The Nittany Lions looked really good in their 59-0 win over FIU. So what? FIU sucks really, really badly. Anyhow, as I stated in my recap of the game and in my pre-game predictions, not much can be gleaned from our team’s performance against an overmatched opponent like the Golden Panthers. In fact, in Joe Paterno’s press conference today, he voiced much the same objection to questions about evaluating the team’s or specific individuals’ performance, albeit in a characteristically irascible, “Go away newsboys, I’m busy here!”, whiney, octagenarian dismissal.
So, why am I seeing all those glowing reports about how well we did in this game, and how there are no line problems, and how Morelli will be just fine all season, and whew!—we were sure wrong about the lack of a running game!—and all kinds of similar, hyperoptimistic crap? One win against a patsy coupled with Michigan and Notre Dame losing and, ohmigawd, we’re going to contend for the still somewhat mythical national championship?
I’ve got news for you! The McCabe Sisters could have beaten Florida International. So, big deal! What is going through you people’s minds? Spewing sunbeams and rainbows about the Nittany Lions’ performance against this crappy opposition is like giving high praise to a Ph.D. student scoring a 1600 on the SATs she took for recreation; like extolling the amazing competence of a piano virtuoso playing Heart and Soul with one finger; or like lauding Tiger Woods for soundly trouncing the competition in the Association of Blind Golfers First Annual Pro-Am. Come on, folks. Did we really clean up there, beating a brave, robust young team, or did FIU really suck? Answer: they sucked! You still have no idea what this team can or cannot do against quality opposition.
You’re about to find out. Yeah, I know. Notre Dame sucks. Notre Dame has a fat coach. Notre Dame is overrated. Charlie Weis is no savior. They gave up 33 points in their opener and only managed to score 3, and that was against Georgia Who? Georgia Tech? They’re no Penn State! Charlie Weis is a dumbass because he’s starting Jimmy Clausen, a true freshman who’ll be eaten up by the big bad Penn State defense. I’ve heard it all and this Turkey is lending a deaf ear. Bla bla bla…bullshit! Notre Dame is a quality program and Charlie Weis has been around the bend once or twice. Notre Dame might well lose this game (my prediction appears below), but they will put up a fight on both sides of the ball.
Say what you will about how much luster Notre Dame has lost over the past several seasons, they’re still a worthy opponent, whereas Florida International was most decidedly not (and they proved it on the field). I’m not going to “break down” Notre Dame’s strengths and weaknesses. First of all, I’m not a coach and I don’t have the skills to assess players’ abilities very well. If I did, I’d be earning Charlie Weis’ salary somewhere. Secondly, it wouldn’t matter what I thought, anyway. Weis might be fat, but he’s a smart coach. The Fighting Irish are not going to make the same mistakes against our Nittany Lions that they made against the Yellow Jackets. At least not as many of them.
People are predicting that Charlie Weis will go down in flames for starting young Clausen. That remains to be seen. I saw only a little of Clausen in the Georgia Tech game, and he looked pretty good for a freshman. Any questions about his arm injury might have been answered when he easily heaved one 40 yards down the field. Of course, he now has to prove himself in front of 105,000 hostile fans (I’m allowing for a few thousand from Notre Dame in the house). We’ll see how much poise he has.
Obviously, the quarterback situation is not yet in stasis at Notre Dame. An old NFL coach once said, “If you say you have three quarterbacks, then you have no quarterbacks.” Two of the three proved to be very shaky indeed last Saturday. However, we didn’t see enough of the third to have any predictive value.
“You guys have to have something to write about,” said Paterno to the assembled sports reporters. What he meant was that evaluating the Nittany Lions on last Saturday’s performance or predicting how good or bad Jimmy Clausen will be is like pissing in the wind.
Unfortunately, the bookies seem to be buying into the whole theory that Penn State is good and Notre Dame sucks. The current spread on this game is -17.5. I don’t see us putting up enough points offensively to cover that spread. By this I am saying that either the Nittany Lion offense still suffers from the same problems as in most recent years or that the Notre Dame defense is that much better than FIU’s—or both. Duh!
I know that by not lavishing praise on the Nittany Lions while allowing that Notre Dame might actually be a tough opponent, I am opening myself up to scorn by the 1.28 readers who care to comment, using terms like “rampant negativism,” and calling me “Dude.” That’s fine with me. I honestly believe that what I’m expressing is a realistic and emotionally unbiased opinion of the potential for a closely fought game. I certainly can be wrong, an affliction that doesn’t seem to affect many neo-bloggists. However, if Notre Dame turns out to be a pushover and we cover that generous spread, I will declare in 72-point red type that I was wrong. (I’ll stop short of committing to kiss your ass in the Corner Room window because you know I can’t travel in my neck brace and you’d thus consider the offer disingenuous.) If I’m right, well—I’m sure I’ll hear nothing from anybody.
I further think that this game will expose Nittany Lions weaknesses in both offensive and defensive lines. We are by no means solid in either category, though I’ll admit that we appear to be farther along than I thought we would be on the D-line. Still, how the hell can you tell anything, given the quality of last week’s opponent, who get the shit pounded out of them week after week? Have I rubbed that in enough yet? How’s that for nihilistic negativism from this nattering nabob of the poultry counter!
So, that leads us to the Official Turkey Poop Prediction for this week. I’ve already said that we won’t cover the spread, at least at its present value of 17.5 points. If it gets down to 10 or fewer points, I might buy into it. Otherwise, it’s an overlay and I have to put my money on the Irish. Blasphemy! Unlike some pseudo-pundits, I make no pretenses about knowing anything, but I’m not such a Pollyanna believer in our defense as to predict that Notre Dame will be completely shut out. And I am definitely not a believer in our offense. Not yet, anyway. Too many questions remain to be answered about the offensive line and the running game. Oh, yeah, and by the way, I’m not in the prediction business. That said, I will predict a Nittany Lion win. Although Kevin Kelly will miss two field goals, he will make two. Add in one offensive touchdown and one set up by the defense. Notre Dame will muster an offensive touchdown when nickel back Lydell Sargent is caught with his thumbs up his ass, and they will add a field goal. Final score, Penn State 20, Notre Dame 10. How the hell is that, for not being in the prediction business?
(If I’m right, I get bragging rights. If I’m wrong, I’ll disavow any knowledge of this prediction.)
I think that this week’s game will do what last week’s didn’t, which is to give us an indication of how the 2007 Nittany Lions handle big, emotional games and to tell us how competitive they really are in the Division Formerly Known As I-A.