Dum de dum dum!
The #18 Nittany Lions travel to Tuscaloosa to face off with the #1 Crimson Tide Saturday in a 7 PM nationally televised game we’ve all been looking forward to for years. Oh, yes yes yes, finally a non-conference game with a worthy opponent! (As if the likes of Oregon State are not worthy.) So many Penn Staters are out there licking their chops for this one. The clock cannot move fast enough between now and Saturday night.
Why, then, do I have this somewhat sinking feeling of anticlimactitude?
Because I’m the Nittany Turkey, and don’t you forget it!
In Cosellian terminology, this writer tells it like it is. If you can’t take the heat, then get the hell out of the kitchen. We call a spade a spade here, and we’ve got a whole deck of them. If they were tarot cards, they would all be the Hierophant.
What the hell is he talking about?
I’m saying that this is going to be a beat-down, and it’s going to be a bad one. Those of you who are looking for a miracle season, please bring your barf bags. It ends here. (But you perennial optimists will say that the Nittany Lions can still compete for the Still Somewhat Mythical National Championship (SSMNC) with an 11-1 record. Hahahhahhahaha.) Those of you who, like this Turkey, have more reasonable expectations—I predicted a 7-5 year and an appearance at the Toilet Bowl in Kohler, Wisconsin—will be able to sit back and enjoy the show. View it as an opportunity to see how much strength of character your team has while going down in flames. View it as an opportunity to home in on all the weaknesses of the offensive, defensive, and special squads. View it as an all-out mind battle between focused and astute coaching staffs. View it as a learning experience. View it as anything but a victory. Because it won’t be, not by a longshot.
But that’s why they play the game, right?
Yeah, sure. That’s why Temple comes to Beaver Stadium every year. Just in case the Nittany Lions forget to show up, they’re ready to claim the victory. Otherwise, they’ll claim their fat paycheck and go home happy.
This is not to suggest that PSU is going to Tuscaloosa for the paycheck. No, I’m just saying they’ve got about as much chance of winning as Temple has against them. They’ll play their asses off. They’ll still lose.
“I do my ivory hunting down south,
because in Alabama, the Tuscaloosa.”
I looked at a breakdown in Blue-White Illustrated. They gave the advantage to the Tide in all categories except special teams, where it was a toss-up. That’s pretty much the way I feel about it, except that the special teams haven’t yet played under such adverse circumstances as they’ll face in Tuscaloosa. It would be great to see Chaz Powell running back a few kickoffs for 100 yards, as unlikely as that seems, although the more kickoffs he fields, the more chances there’ll be (and I get the feeling that PSU will be fielding a lot of kickoffs). Anthony Fera, by the way, has punted exactly once in his college career, a 45-yarder against incompetent Youngstown State. He’ll have quite a few more opportunities to punt on Saturday, and his coverage unit better be good.
So, the chances of winning are slim and none. However, just in case I’ve driven you to the brink of buying a ticket to San Francisco so you can jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, here’s a nice post by an optimist, Bill Kline of the Nittany Line, giving us five ways the Nittany Lions can win. Read it and come back for more pessimism from me—or stay there until you stop laughing, if you want. Come back next week and we’ll get serious about Kent State, if you’ve had all the Turkey you can take for this week. Anyhow, here’s my armchair analysis.
I love Rob Bolden. I’m serious about that. I am so enthusiastic about the guy that I worry about what this game might do to the talented young quarterback. Here’s a freshman in his second game, the first being at home against an FCS patsy, who will be playing against the SSMNCs in a hostile stadium loaded with 100,000 rednecks yelling “Roooooolll Tahd!!” and hoping he gets his brains knocked out his nostrils. And that’s not the worst of it. The worst of it is that the Alabama defense, even without one starting DE, Marcell Dareus, who was suspended due to the current NCAA vogue violation of cozying up to an agent, is programmed to do exactly what the crowd wants: to knock the snot out of him. Does he have a chance? That depends on two things: an offensive line and a running game, neither of which were apparent in last week’s walkover.
So, no, he doesn’t have a chance. I just hope he gets out of it alive and without serious injuries.
The offensive line, charged with protecting Bolden and clearing the way for the running game, is still a work in progress, with damn little real talent or leadership. With the notable exception of a couple of tight ends, we haven’t seen a decent, NFL caliber lineman since Levi Brown. I’m afraid that this unit won’t be able to protect Bolden and he’ll get hurt. I would love to see him have a great game, but that just isn’t going to happen. He’ll be rushed and he’ll screw up. There is no chance that he’ll have a good game. I hope that his psyche and his body are strong enough to take the beating he’s going to get.
