I like my slogan better than the Citizen’s bank button, which this year reads: “Undo Purdue.” This is Homecoming Week at Penn State, time for snappier slogans like we had in politically incorrect days of yore, for example, “Shitt on Pitt.” Some of these damn things they come up with nowadays are so damn cutesie that they’re nearly inscrutable.
The featured event of this year’s Homecoming Weekend, aside from crowning the king and queen, is the annual Homecoming game. The Penn State Nittany Lions (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) will host the Purdue Boilermakers (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten) at Beaver Stadium, which we hope is sold out this week. (If we can’t sell out the Homecoming game, what the hell can we sell out? Is the STEP program really all it’s cracked up to be? See here, here and here.) Purdue is coming off a serious cleaning of the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ clocks, 45-17. However, before that, the Boilermakers lost to Notre Dame, 38-10. An early season loss to C-USA Rice, 24-22, seals the deal for this Turkey. The boys from West Lafayette have a porous defense. (Critics of mine will point out that Purdue shut out Southeast Missouri State 59-0, but get serious!)
So, the Boilers (as some call them) will theoretically have to generate some prolific offense to surmount their defensive deficit. I say “theoretically” because it is doubtful that will happen. First, since the Nittany Lions’ offensive performance during the first half of the season, particularly in the red zone, has been abysmal, Purdue will not need to generate a huge number of points to eclipse what portends to be a puny point output by Penn State. However, unfortunately for the Cellar Dwelling Steam Generators, the Penn State defense is stiff and erect even with some significant injuries, ranking fourth nationally behind Michigan State, UCF, and Alabama (strange bedfellows, to be sure) and ahead of LSU, Georgia, and Wisconsin. Don’t expect to see a lot of scoring in this game.
Purdue ranks #20 in rushing offense, though, which makes them seem a serious threat to disrupt Penn State’s conservative ball control plan. They have a three-headed running back, which consists of a Bolden and two Akeems, who along with several others, are averaging 215 yards per game. Of course, all is not what it appears — the 393 net yards rushing in the Southeast Missouri game didn’t hurt their average. By contrast, Notre Dame allowed only 84 yards, while hapless Minnesota lay down on defense, letting the Boilermakers rebound with a 217 yard game.
Two-headed quarterbacks will reflect indecision on both sides of the field. Purdue’s tandem includes one of the best names we’ve encountered thus far: Caleb TerBush, a junior. The other guy is senior Robert Marve. Together, they have not exactly stunk up the place, but close. The Purdue passing offense ranks #93 nationally, with an average of 197 yards per game. They’re pretty consistent, regardless of whose defense they’re facing as the standard deviation is only 30.15. Against the #4 pass efficiency defense in the whole United States of friggin’ America, I would expect them to wind up with something like 168.36 yards.
That defense is bolstered by the return of D’Anton Lynn, who has been suffering the aftereffects of a concussion. They should be pretty pretty pretty solid. The Penn State rushing defense has been allowing fewer than 100 yards per game and ranks 17th nationally. Accordingly, don’t expect to see the triple-header ringing up big numbers.
On offense, well, you know all about the Nittany Lions’ scoring woes — they rank 93rd nationally in scoring offense, averaging 21.5 ppg. (I love how sports writers spew crap like “Penn State has quietly crept to a 5-1 record…” Yeah, right. The only well rounded opponent they’ve seen is Alabama.) The passing offense, ranked 82nd, takes a big hit this week as top receiver Derek Moye sits out with a broken foot that he suffered in a fall down his apartment steps this past Tuesday. Moye’s contribution to the passing offense cannot be understated. Of the 1273 yards gained passing, Moye accounts for 485, and he has three of the six passing touchdowns. It will be up to Justin Brown, Devon Smith, and Shawney Kersey to pick up the slack. This Turkey suspects that the offense will be pretty well grounded this week.
Silas Redd is up to the task. Expect another decent performance from him this week. Brandon Beachum will be back as Redd’s backup, and Curtis Dukes has already proven himself worthy there. If it weren’t for a still shaky offensive line, I’d say that Penn State could win this one on the ground. However, the rushing game ranks only #53 nationally, about on par with Purdue’s defense. This is one big fat statistical misrepresentation if ever there was one! While Purdue’s 59th ranked rushing defense averages 143 yards per game, the Boilermakers played only one opponent with a half-assed decent running game, Notre Dame, who burned that defense for 287 yards. So, don’t give me #59, already. They suck. Larry Cottrell could run for 100 yards against them with the McCabe Sisters blocking for him.
Unfortunately, Penn State has long run a conservative, plodding game plan that lets lesser opponents hang around for most of the game with a chance to win. I don’t expect much different this game. A lot of the explosiveness potential has been drained with the loss of Moye. Once again, we’re in for a thriller when no one wants to be thrilled.
It’s another noon start, folks, and you know what that means. Yeah, the offense will not wake up until late in the first half. It has rained for several days, which will dampen enthusiasm as well as the playing field. A good sign, though, is a robust Paternoville, in spite of the rain. So, while this Turkey hopes for a Homecoming blowout, all signs are that this will be a repeat of the past two weeks’ slumberfests.
What we’re going to do right here is to segue directly to the Official Turkey Poop Prediction, which is always predicated on poop. Penn State is a 12 point favorite with a 41.5 over/under. I’ve already told you that I expect a low scoring game, so take the under. Will the ever cynical Turkey predict that Penn State will cover the spread? In a Two Heads Are Better Than One special, where indecision trumps stability, your Thanksgiving bird feels that the Nittany Lions will once again fail to cover. Anthony Fera better avoid that stairway in Derek Moye’s apartment, because he’ll be a key figure. Don’t expect to see many, if any, passing touchdowns. Bolden can’t hit anybody, and absent a huge target like Moye, whether McGloin can is a crap shoot. Meanwhile, Caleb TerBush still has the best name of any opposing player thus far. I’m stalling. I know. My crystal ball is unclouding … here we go … Penn State 16, Purdue 10.