It’s that great time of the fall football season when we get to direct you to one of our most favoritest web sites of all time. This just goes to show you what simple-minded fun this Turkey appreciates. This site evokes some very pleasant mammaries, as I recall some wilderness hikes with Artificially Sweetened in which the only communication was a recitation of the chanting, moaning, neurotic sound track of that cartoon work of creative genius. It has nothing to do with football at all. It is what it is. It is all good, cartoonologically speaking, that is.
So, why am I here? Oh, yes—I’m supposed to talk about the Wisconsin game. So that I shall do forthwith, already.
The Wisconsin Badgers (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten) play host to our Nittany Lions (6-0, 2-0) at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday in prime time on ESPN. Fortunately, there’s a good crew of announcers including Mike Patrick and Todd Blackledge, not to mention one of the better sideline blondes, Holly Rowe, so zbeard and I won’t have to engage in our traditional sound replacement procedure in which we inject the radio broadcast by the ever frenetic and loquacious Steve Jones and the laconic Jack ham into the home theatre system to make it seem like the low-fi, digitally compressed AM radio sound is emanating from my expensive big screen TV, requiring thousands of dollars worth of high fidelity preamps and amps to enact this distorted sonic ruse. Sometimes, though, there is no choice. The Big Ten network typically gives us no choice. ESPN sometimes gives us no choice, especially when Pam Ward is doing the broadcast. Finally, we must always have loudmouthed Steve and speech challenged Jack ready if ESPN/ABC/Mickey decide to pull the plug on one of our blowouts to broadcast the end of another blowout. We must be ever vigilant and quick to react.
Sound replacement most definitely would be necessary if Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit were to be occupying the broadcast booth on Saturday night. Fortunately, they are safely collecting pine splinters this week as ABC covers NASCAR that night. Without needing the aforementioned sound injection, the idle hands time will enable this Turkey to concentrate more on the game than on synchronizing sound and picture via DVR manipulation. It will also facilitate being able to switch over to watch LSU-Florida and OK State- Missouri during the frequent, obnoxiously lengthy commercial breaks and allow this Turkey to take his time cooking his culinary masterpiece during halftime break, as it will now be possible to pause the DVR. This newfound freedom opens up all sorts of possibilities, as it were.
Besides, we’ll undoubtedly want to hear from Blackledge about where and on what he pigged out in Madison. Last year Blackledge started his now famous football food reviews, which became a regular feature of the Saturday football broadcasts in which he is involved. He even visited State College’s own New College Diner last year, and of course, highlighted the “grilled stickies,” those obnoxiously decadent, gooily glutenous breakfast treats that we all got fat on and developed diabetes eating during our time at Penn State. Blackledge travels around in a Maddenesque mobile home so he can get a feel for the local flavors and hot spots. Most of the cuisinolographic fare he lauds is high-calorie, high-cholesterol crap. Last week, he had some kind of huge eggs and cheese omelet thing in Madison, to which Mike Patrick, who had undergone bypass surgery a few years back, made an allusion to Blackledge’s arteries. Perhaps, being back in Madison again this week, he’ll give his cardiovascular system a rest and eat something wholesome. He seems to handle it well, though. Todd doesn’t appear to be getting much fatter than he was in 1982 when he and the Nittany Lions whipped Herschel Walker & Company in the Sugar Bowl for PSU’s first National Championship.
Come to think of it, why would ESPN send Patrick, Blackledge, and Rowe to Madison two weeks in a row? Maybe they put the broadcast crew up in a cheap waterbed motel to save money. I bet those guys have been cheesed to near death by now.
But I digress.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Wisconsin.
The Badgers have been somewhat disappointing this year. Some of that disappointmentship was due to Travis Beckum’s injury, but essentially, they lost a couple of close games to Michigan and Ohio State the past two weeks. Still, they were expected to be second-best in the Big Ten this year and it doesn’t look like they’re going to be. Last year when they came to Beaver Stadium the Badgers were ranked #19 and they went down big time, 38-7. The Nittany Lions held one of the best runners in the conference, P. J. Hill, to 70 yards. That was last year, though, and that was at Beaver Stadium. By virtue of their defeat by Ohio State, the Badgers are now unranked, but they will be playing at home at Camp Randall Stadium and they will be pissed off over their crappy start in the Big Ten. The #6 ranked Nittany Lions are coming off a 20-6 win over unranked Purdue in which a conservative offensive game plan was painfully evident. Why painful? Because it portends more anal retentiveness in game plans for the tough road games ahead.
