Are you done whining about the Iowa loss yet? Your Turkey is. I feel strangely at peace with the notion that the Nittany Lions will not be going to the so-called national championship game. Do you?
First of all, as you all well know, I do not regard the BCS fantasy finale, better known here as the Still Somewhat Mythical National Championship (SSMNC) game, as a true determinant of a national champion. It is merely an extra game added as a thinly veiled revenue generation ploy, whose participants are chosen by an ever changing set of criteria that provide too much room for subjective doubt.
Second, who the hell says that if Penn State doesn’t go to the SSMNC game, the season is ruined? This crap about going all the way being the only acceptable alternative doesn’t resonate in Turkeyville, either. I makes me nauseous to hear people dissing Olympic athletes who dare to return home with bronze or silver medals. Competing at the highest level is good enough for this Turkey. Someone has to win and someone has to lose, ferchrissakes.
Finally, I’m certain that I’ll get a lot of flack for saying that Penn State didn’t belong in the damn SSMNC. I think you know that in your heart of hearts. You’re seriously delusional if you think that this year’s Penn State team would stand a chance against the likes of Texas Tech, Florida, or USC with all the marbles on the table. We watched our conference be humiliated in the past two instances of the SSMNC. With a deficient defense, which was fully on display last Saturday, why would Penn State fare any better than Ohio State?
Because of our pride, of course. Because of our denial.
This Turkey has been queasy about the defense all season. I have a problem with all fourteen of them: the front seven and the back seven.
Seriously, though, folks, could you see the same secondary that allowed the Hawkeyes’ rookie quarterback to pass his way down the field in a crucial, fourth-quarter situation shutting down a real passing attack? Do you think the Sandusky BBDB could ever hope to work in 2008? I’ve been bitching for 15 years that the soft zone is too easy to pick apart, and it gets easier as the years pass. Receivers get faster, quarterbacks get more accurate, and huge offensive lines provide plenty of time to throw. You can’t trust a mediocre secondary enough to blitz and if you do, you’re vulnerable to screens and dump-offs. The Sandusky soft zone is an anachronism that needs to go the way of the 5-3. It’s a different game now.
And what of the front seven? We knew that the defensive line and the linebacking corps would have holes that were impossible to fill. Late in the season, it is glaringly clear that PSU is operating with a thin defensive line and one competent linebacker. Even with Sean Lee in there, there would still be only two linebackers worth a damn.
The Nittany Lions do have an offense, or we thought they did. However, it doesn’t get started until the second quarter. Three quarters of football would not win a SSMNC game, unless somehow West Virginia or USF were to sneak in there. Of late, the offense has not been banging on all cylinders even when they decide it is time to play. That might work against Temple or Purdue, but as we have seen, it doesn’t work too well at all against Ohio State or Iowa. Yeah, Iowa. And you want to see how it goes against Oklahoma?
Forget it now. Ain’t going to happen. We’re spared the humiliation.
I know. You’re saying I’m offering my usual negativistic, unspirited diatribe, I have no team spirit, and I’m generally full of shit. I’ll admit to the last of those, but since when does being a pragmatist mean I’m a poor fan? I give credit where I think it is due, but I am not blind to faults that are there for all to see. Tough love, man.
I will be extremely happy to see the Nittany Lions play in the Rose Bowl once again. I do not regard it as a consolation prize.
Let us assume for the moment that PSU gets by Indiana on Saturday and Moo U. on the 22nd, a mighty big assumption not meant to minimize either of those two opponents. They’ll still have an opportunity to prove something mighty big in the Rose Bowl. If they come out looking like they don’t want to be there, as they did on Kinnick Field, they’ll wind up humiliating the Big Ten just like Illinois did last year. However, if they play their asses off four four quarters, they’ll stand a good chance of beating whoever they wind up facing there. That’s all I am asking for: playing with passion, playing to win, and playing an entire game.
Penn State is in the thick of the BCS this year, and that’s fun in itself. Read a great article about the BCS national championship and the Rose Bowl possibilities here in the Wall Street Journal. The article contains a link to an explanation of the convoluted Big Ten tiebreaker algorithm, for good measure.
Regardless of the outcome of the hypothetical Rose Bowl I allude to above, this Turkey will be happy if the Nittany Lions deliver a complete performance. Win or lose, they’ll have distinguished themselves in my bird brain as one of the great teams in Penn State history. That’s good enough for me, even if some of you consider that a loss. It certainly does not constitute failure.
I glossed over the need to beat Penn State’s final two regular season opponents. Anything can happen there, particularly if the Lions come out flat and deliver half-assed performances. It is hard to think that they could falter enough to lose to Indiana, the perennial Big Ten whipping boy. However, if they hang their heads and remain in a funk, they sure as hell could. Moo U. is another story, as it will take some good defense to shut down the #2 ranked rusher in the nation. The Michigan State of this year is not the Moo U. of yore.
It is time to suck it up. This team has some great senior leadership, give or take a Scirrotto. It is a rough time of the year, sore from a season of pounding, coming off a tough loss, hard on the heels of an emotional let-down. True leaders are motivators. If this bunch of seniors is as good as we all think they are, they will be able to pull this team up by its collective bootstraps and lead a successful conclusion to this campaign.