UNIVERSITY PARK, PA, November 5—Senior Day was a smashing success as the Penn State Nittany Lions (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) took apart the Wisconsin Badgers (8-2, 5-2) in front of the second largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history. The final score was 35–14.
This win kept the Lions’ BCS bowl hopes alive. If they win their final regular season game against Michigan State, they will win the Big Ten championship outright and with it they will get an automatic BCS bowl bid. So, while it is not yet a done deal, Penn State has taken one more giant step forward toward that lofty goal.
Continuing a recent trend, the offensive game was dominated by the play of Michael Robinson, one of the outgoing seniors. Robinson piled up 125 yards rushing and was 13–28 passing for 238 yards and two touchdowns. It was not a perfect passing game for M-Rob in that he also had two interceptions and there were a number of inaccurate passes. However, the connection was restored with his favorite receiver, Dion Butler, to whom he had five completions including two 40+ yard touchdown plays. Also in line with the recent trend in winning efforts by Penn State, Tony Hunt ran 24 times for 151 yards.
The defense performed very well. Stopping Badger star Brian Calhoun was obviously the order of the day, which was executed flawlessly. Calhoun, who had been averaging 135 yards a game, was held to 38 yards. The sack attack was working well, too, led by defensive end Tamba Hali with four sacks on his own. Wisconsin, who came into this game averaging 39.7 points per game, were held scoreless for the first three quarters. They came back to score a couple of late touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but it was too little and too late.
Also worthy of note was a much better special teams performance than in the previous week against Purdue. Special Nittany Turkey congratulations go to Calvin Lowry, who broke a punt return for 42 yards at 4:55 of the second quarter, once again making his slow ass look like the second coming of Lenny Moore.
The Lions scored on their opening drive and then led wire-to-wire. This Turkey had been worried about this game, expecting the Badgers to put up more of a fight in view of the impending departure of their long-time coach Barry Alvarez. I was particularly worried about Calhoun. When am I going to learn? The Nittany Lion defense is as good as advertised and I’m on the verge of becoming a believer. My original prediction for this season was 7–4 and a minor bowl game. This team invalidated that projection a long time ago. Not being pessimistic but looking at both possible outcomes, Penn State will either be 10–1 or 9–2. Both are pretty damn good records for a team that hasn’t even put together so much as a winning record for four out of the past five years.
I’m not getting cocky yet. I’m still hearing people talk about the Rose Bowl. This has been a crazy season, but probably not that crazy. I don’t think USC or Texas will lose a game and thus, that matchup that has been atop the polls since about the third week of the season will most probably wind up in the Rose Bowl. If the Nittany Lions can maintain their current level of play, they should beat Michigan State and win the Big Ten championship. This is the simplest bowl scenario. Because of tie-ins between the ACC and SEC with the Orange and Sugar bowls, respectively, the Fiesta Bowl would have first choice of the remaining BCS teams minus the Rose Bowl duo and the ACC and SEC champions. Penn State is known to “travel well” and if BCS rankings keep us higher than Notre Dame, we would probably get a Fiesta Bowl Bid. Alabama, who will lose to LSU, will probably remain in the mix. So will the Big Least champion (WHY?), which will probably be West Virginia. So, I’m thinking Miami vs. Alabama in the Orange Bowl, LSU vs. West Virginia in Peach Bowl II (otherwise known as the Sugar Bowl), and Penn State vs. Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. How’s that sit with you?
Of course, the mix I described above leaves out some very worthy teams. That’s the damn problem with the BCS. Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Auburn, and Georgia belong in there. That’s why we need a playoff system. As JoePa has stated, the BCS is a joke. Every major conference should have a championship. Oh, yeah, well independents like Notre Dame will just have to join a conference if they want to be involved in the post-season. If they don’t like it, tough. The Big Ten would be the perfect conference for Notre Dame. Lets say that we take six conference champs, from the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big Twelve, PAC-10, and, regrettably, Big East. Add another two “at-large” teams and you have four games the first week of the playoffs, two games on the second week, and the great big championship game the third week. There is still a possibility that somebody could be left out, but the eventual champion of champions would be less disputable than ever before.
The foregoing naive analysis is full of holes, and it only represents one Turkey’s opinion, but I think the great gods of the NCAA can work something out along those lines if they would only spend their time chasing constructive goals instead of wasting it on political correctness issues. In view of their Native American redemption campaign, we might even get them to name the collegiate super bowl after that great 19th Century Chiricahua Apache, Geronimo. As you probably know, Geronimo held out for a long, long time before finally capitulating to the U.S. Army. The NCAA can make this thing work. They’ve been holding out for a long, long time. Too long.
Next week is a bye week for the Nittany Lions, which they’ve earned. They’ll need a lot of rest to heal up their bumps and bruises before heading over to East Lansing for the Uncertainty Bowl, otherwise known as the Land Grant Trophy Game. You never know what is going to happen in that game. Upsets have abounded and the game has frequently turned into an offensive scorefest. The Nittany Turkey will be back here next week with his take on that game. Until then, enjoy visions of great bowl matchups in warm climes.