Last year, with blind idiot savant quarterback, Anthony Morelli, Paterno opened up the game plan, peppering Wisconsin’s secondary with deep passes. On the road, however, he clamps off the rectum and keeps the passes short and safe, and the runs inside instead of out. I know you’re sick and tired of hearing about “Sphincter Mode,” a term invented by Bob Flounders or David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News. ( I forget which of them actually wrote it, but it doesn’t matter as they’re essentially Flounders-Jones in my mind. Coupla cynical bastards, just like your old Turkey.) Nevertheless, as long as it remains a reality of the conduct of away games, it is a prime suspect in the abysmally ineffectual road record against ranked opponents. So, this Turkey continues to cajole, to beg, to plead with the stubborn Paterno to open it the hell up! Let Sonny Boy Jay unleash that mighty Spread HD! We saw what even a dick like Morelli could do against Wisconsin last year with the long ball. Let’s jump out to an early lead and have them playing catch-up for a change. Please, Joe, none of that sit-out-the-first-quarter-with-three-and-outs-while-the-opponent-scores-twice crap! I’d rather listen to Brent Woody Musberger’s commentary or sit for three hours with my thumbs up my ass listening to our most favoritest web site than to go through yet another play-not-to-lose performance. Open it the hell up!
P. J. Hill is back again this year. It seems as if he’s been there long enough to be Professor Emeritus, but he’s only a junior. He’s carried the ball 108 times for 512 yards thus far this year, an average of 4.7 ypc. However, he’s not the only dangerous runner in Wisconsin’s backfield. Newbie redshirt freshman John Clay was impressive against OSU, and he gets the ball a lot, too. He has averaged 6.7 ypc. Whereas Hill is a 5’10”, 236 lb bowling ball, clay is a huge, muscular 6’2″, 237. As if that’s not enough, frequently used speedy sophomore Zach Brown can burn you on the outside. The Penn State defense is going to have to be at least as good against the run as they were last week against Purdue, when they shut down Kory Sheets.
The quarterback position has been a problem for the Badgers this year. Senior Allan Evridge hasn’t lived up to expectations as his quarterback rating has steadily declined through the year. He’s had four interceptions thus far, including two disastrous ones against Michigan and another against Ohio State. Wisconsin head coach Brett Bielema has stated that Evridge will start on Saturday, but he hinted that if Evridge screws up, he might be pulled in favor of junior backup Dustin Sherer. Sherer has only thrown two passes this year, but the bright side for Wisconsin is that he’s made two completions for 28 yards. He did not play against Michigan or Ohio State.
As you might recall, Wisconsin has senior Travis Beckum, a tight end sized beast who is used like a wide receiver, but still lines up at tight end. Due to injury, Beckum did not play the first two games this year, but the 6’4″, 235 lb behemoth is back. In the Ohio State game, he had six receptions for sixty yards. Last year, Beckum wound up just short of 1000 yards. Keep an eye on #9. He’ll figure in a lot of plays. He’ll also figure strongly in the NFL Draft next spring.
The remainder of Wisconsin’s young receiving corps is big and solid. Their problem has been in not having a stud quarterback like John Stocco to throw to them. Last year, 6’5″ Kyle Jefferson burned us with six receptions for 124 yards—as a freshman. This year, he’s back as a sophomore; he had two receptions against Ohio State, one of them a 35-yarder. The leading receiver, sophomore David Gilreath, has 14 receptions for the year. Junior Garret Graham is a big 6’4″, 235 lb whose body size will give PSUs secondary fits. Size is also a forte for sophomore Lance Kendricks. He’s 6’4″ – 227 lbs. These guys will be a handful for Davis, Sargent, Wallace, Scirrotto, Rubin, and Astorino. It is fortunate that Stocco is long gone, or it would be worse.
So, once again, the defense better show up. Wisconsin can pound Penn State’s depleted defensive line and linebackers with an incessant running attack behind a huge and effective offensive line, wearing their asses down and opening up the pass. Their big receivers will tax the back four. Throw in Beckum and the need to cover him with linebackers, and the defense will have a tiring day, much subsequent whirlpool time, and they can be expected to suffer at least a couple of costly lapses.
Meanwhile, Penn State has some injury issues hanging over from last week, but they might not be as bad as originally anticipated. Both Mickey Shuler and Jordan Norwood are listed as probable for Saturday.
