Lazy week, due to Penn State’s bye. Most of the writers this week focused on issues like who’s going to replace Joe Paterno if and when he retires, Tim Brewster being fired as Minnesota’s head coach, and Sean Stanley being hauled in for possession. Your Turkey thought better of writing about any of those things, so I gave you a week off from reading my drivel.
“stop tweetin during meetings dummy”
Now, we’re back to business here. I do have to ask one impertinent, off-topic question before I get into my thoughts on the Minnesota game ahead. Every so often, when a high profile Penn Stater who has made it to the NFL suffers a season ending injury in his rookie season, I wonder whether the Penn State strength and conditioning program for football players is worth a shit. Remember Ki-Jana? Courtney? Poz? This season, Josh Hull and Jared Odrick have both incurred season enders. Being lazy, I haven’t dug up all the facts and statistically analyzed Penn State’s performance against other schools. But it’s something to think about. While you’re thinking about it, think about all the injuries to starters on the 2010 Nittany Lions. Coincidence or specific causality? You decide.
So, now we have the battle of the Big Ten unfortunates, as the hapless Nittany Lions (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten) travel to Minneapolis to square off with the hapless Golden Gophers (1-6, 0-3) to see who lifts off from the Big Ten cellar and who stays. Kickoff is at noon Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium, and TV coverage is relegated to the bargain basement of ESPN’s array of channels, ESPNU.
Much water has flowed under the bridge since the Nittany Lions lost in such ignominious fashion to the Fighting Illini. They’ve had a week off to recuperate from the pain of that loss, including a weekend at home to enjoy good old home cooking and good old home girlfriends. Upon returning to practice this week, they’ve been subjected to collective soul searching and motivational speeches. Supposedly, they were told that no one’s position is a lock. Meanwhile, at Minnesota, the Gophers’ 28-17 loss to hapless Purdue led to the dismissal of hapless head coach Tim Brewster, something that had been brewing for some time. The team had been in disarray, with their only victory this season having been over Middle Tennessee the first week of the season by the slim margin of 24-17.
So, what of Hapless vs. Hapless? It would be fitting for this game to end in a 3-3 tie, but some manner of analysis is necessary or the Turkey will be roundly ridiculed for not pulling some meaningless factoids out of his ass this week. It is important that at least the boys at Mike’s Garage be aware of my leanings in this illustrious match-up.
But really, it’s hard. Hard to know how Minnesota’s boys will respond to their coaching change and hard to know how Penn State’s guys will respond to the motivational attempt by the coaching staff. Obviously, as we’ve been saying all year, the PSU squad is essentially lacking in leadership both internally and externally, and in that leadership vacuum they’ve been playing uninspired ball. They have played like shit.
Furthermore, the injuries to key players on both offense and defense leave more question marks about Penn State’s ability to complete the rest of their schedule with even a .500 record for the last half of the season. Prior to the injuries, the defense was not very reliable. What will happen now? And the offense—is there any hope for improvement, particularly in the red zone?
If it seems that there are more questions than answers, that is a correct assessment. I flat out don’t know what this team is capable of anymore.
Now, Chaz Powell will be moving to defense, and there will be a shuffle at safety. Drew Astorino worked out at both strong safety and free safety during practice to provide flexibility in filling the gap left by the injury to Nick Sukay.
So, what do we have, by the numbers, already? Both teams bite. Penn State’s vaunted rushing offense is good for an 85th national ranking, while Minnesota’s rushing defense is ranked 102. Ha ha. Conversely, Minnesota’s rushing offense is ranked 76th against PSU’s 58th ranked rush defense. In passing, Rob Bolden and the boys are good for a 70th versus the Gophers’ pass defense ranked 118th (yes, folks, that’s right!). In scoring offense, Penn State ranks a rank 108 (there’s that red zone stinkage) vs Minnesota’s scoring defense, which is ranked 98th. Last but not least, the Minnesota scoring offense ranks 76th against Penn State’s scoring defense, which ranks a respectable 21st.
The weather is going to be perfect, sunny and warmer with a high of 68. No excuses there.
I think it all comes down to Penn State’s defense and offensive line play. Paterno has stated that the offensive line has been maligned by the media, so they better perform here. This seems to be the perfect opportunity to get everything chugging on all 11 cylinders again. It is this Turkey’s hope that the defense’s strange bedfellows will have practiced together enough to play a decent game, and that the offense gets its damn act together. If they play hard and with motivation—and take care of the ball—they can win this thing.
Senior Adam Weber is back for Minnesota at quarterback, one of the few returning starters on the team. He’s pretty much the standout player on the Gophers’ squad. He’s competent and steady and he has a couple of good receivers along with an offensive line that affords him good protection.
Being a noon start, which is actually 11 am in Minnesota, you can look for signs of a revitalized Nittany Lion team in the first quarter. They seem to not want to play the first quarters of noon kickoff games. If they look sharp and ready in the first, their chances are good. But they’ve got to show me that they’re alive straight away from their entrance to the field. I want to see 22 James Harrisons on that sideline.
I don’t know whether this is a good sign or not, but I caught these tweets from one of our running backs to another this afternoon:
XXXXX: @YYYYY stop tweetin during meetings dummy
YYYYY: I need to score lol
Well, I’ll waste no more time trying to microanalyze the unanalyzable. It is time for that which many of you scroll through all the bupkis I’ve written above to get to: the Official Turkey Poop Painful Prediction. But first, are many of you in the same boat as this Turkey? Do you have a vague feeling that Penn State can win this game, but you’re just not sure after all we’ve been through this season? Do you long for some consistency, some sign that these guys can play and that these coaches can coach? I hope this game provides some answers, because I sure as hell don’t feel good about writing vacuous crap like this the rest of the season. They’ve literally given me nothing to hang my hat on, but I digress. Current gambling line on the game favors Penn State by 9.5 points, with an over/under of 49.5. This suggests a final score of around 24-14. I’m thinking—hoping—that the Nittany Lions come back with a victory, but they’re not going to beat the spread. I’m afraid of the PSU defense allowing points more than I am the offense not scoring. Minnesota scored 23 on Wisconsin and 28 on Northwestern. Meanwhile, the only time the Nittany Lions have scored more than 24 points this year was in their opening game with FCS foe Youngstown State, in which they scored 33. The Penn State offense comes bouncing back to win a squeaker, 24-23.