Penn State welcomes Alabama, its premier extra-conference opponent, tomorrow for what we hope is a spirited clash in Beaver Stadium. We also hope that the fans — all of them — behave themselves and put their most gracious foot forward for our esteemed opponents, just as they do for us. This is not always the case of late. This Turkey gets extremely pissed off when fans act like assholes and show no respect for our worthy opponents, win or lose. That is not the Penn State way.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, what we have to look forward to, I fear, is another lopsided game. Does it surprise you that I should say that? Nah, you know that this Turkey is perennially the harbinger of gloom and doom. So many Nittany Lions fans have been waiting for this game, presumably for some kind of validation, that I feel bad for them. Maybe I should paint a picture of sunshine and lollipops like some other pseudo-journalists? Nah, that’s not the Turkey’s style. The Turkey wants everybody to suck down a dose of reality, for a change.
Alabama is ranked #3 in the meaningless Week One AP poll, whereas Penn State is ranked #23. Have 23’s beat 3’s before? Damn straight they have. However, this is an occasion on which my gut feel is that Alabama, while perhaps not really #3, is that much better than Penn State.
I don’t think that the problems we saw last week against the Sycamores can possibly have been resolved by tomorrow. The most glaring and egregious is pass protection. Our boys could not handle the blitz. Perhaps having a big body in Stephfon “Outta Da Doghouse” Green in the backfield will help in blitz situations. Perhaps Stephfon wants to redeem himself in front of a national TV audience and let the NFL take notice. But is he PSU’s secret pass protection counter-measure? Me not think so. Having watched McGloin make a split-second decision that almost became a pick-six last week, I cringe to think of how many turnovers the Tide defense will force on a couple of quarterbacks who will be pressured constantly.
The other big issue is special teams. Yeah, I know. Chaz Powell did a helluva job running one back 95 yards. Will Alabama give that up? Nope. Powell is no Darren Sproles. (Just thought I would throw that in to show you that I watched the NFL opener last night). But some decent returns notwithstanding, Penn State’s kicking and coverage ranked somewhere between moderately fecal and extremely shitty. Just offal! Will Anthony “I Outta Da Doghouse Too” Fera be the solution on punts and kickoffs? Me not think so. They might go deeper, but the coverage will still be deficient and Alabama is that much better.
Field goals? Hah! Not only was Evan Lewis 0-2 in field goals last week, but also he missed an extra point with no great pressure from the defense. I mean, hell, high school girls make extra points. Sam Ficken, the rangy freshman from Valparaiso, Indiana, entered the ISU game in relief of Lewis and made the one extra point with which he was tasked. Could Ficken be our man this week? Fick! I hope so!
Now, what about the quarterback competition (aka quarterback controversy)? It appears that we will have approximately the same situation as last week. Rob Bolden will start, but that doesn’t mean that he is being given the nod as titular starting quarterback because *da da da TADAAAAAA* (a fanfare in Turkeyese) Matt McGloin will split duties under center with Bolden. Is this the way to generate offense against Alabama? Me not think so. Just as a guy establishes a rhythm, the other guy comes in at the behest of Joe or Jay Paterno, and he starts from scratch. Different timing with receivers, different snap count vocals for the linemen to acclimate to, and a different presence in the huddle. Oy, such a disruption for all concerned. How does anyone expect this to work?
The creampuff games are the ones in which to try this kind of crap out, but we have had only one such outing thus far, in which McGloin showed himself to be the better passer. (Bolden was not as bad as his stats look, given that there were a couple of abysmal drops by his receivers). Bolden was ready to leave PSU after last year’s embarrassment of being beat out for the starting job. Other than playing hardball in not letting Bolden out of his scholarship commitment, what did Paterno do to make him stay around for another year of uncertainty? Did Joe promise him that he’d skew this season’s competition in his favor, but McGloin unwittingly foiled the plan by looking good out there? That confident guy leading the team against Indiana State wasn’t the McGloin of Outback Bowl ignominy. Perhaps he’s gotten over big game jitters. Perhaps not. It’s not for us to decide, but the damn decision must be made. Joseph V. Paterno: Please shit or get off the pot!