It would be nice if there was a running game for Bolden to count on to cut down on the 7 or 8 sacks he’ll succumb to. Our vaunted Evan Royster had 40 yards against the inept Penguins. Was it because of the extra 15 pounds he has put on since last season, as David Jones of the Patriot-News thinks? Perhaps that’s part of it, but the aforementioned incompetent offensive line sure as hell wasn’t opening up any running room for him. The coaches recognized that and turned Bolden loose with the pass. That was a good, workable strategy with Youngstown State. It won’t work with Alabama, more because of their pass rush than an impenetrable secondary. I believe that the Tide’s secondary could be exploitable, given the experienced and capable receivers Bolden can throw to. If he has no protection, though, those deep route guys are like gold stuck in the mine.
What Bolden will be forced to do is throw short sideline passes, for the most part. I think that throwing over the middle could be a disaster, and throwing deep an impossibility. It would be nice to involve a tight end, but I have a feeling that the tight end is going to be involved in protecting the quarterback most of the day. Just my thoughts. I could be just as full of shit as the next guy.
I will also say that Joe Paterno and staff better sure as hell stay on their toes and keep the focus, as they stand a good chance of being outcoached by Nick Saban & Co. Even though you probably think he’s a dork, it would be unfair to write evil shit about Saban’s coaching abilities. He beat Florida and went on to win a SSMNC last year. But that’s not all. He was an excellent coach at Moo U., where he beat the Lions a couple of times, and also at LSU. No, boys and girls, without question Old Joe is going up against la crème de la crème of NCAA coaches here.
As for the Penn State defense, we’ll find out how they can stand up to a withering running game, which is what they’ll be subjected to even if Mark Ingram, their Heisman Trophy winner, doesn’t play. He’s still listed as doubtful. According to some, he isn’t even the best runner on the team. The PSU defense will be on the field a long time, and even if they can keep it close for a quarter or two, the Tide will roll over them in the second half. I would look for Alabama to take some deep shots against the easily exploitable Nittany Lion defensive secondary to go up a touchdown or two before turning to the running game. But when they do, you can count on the fact that it’ll be all over but the after-parties.
Have I told you yet that Penn State has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning this thing? OK. I thought so.
Speaking of snowballs and hell, the boys at AccuWeather are forecasting a hot, muggy day in Tuscaloosa, with a high of 95° and a RealFeel® of 105°, with a chance of afternoon thundershowers. By kickoff time, the temperature should be in the high 80s, with—oy! such humidity it makes you feel already like you walked into a toasted marshmallow, even. I live in this same climate. Let me tell you that it’s no fun exerting one’s self in it. Hell, you take a refreshing shower afterwards and two minutes out of the shower, you’re sweating again! Although the hot summer up north might have given our boys a portent, the weather is decidedly favorable to the Crimson Tide.
Now, just in case I have any non-PSU clowns from Maryland or wherever the hell they came from last year looking to leave their calling card on a Penn State blog by accusing me of being a fair weather fan, hear me out: I have been a seriously dedicated Penn State fan for 45 great, enjoyable seasons, but I have to call them the way I see them. I can be wrong, and if so, I’ll admit it. None of this makes me an unworthy fan. So, get off my case. But I digress.
So, hey kids, what time is it? It ain’t Howdy Doody time! Nope, friends, it’s what you’ve been wading through all that drivel above to get to: the first Official Turkey Poop Prediction of 2010. For those of you who are new to The Nittany Turkey, I’ll explain that I conclude each game preview with this game prediction section, which is worth just what the title says it is worth: turkey poop. In any case, my hope for this game is that Penn State can avoid serious injuries and keep it as close as possible, so they can leave Tuscaloosa with their heads held high in the knowledge that they gave it all they could. The gambling line is 12 points, with an over/under of 44; gamblers have increased the imbalance toward the Tide since the game opened at 10 points. The late money isn’t in yet, but at this point, the line suggests a 28-16 final score. This Turkey thinks it isn’t that close. Alabama 38, Penn State 6.
I’ll be back early next week with a recap and at that time I’ll either gloat while crying in my beer or I’ll blast myself for my football ignorance while smiling about the Nittany Lions.