Archives for November 2012
In this edition of the erratically published Laser Focus, we will touch on the odd happenings in the BCS Top Ten and give you some impressions of the Indiana vs Penn State game, along with some interesting new revelations in the evolving UNC scandal.
First, a look at the new Top Ten, with the love ’em or hate ’em Fighting Irish assuming the top position. (Penn State paranoiacs would suggest that this is an NCAA/BCS plot to put Notre Dame (11-0) in the Still Somewhat Mythical National Championship (SSMNC) Game with Alabama. Why? Because a week after being beaten by Texas A&M, Alabama (10-1) has somehow suddenly regained the #2 slot and because everybody knows that Notre Dame sucks.
How? What? Where?
After this topsy-turvy week, the remainder of the AP Top Ten are: Georgia (10-1), Ohio State (11-0), Oregon (10-1), Florida (10-1), Kansas State (10-1), LSU (9-2), Texas A&M (9-2), and Florida State (10-1). Obviously, the AP voters give the most respect to the SEC. The BCS standings for this week are not yet available as of the time I’m writing this, but they’re expected to be just about the same, with the exception of the omission of undefeated Ohio State, for reasons well-known to the secular readers of the Turkey’s drivel.
It is worth mentioning that the SEC seems to garner the most respect of sportswriters, as if you didn’t already know that. There are four SEC teams in the top ten. That Georgia is really a better team than Oregon remains in doubt in this turkey’s mind, but they don’t let me vote. They really do play some good football down here in the southeast, but come on! I know most of you hack sports writers are rednecks at heart, but how about voting with your brains for a change, so I don’t have to accuse you of unethically promoting the Notre Dame — Alabama SSMNC in much the same manner as your politwriter brethren promoted a certain incumbent president.
PSU/Big Ten paranoia exists, and we’ll certainly be hearing that Ohio State has as much of a claim on the AP #1 ranking as Notre Dame, but that doesn’t matter outside of sports-oriented cocktail lounges and beer halls. It’s all academic. Tattoogate made it so.
OK, I have to confess here that I HATE the fucking Irish, but I don’t know why. I can eliminate a lot of reasons for liking them, such as I’m not Catholic, I’m not Irish, and I’m no fan of any team that wears blue and gold, but how do we get from mere aversion to hatred? It seems to be a truism that “splitting” behavior exists in all football fans when it comes to affinity or repulsion with respect to Notre Dame. Is it that their fans are so obnoxiously loyal? Is it that their fan base consists of mostly non-alumni, whose claims to glory hinge on the success or failure of the team of largely non-Irish players who call themselves the Irish? Do they think that ugly-looking post-adolescent character playing a leprechaun is adorable, or what? Anyhow, I don’t have any answers, just blind hatred.
I saw that our local PSU Alumni Association Presidette posted in Facebook that for the next week, she must swallow her pride to become a fan of similarly hated USC, who stole our wonderful Silas Redd (who had only three carries in their last game, a 38-28 loss to UCLA), because unranked USC (7-4) is we Irish-haters’ only hope at this point to avert a perfect season for the Irish.
So, how did we get to this point? Well, Upset Weekend included the following:
- #1 Kansas State (10-1) lost to Baylor (5-5)
- #2 Oregon (10-1) lost to #13 Stanford (9-2)
- #3 Notre Dame (11-0) clobbered ACC whipping boy Wake (5-6)
- #4 Alabama (10-1) put the big hurt on Southern Conference lackeys Western Carolina (1-10) (the Catamounts’ only win was their opener against the Mars Hill Lions, from yonder over th’ next mountain)
- #5 Georgia (10-1) beat perennial FCS Southern Conference power Georgia Southern (8-3)
- #6 Ohio State (11-0) beat the Badgers (7-4) in overtime
So, that win over a bunch of hillbillies was enough to vault Alabama back up there to #2 after losing to the Aggies, which had dropped them to #4, while #2 Oregon suffers a loss to a legitimate Stanford team and drops to #5? The old SEC bias rears its ugly head. When you’re in love, the whole world is Tuscaloosa.
What do you really think about the BCS rankings this week?
Now, on to the Penn State — Indiana game. We knew we would win and we knew that the over/under was an overlay, so I hope you made lots of money on the game, those of you who gamble, anyway. I considered this one a “best bet”, for both beating the spread and beating the o/u. Congratulations to those who took my advice. 🙂
Penn State (7-4, 5-2 Big Ten) defeated the Hoosiers (4-7, 2-5) 45-22 before a relatively anemic announced home crowd of 90,358 at high noon on a beautiful day for football in Central Pennsylvania. Attendance of 90,000+ is damn well considered anemic when there’s nothing holding back people from filling the 108,000+ seats at Beaver Stadium, especially for an almost certain win that was sure to be an entertaining game. Shame on you who eschewed going because of Jerry Sandusky! That’s getting to be a lame-ass excuse!
