Those of you who are waiting for the next installment of the travelogue will have to wait a little longer, for if I delay my 2010 Penn State Nittany Lions football season forecast any longer, it will be even more irrelevant than it already is. I’ve had trouble focusing during this off-season, which has probably resulted in my hard core readership dropping from three to two (byebye, Mom), so please let me rectumfy that right here and now.
This will be a troubled season for the Nittany Lions. Quarterback uncertainty, punting uncertainty, offensive line uncertainty, linebacker uncertainty, and defensive secondary uncertainty will together conspire to batter hopeful Lions fan this year. Couple this with still unanswered questions about octogenarian head coach Joe Paterno’s health, and you’ve got a mediocre season in the making. You just can’t win tough ball games with merely a defensive line and a couple of running backs.
Fortunately for the Lions, only a handful of games that can be described as tough loom on the schedule. Unfortunately, three of the toughest are away games.
The quarterback situation is still fluid as I write this. The only solid fact is that Jones has been red-shirted. Otherwise, Bolden, McGloin, and Newsome are still in the mix, with no starter yet identified at this late juncture. Though we’ll soon know who is tapped to start, this Turkey believes that we’ll be seeing all three getting significant reps in the Youngstown State game. I think McGloin will probably start and might alternate some series with Newsome for much of the first half. If they can pump up a sizable lead, Bolden will get some good time in the second half. Unless Joe and Jay give me that red telephone they promised me, this all might be wishful thinking. Nevertheless, the lack of a specific plan with the season on the horizon is scary.
Special teams have been a problem for Penn State now for several years. However, in the past, we could always rely upon a good punter to minimize the damage of poor return coverage. This year, we can’t. One can only hope that punting performance has improved since the Blue-White game.
And, like, the offensive line has to protect both the punter and whichever quarterback happens to be back there. With Eliades as the senior member of this unit and Johnny Troutman in Paterno’s legendary doghouse, things aren’t looking good. Of course, I said the same sort of thing two years ago, and that group took us to the Rose Bowl.
Paterno’s health has been the subject of much buzz by the sports media in Pennsylvania and nationally. He had a stomach virus and a bad reaction to antibiotics during the off-season, necessitating that his speaking schedule be curtailed. Some reports have said that he has lost weight and looks frail. Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wonders whether he’ll have the strength to finish the season. Many have conjectured that he will probably coach this season from the press box, as he did the year he had the broken leg. On the positive side, reports from practices have been positive; he’s been interacting normally with players. So, we’ll have to play this one by ear.
Let’s look at the individual games.
Youngstown State. This should make the tailgaters happy. Hopefully, the poor economy coupled with ticket fee increases and higher hotel prices all over the Central Pennsylvania area for game weekends won’t daunt the crowd to watch this laugher. Then again, I hope it’s a laugher. With all our woes, if the game is sloppy, we could get AppStated.
Alabama. Are you kidding me? Some pundits have suggested that PSU could actually upset the Tide in Tuscaloosa. Groucho Marx might have said that that’s the best place to hunt elephants for ivory, but it will only be the happy hunting ground for the Nittany Lions. This will be a loss and not the close one that those wishfully thinking pundits are talking about.
Kent State. Coming off the disgustingly one-sided loss to Alabama, it is good to have a patsy on which to take out our frustrations. Three Golden Flashes will be taken to the hospital with rectal helmet insertions as the Lions win in a walkover.
Temple. Al Golden has brought the Owls a long way since taken over as head coach. The Lions will have to actually play this game. Nevertheless, the streak will continue, and the Owls will owe us 107,000 cheese steaks.
Iowa. Nope. Sorry, guys. Some of you out there think that the Lions can beat Iowa, especially given some of the personnel issues with the Hawkeyes. Ain’t going to happen, though. Too many flaws in the Lions.
Illinois. Homecoming happiness. Ron Zook is on the bubble this season, but I fear that the bubble will have already burst by the time the Illini come to Beaver Stadium. This game should solidify the impending Zook departure.
Minnesota. After a bye week, the Lions can travel to the north country and take care of business. The Golden Gophers will suck this year, so this is one away game that the Nittany Lions can salt away.
Michigan. Back home again, the formerly invincible (and now pitiful) Wolverines make their stand in Beaver Stadium. Rich Rodriguez could be on the bubble, himself. This is another game for which Penn State will have to show up. Not that the Wolverines are good or anything, but they’re big and they are good enough to take advantage of stupid mistakes. Still, I think the Lions will prevail, possibly, maybe, perhaps.
Northwestern. As wishy-washy as I was about Michigan, I’m even more so about Northwestern. Even in Beaver Stadium, I think the potential is there that we lose this game. If we don’t lose this one, maybe it’s because we lost to Michigan and I was wrong about that one. Northwestern sucks pretty badly, but they have a knack for pulling off a major upset or two every year. Given the shakiness of this Penn State team, I’m thinking that this should go to the Wildcats.
Ohio State. If indeed the boys have lost to either Michigan or Northwestern and come into this game with three losses, they’ll consider the season over and this will be a major massacre. If they come to the horseshoe with one or two losses, they’ll make of a game of it. One way or the other, ugly or pretty, they’ll lose.
Indiana. If they can’t beat the Hoosiers in Beaver Stadium, then the Dark Days have damn well returned! PSU wins again.
Michigan State. The Spartans are chronic underachievers, although they’ve got the talent to win 10 games this year. The Nittany Lions are in disarray and don’t want to keep looking at the hideous Land Grant Trophy in their trophy case, anyway, so the Spartans finally grab a win in Beaver Stadium.
So, what does that work out to? A not too happy 7-5, good enough for perhaps fourth in the Big Ten at best. They’ll probably decline the bid to the Motor City Bowl, but given that Penn State brings megabucks to bowl venues, a warm weather bowl bid is not out of the question.
Joe Paterno needs only six wins to notch his 400th, and I think you can count on that happening this year. Whether or not he’ll retire with that number is still anybody’s guess.
Here’s hoping I’m wrong and they go 10-2!
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