As for Wisconsin’s defense, they held Ohio State to 17 first downs and a total of 327 yards in their 20-17 loss, but they couldn’t handle Beanie Wells, who ran for 168 yards. They gave up only 144 yards passing to the Buckeyes, intercepting Terrelle Pryor once. It is this Turkey’s hope that PSU’s offensive line will continue their solid performance, allowing Evan Royster to ring up some Beaniesque numbers. I just hope that if we see some success in the running offense, Paterno doesn’t completely shitcan the passing game in favor of the ground game. I have to believe that the temptation to do so is always there in the back of his mind when playing in someone else’s stadium.
Let us hope that we see a better damn performance than we did the last time the Nittany Lions traveled to Camp Randall. In that 2006 game, offensive anemia was in evidence and Paterno’s leg got broken on the sidelines. No, we don’t need nonna dat shit! Now, we have the Spread HD and just the right quarterback to run it. The Dow is tanking, we might get a socialist government, and this Turkey increasingly wants to find comfort in small things. One small thing I would take great comfort in, before I have to sell my big-screen plasma TV and the house it sits in, would be a big win against Wisconsin. So, open up that damn Spread HD and beat the crap out of these Badgers.
It ain’t going to be easy. Wisconsin sure as hell does not want to start off with an 0-3 Big Ten record. They’re at home and they’re pissed off. This has all the earmarks of a grueling game. Once again, I’ll beat a dead horse. We need four quarters of football from the Nittany Lions, on both sides of the ball.
These next three games against Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State are the season. No more “tests.” These will be tough, smashmouth football games. It all starts at Camp Randall on Saturday night. You eternal optimists out there want a run at the still somewhat mythical national championship (SSMNC)? Then you better hope these Lions play ’em like they mean it, one at a time, all four quarters, with no first quarter lapses and no bridling of its potent offense. That is the way it worked for them in 1994 and that is the only way it can work now. We’ve already got dicks like ESPN’s Craig James posing season ending scenarios with Penn State finishing undefeated but with once-beaten SEC teams being favored to play for the SSMNC game instead because he thinks the Big Ten is a much weaker conference. He’s not alone in that line of thinking. While James is a total asshole and a long-time Penn State hater, you can be certain that with one loss Penn State will be completely out of the national championship picture—just as they would have been if they had lost that game in Illinois in 1994. Accordingly, even though the SSMNC game is still a serious longshot, they need to be able to open up the offense and play relentlessly—they need to put points on the board and they need to impress pollsters. No matter how scientific the BCS rankings purport to be, there is still a human element—a lot of Craig Jameses out there. So, Penn State has to consider that it is in a competition in which the rules are different. It is no longer good enough to win all one’s games. One has to win convincingly. If one’s conference is regarded as weak, such as the WAC typically is, one can indeed go undefeated and still not make enough of an impression to rise to the top of the BCE. So, the Nittany Lions will absolutely have to open the gates and let the bulls charge. Run up the score. Play to win, instead of not to lose. The defense might be far from perfect and the Lions might not be able to cover kickoffs worth a shit, but there is no doubt that the Spread HD offense is potent enough to put lots of points on the board if it is allowed to. In words often attributed to the late, great Vince Lombardi, “The best defense is a good offense.” We don’t need to see any 6-4 road games like the Iowa game of a few years back. Make those scoreboard numbers spin like a lathe, damnit, boys! Prove yourselves worthy of playing in that SSMNC game.
OK, so now, the weekly feature that most of you have been waiting for, and almost no one agrees with. Yes, friends, it’s time for the Official Turkey Poop Prediction. What is a Turkey to do? This is the Big Ten game of the week, and the gamblers have been favoring Penn State. I suppose, on the strength of Penn State’s record thus far and the humongous stats they’ve generated, it is reasonable that they should be favored. However, Wisconsin is pissed off and if they lose this one they will have lost two home games on two straight weeks, and three games overall in three straight weeks. If that ain’t a reason for a proud bunch of guys and a feisty young coach to be ornery and ready to kick some serious ass, I don’t know what is. So, these Nittany Lions better be ready and better play their asses off. The current spread is 6 and the over/under is 47. That suggests a final score of roughly 26.373 to 20.29836. Penn State just barely beat the 13.5 point spread last week in its 20-6 victory over Purdue. This week, they’re not going to beat the spread unless they open up the game plan. I don’t think they will. Still, I’m going with Penn State, 23-20.