It was entertaining, alright, with over 1000 total yards gained by the two opponents. (The third opponent, the NCAA, did not participate in this game.) There was a lot of suckage on both sides, though, with each team having two turnovers, and Indiana unable to establish the run. (I guess that translates to excellence on the other side of the ball — duly noted.) Nevertheless, the Hoosiers’ quarterback Cameron Coffman was able to attack the Lions’ much-maligned defensive secondary for a decent 33-59 day, totaling 454 yards. Alas, for Coffman, he threw two interceptions, something for which he is not noted.
Penn State’s somewhat balanced offense, which was obviously aware that Indiana’s run defense sucked, ran the ball 44 times for 151 yards. Matt McGloin had a decent day passing, too, 22-32 for 395 yards and four touchdowns, with one interception. In this game he broke Daryll Clark’s record for passing yards by a Penn State quarterback in a season. He also set marks for career passing touchdowns (45) and single-season completions.
Sophomore wideout Allen Robinson also set a record, eclipsing Bobby Engram’s single-season reception total with 73. Robinson had a monster day against the hapless Hoosiers, catching ten passes for 197 yards.
One could consider it a Pyrrhic victory, though, because of the loss of Mike Mauti to a knee injury that could wind up affecting his NFL chances, a bloody shame given that he is the emotional leader of the defense, and if healthy, would be a damn good NFL linebacker. The repeated knee injuries, however, portend well for him getting into the insurance business after Penn State. There will be those who claim that the block on Mauti was an illegal chop block, but it was in this turkey’s opinion an accident of the type that often happen in the heat of gridiron combat. It’s just a damn crying shame that it had to happen to our best.
In the buildup to this game, the PSU Paranoia crowd over at BSD were predicting that the Big Ten would order its officials to shade calls toward Indiana, because unless Indiana would have been able to win six games by season’s end, the Hoosiers would not be bowl eligible. Accordingly, the Big Ten would not be able to fulfill its eight-slot bowl commitments (with two teams being in the league doghouse). Well, it didn’t happen. The one marginal call seemed to go against Indiana on video review, as this time it was the Nittany Lions who got the benefit of the possible fumble across the goal line call. It looked to me as if the ball was not under control by Zwinach as it crossed the line, but the call on the field was “touchdown.” This looked like a one-game displaced NBA make-up call to this turkey.
Here at the Cave, we were one shy of our usual commitment of drunks and gearheads. However, we filled in that gap by including our missing member, Jackstand, via Google+ Hangout from 35,000 feet over Middle America, which he was traversing on Virgin America’s flight 300. To make life interesting, his flight attendant advised him that he couldn’t talk, but the video would be ok. Well, she didn’t know about the video. It’s all Wi-Fi, anyway, so why should she care? It’s just a matter of training, I guess, but I digress. We’re all geeks here, so this thing worked out, albeit pissing me off at times.
And so, the Nittany Lions have defied lots of pundits’, pseudo-pundits’, and proto-pseudo-pundits’ pessimistic prognostications with their accomplishments this season — including indelibly etching a winning record into the annals of college football history. The doubters included this here turkey, who is mightily impressed. Congratulations to Bill O’Brien and his staff, team leaders McGloin, Mauti, and Zordich, and the loyal Penn State fans for having faith in this spunky bunch of overachievers.
Can they beat a “real” team now to close the season? They failed with Ohio State and Nebraska, although PSU Paranoiacs would say the officials lost those for the Nittany Lions. With a Wisconsin win, there exists the potential for a serious statement to the world of college football, the NCAA, and the Big Ten. We STILL are Penn State!
I had almost forgotten about the UNC scandal and how lightly it was glossed over by the NCAA until reader Joe reminded me of it by sending me a link to a distressing article in the News & Observer about UNC’s tolerance for cheating by athletes. Well, it was distressing to this turkey, anyhow. To others of you, it will inspire pissed-offedness about unequal treatment by the NCAA. Anyhow, the article leads off with this tidbit:
As a reading specialist at UNC-Chapel Hill, Mary Willingham met athletes who told her they had never read a book and didn’t know what a paragraph was. She said she saw diagnostic tests that showed they were unable to do college-level work.
But many of those athletes stayed eligible to play sports, she said, because the academic support system provided improper help and tolerated plagiarism. When she raised questions or made an objection to what she saw as cheating, she said, she saw no one take her concerns seriously.
Willingham is still there at UNC, but she’s no longer in contact with athletes. She had complained to the administration long before the scandal erupted, but her comments went nowhere.