Same goes for Nick Saban and the wayward Tide. Quarterback duties thus far have been split between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims. PSU will probably see much more of McCarron.
Alabama, by the way, has a kicker, junior Jeremy Shelley, who is dangerous. Why? Because he can actually kick! Not only field goals, but extra points, too! He was perfect last week. In a close game, which this one won’t be, we turn to the kicker for salvation. If they need it, they’ve got it in the experienced Shelley.
Methinks Penn State’s best plan on defense is to shut down the run and force the pass. Duh! Typically vacuous, out of context words of wisdom. Lots of us speak of doing that like we know what the hell we’re talking about. We generally don’t. One thing is for sure: this is not the Penn State defense we all know and love. That it is, is wishful thinking. Ah, the memories! These guys are mere pretenders next to the likes of the defenses in the 80s and 90s. Good old Linebacker U! Let us hope that the Lions have a couple of standouts who rise above the mediocre, because they’re going to need them to avoid embarrassment. Mauti, Crawford, Astorino: can you hear me now? Go ahead and try to shut down the run. Perhaps you can find a chink in their armor. Then, we’ve got them where we want them, right? Me not think so. These guys will burn you with the pass.
(Remember, the crossing pattern splitting the seam of the PSU zone defense has been something that Nittany Lions defenses have had difficulty with for years and years. Sandusky, why the hell did you endow us with that damn zone and why hasn’t anyone on the defensive staff worked hard to bolster the coverage of such a reliable play?)
Speaking of embarrassment, Penn State receivers, please remember to catch the ball before you do anything fancy! This was another source of embarrassment last week against a lesser opponent, one from the FCS division, already. Moye was predicted to be All-Conference this season. Thus far, he has shown exactly bupkis. Penn State, by the way, is presently a solid 104th in the FBS in passing yards. The ranking numbers don’t get much higher than that. They’re truly rank! Will the incompetence persist this week? Turkey hope not. Disaster looms if the Lions cannot stretch the field.
I can say nothing but good things about Silas Redd. Watching his tweets, I get a feel that this kid is replete with work ethic and takes direction well. (Lovers of sports cliches would say, “He’s the real deal!” Apologies to Evander Holyfield.) Redd had one helluva game last week, assisted by the offensive line and the lead blocking of fullback Michael Zordich. Will he have a good week against Alabama? Me not think so. Not his fault, though. An inexperienced offensive line is poison against quality opposition.
This has been declared a “white house” game — everybody is exhorted to wear white in order to show our Penn State solidarity. Beaver Stadium is, of course, sold out, so it will be a spectacle to behold: a huge bowl of white with a small sliver of crimson in the north end zone corner.
The weather for the game will be clearing with a couple of thunderstorms and a high of 72. The big problem, though, is all the flooding that has happened in Pennsylvania. Traveling to this game will be a nightmare, as will be parking. The unpaved lots will probably be closed. However, with the crack grounds crew at Beaver Stadium being a cut above, you can expect the field to be in pretty, pretty, pretty good shape.
The game will not be pretty, though. I suspect that the turnover count will be lopsided in the Tide’s favor. And, in Frank Gifford’s words, as recounted ad nauseam by Howard Cosell, “Turnovers’ll kill ya.” So will penalties as the frustration mounts.
Well, I’m standing by for incoming rounds, but that’s the way I see it.
And now, as usual, it is time for the Official Turkey Poop Prediction for the PSU-Alabama game. The old gang — and I do mean old — will be gathering at Mike’s Garage on Saturday to watch this one go down. As I write this, the ficken line on the game has the Crimson Tide favored by 10 and the over/under at 42. I’ve given you enough drivel already, so I won’t be long-winded about this. Penn State does not do it, even with the points. Alabama 35, Penn State 10. Take the over.