Two more big games to go. Yeah, on paper, the opponents look pretty sappy and I know you’re feeling a letdown after the crappy performance against Ohio State. Sappy and crappy are not a great combination, but there are lots of reasons to stick around and watch the Nittany Lions play their final two regular season games.
First of all, winning the two remaining games would get Penn State into a decent bowl — perhaps not the Rose Bowl, but with a good showing there’s still an outside chance of a BCS bowl. A 10-2 record might not be perfection, but it’s a helluva good showing for a team with this many flaws, one that you knew in your heart of hearts could not run the table.
Second, there are a bunch of seniors on this team who deserve your tribute on Senior Day. Their leadership kept this team together through thick and thin, on and off the field. The absence of serious off-field incidents since the start of the season is a helluvan improvement over what we’d been experiencing heretofore.
Third, it’s a long, long time from the beginning of January until the start of the 2010 season on September 4. That’s just a warm-up game with Youngstown State. The first real game will be on September 11, 2010 at Alabama. Therefore, you have only three games before the long drought begins. Use them wisely.
Finally, you might actually see some unboring football. Indiana seems to be able to put points on the scoreboard this year, but they tend to slack off late in their games. Michigan State — well, you know the deal with them — they’re nuts up there, and it’s always a raucous time fighting with Moo U. for the vaunted, abominable Land Grant Trophy.
(I didn’t use Arabic numerals to delineate the above points, so don’t accuse me of being just plain Grosz.)
So, don’t bail on us. There’s a lot of good football to be played. For you all or nothing folks who think at the beginning of every year that your team is going to the SSMNC game, there’s no hope. Only two go there each year. If you bolt at the first sign that your team ain’t gonna get there, what the hell kind of fan are you? Just relax, get the broomstick out of your ass, and enjoy some good football. The national championship isn’t real, anyhow — it’s just a contrived generator of revenue for the NCAA and some TV networks.
Alas, I digress. I just get annoyed with certain fans whose big game letdowns turn into complete apathy for their team. I have to wonder whether these same people beat their kids if they don’t get straight A’s in school. (Or do they pout about bad officiating?) Moving right along, let me get off my soapbox and dive right into the murky waters of the forthcoming Indiana game.
At first glance, Indiana (4-6, 1-5 Big Ten) looks to be a weak opponent without much hope of standing up to mighty Penn State. Well, look again. That’s what the 1994 Nittany Lions thought about the Hoosiers. Kerry Collins, Ki-Jana Carter, et. al. struggled with Indiana back then, eventually winning 35-29. This game might have cost the undefeated Nittany Lions the #1 post-season ranking, as they had been a solid #1 until the crappy showing that week. The Lions wound up #2 to Nebraska that year.
This year, the Hoosiers have shown that they can score lots of points when they feel like it. For example, they scored 14 points against Ohio State and 24 against Iowa, more than doubling the point production of the Penn State offense against those two squads. Their big problem has been to give up huge gobs of points in the fourth quarter. In the Iowa game, they blew a 24-14 lead with the Hawkeyes scoring 28 unanswered points in the final stanza (or is that the final Stanzi?).
Thus, the Hoosiers’ defense seems to wear down, but it is capable of causing trouble throughout most of a game, given that they have a pair of all-conference defensive ends in Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton. This should be a good workout for the mediocre Penn State offensive line. Remember that Daryll Clark does not handle pressure well. He gets flustered back there and he doesn’t instinctively step up into the pocket when he’s pressured. He is prone to making mistakes at such times.
Junior Hoosier quarterback Ben Chappell, who replaced Kellen Lewis when he was booted out of the university, is a throwing machine with a 127+ quarterback rating and a 63% completion rate who averages 33 passes per game. It doesn’t make much sense to try to run against the Penn State defense when their leading rusher runs for an average of 46 yards per game. So, look for an aerial show.
The Nittany Lions merely have to keep their heads in the game and outta dark places to win this one. Although Indiana has never beaten Penn State, and the Lions have always clobbered the Hoosiers when playing at the Big Beave, there is always a first time. This Turkey would like to see good, steady, confident performances out there. I hope we don’t have to watch an instance of “poutball.” I think this being Senior Day almost automatically assures a good effort. Let us hope that Clark comes out early in the third quarter to receive his Senior Day ovation and let Newsome get some reps.
The weatherman is forecasting a gray, late fall day with temperatures in the mid- to high-50s. The field might be damp from some recent rain. Weather should not be a factor.
So, my fellow Turkologists, that brings us to the dubious feature of this column that we call the Official Turkey Poop Prediction. We call it that because we fling it at you whether you like it or not, and one thing is for certain: it always stinks. Without further ado, here’s the way we boil it down. The boys in Vegas are tipping the ledger heavily in Penn State’s direction, with a line of 25 points and an over/under of 53. This suggests a final score of something on the order of 39-14. That’s nice on paper, but I think that if Indiana can score 14 on Ohio State, they can score 17 on the Nittany Lions. Penn State 41, Indiana 17.