have been constructed by an eighth-grade shop class at St. Delany's School For The Blind, Dumb, And Tasteless. In theory, it was a nice enough idea as an attempt to (1) gently nudge Sparty away from its eternal little brother status with respect to Michigan and (2) instantly provide Penn State with some form of dependable matchup that could someday be meaningful. Hasn't happened yet.
Three: You have important players. Discuss a few of them hastily.
Maurice Evans, defensive end: Penn State may be known as Linebacker U., but has also produced a rather stunning list of great collegiate defensive ends. Evans finished in the top 8 nationally in tackles for loss (21.5) and sacks (12.5), and he'll be counted upon to provide pressure to help a secondary coping with the loss of cornerback Justin King.
Kevin Kelly, placekicker: What could be wrong with a guy who made 20-26 field goals and 44-45 extra points last season? Kelly has struggled throughout his career outside of 40 yards, making only two of eight attempts in 2007. He has the leg for the job, as his two makes from 40+ were both 50 yards long. Still, with a new quarterback, Penn State will have to make the most of its scoring
opportunities this season. Kelly will have to pull his weight when the offense bogs down between the 25 and 35 yard lines, or you'll eventually see a lot of new quarterback Daryll Clark attempting to
scramble for short chunks of yards on 4th down conversions.
A.J. Wallace, cornerback: Wallace should be the full-time replacement for the aforementioned Justin King, and Penn State desperately needs him to live up to the hype of being the #8 cornerback coming out of high school (according to Scout). He's been tremendous with the ball in his hands as Penn State's kickoff returner and designated end-around carrier, but only started to flourish as a corner during the last few games of 2007. Penn State's secondary looks to be the weakest part of its defense (even with LB Sean Lee's ACL injury), and Wallace's maturation into a lockdown corner is an absolute must if the Nittany Lions are to contend for anything other than the Outback or
Four: Name two games we might actually want to watch featuring your team.
October 11 at Wisconsin. Penn State has been utterly dreadful on the road for the past few seasons, especially against decent-or-better competition. If Ohio State is indeed the runaway favorite in the Big Televen this year, PSU @ Wisconsin should go a very long way in determining who could conceivably sneak into a BCS at-large slot.
October 18 vs. Michigan. Ah, yes. Michigan. You may have heard that Penn State hasn't beaten Michigan since 1996, prompting catcalls of "We Own...Penn State!" from Wolverine fans everywhere.
Ed: The only victory Penn State has been able to celebrate over Michigan's may be seen below.
Rich Rodriguez has to implement a new offense while replacing Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Jake Long, and Mario Manningham. So the question for Penn State is, "if not now, when?" Unfortunately, Joe Paterno gets even more conservative when he see the winged helmets -- envision a combination
of Woody Hayes and Pat Buchanan. If this is really Paterno's last shot at Michigan, here's hoping he releases his inner, rabid brain-devouring, referee-chasing zombie for the occasion, and not the
inner zombie that politely nibbles around the clavicle.
Four-A: Save us all some time and mention the game we're better off NOT watching.
October 25 at Ohio State. But! But! This is a sorta-rivalry game between two high profile programs in neighboring states! Why shouldn't you watch it? Allow me to present the results of every PSU-OSU game in Columbus since Penn State joined the conference in 1993:
9/23/2006 @ *Ohio State (12-1) L 6 - 28
10/30/2004 @ *Ohio State (8-4) L 10 - 21
10/26/2002 @ *Ohio State (14-0) L 7 - 13
9/23/2000 @ *Ohio State (8-4) L 6 - 45
10/3/1998 @ *Ohio State (11-1) L 9 - 28
10/5/1996 @ *Ohio State (11-1) L 7 - 38
10/30/1993 @ *Ohio State (10-1-1) L 6 - 24
Yes, that would be 7.28 points per game. Probably won't get the job done this season, either.
Five: Every hero forgets something in their toolbelt. What does your team lack?
Offensive cohesion. We have three wide receivers who will finish very high on the list of all-time receptions at Penn State, but two new quarterbacks vying for the starting position. Five returning starters on the offensive line, but two inexperienced running backs. If you subscribe to the Anybody But Morelli theory of quarterbacking, both of these problems could conceivably iron themselves out if opposing defenses are forced to respect the Penn State passing game. Stop laughing, pretty please.
Six: Describe your team with a Jimmy Buffett song. No, we're serious–do it.
Buffet and Pennsylvania don't exactly go together like Smith and Wesson, but perhaps the most appropriate way to say farewell to the Paterno era is, "If The Phone Doesn't Ring It's Me":
I've had good days and bad days
And going half mad days
I try to let go but you're still on my mind
I've lost all the old ways
I'm searching for new plays
Putting it all on the line
Even when Paterno leaves, he'll still be on our mind as we're searching for new plays. Specific to this season, there will certainly be good days, bad days, and going half mad days -- the types of days that are always associated with teams staring at that 8-4 or 9-3 range. Will the Lions put it all on the line against Michigan and Ohio State? History and an unbearably brutal October schedule says that Penn State will remain on the second tier of the conference for another season.
Seven: We're master wagerers. Give us a bet to place for up to ten dollars about your team.
The last time Penn State covered the spread in Columbus was never. At least since the Nitty Kitties joined the conference in 1993. Might want to keep that in mind when Ohio State is favored by aboot two touchdowns in October, Eh?
If you'd like to read more about Penn State football, we suggest you take every preview written about them for the past eight years, plug in new names, and then digest accordingly. However, if you'd like to know even more, you should visit Run Up the Score. If you'd like to contribute your own Visiting Lecturer post, please contact us at harumphharumph of the gmail email variety address.