Interestingly, her master’s thesis written during that time, was on the subject of the corrupting influence of big-money sports on university academics. I’m going to love to read that research report, entitled “Athletics vs. Academics, a Clash of Cultures.”
However, Willingham decided to tell all to the News & Observer. Some of her key findings are revealed in the article, entitled “UNC tolerated cheating, says insider Mary Willingham.”
This is a dirty little subject that deserves more public scrutiny, and this turkey believes in public service. So, read it, already. Student athletes are neither students nor athletes. Tawk amongst yaselves. Discuss!
Thanks again to the ever vigilant Joe for sending me the link.
A couple of things stick out on the Hoosiers’ schedule this year: 1) they and the Buckeyes bludgeoned each other to a 52-49 win for Brutus, and 2) Indiana scores a helluva lot of points for the slackers everyone in the Big Ten thinks they are. What gives with that? With our usual panache, we’ll try to figure these guys out.
The Indiana Hoosiers (4-6, 2-4 Big Ten) invade Beaver Stadium to take on the Nittany Lions (6-4, 4-2). The Who-siers are reeling from a 62-14 loss to Wisconsin in which the Badgers piled up a record-setting 524 yards rushing. Meanwhile, the Lions are coming off a controversial 32-23 loss to Nebraska, which has a lot of people pissing and moaning about bad calls in the Big Ten. (We’ll have none of the PSU Paranoia here, but if it makes you feel better…)
The post title refers to a comment I read from one sportswriter after the Penn State vs. Ohio State game, in an article comparing Penn State’s inept performance against the near upset of the Big Ten’s best by the Hoosiers. “They know who they are,” he said, “and they just played their game without caring about who the other guys are.” That’s a pretty simplistic analysis, but there’s something to be said for just going out there and playing damn football.
Obviously, just bearing in mind the demolition job done by the Badgers, the Indiana rushing defense just plain sucks the big one. If you want rankings, they’re an embarrassing #118 in the FBS, with only Miami (Ohio) and Eastern Michigan on their tail. The 524 yards against them didn’t help — hahahhahahhahaha — as they have given up over five yards per carry on the average through ten games and their yards against average is a suckful 244 yards. Hell, the Badgers just said, “screw it!”, and ran Montee Ball and his supporting cast at them all day long, 56 carries for an average of 8.8 yards per carry.
Now, the Penn State running game is no great shakes, and Zach Zwinach is no Montee Ball. (Senator, I knew Montee Ball. Montee Ball was a friend of mine, and Senator, you’re no Montee Ball. This is an oblique reference to former Vice President of the United States and United States Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana, who did not attend IU. He graduated from DePauw. I digress.) However, this will be like pouring water through a rusted out sieve. Zwinach should have an easy 100 yard game, maybe 200. Wonder whether O’Brien’s Doghouse resident Bill Belton will get some time. Like a hot knife through butta! If Belton stinks against Indiana, there’s no hope for him. I’m thinking he’ll play because he’s been a good boy in practice and O’Brien will want to give him a confidence builder. If so, there’s no reason both he and Zwinach can’t get 100 yards. Throw in a 69 for Mike Zordich, which he’ll appreciate, and you can expect perhaps a 300-plus yard day.
The Hoosiers’ pass defense is mediocre, but it shows up being a helluva lot better than it really is because no one sees much of a need to pass on them. They’ve allowed only 201.8 passing yards per game, but what the hell does that mean if everyone is just handing the ball off against them on four out of five plays. With that in mind, angry boy Matt McGloin will find receivers, unless O’Brien pisses him off by telling him to hand the ball to Zwinach on four plays out of five. Look for another tantrum early in the second half because, to quote O’Brien, “we have free speech in this country.” But I digress. Whattya think? Maybe 300 yards passing, if McGloin doesn’t get too pissed off and starts throwing pick-sixes?
(I sound down on McGloin, but I like his progress this year. Thing is, he has to control that temper and direct “the force” toward being less pissed off and more focused. Yeah, that’s easier said than done, I know, but I’m just sayin’. If you don’t agree, then you probably wouldn’t agree with me if I said that there is no Santa Claus.)
So, like a 600-yard game for Penn State, if all goes well? Whattya think?
What can Indiana’s rushing offense do against our vaunted front seven. I’ve been using that sarcasm all year now, so I better tell you that I think they’re pretty damn good, with a couple of NFL-capable guys in there; however, the absence of depth is a serious issue that might have led to several second-half letdowns this year. Individual talent, we’ve got; enough of it to last a whole game — that’s in doubt. The ideal game plan for an opponent would involve lots of punishing up-the-gut runs, and wait for the defense to start sucking wind. I think we’ve seen that a few times this year, most recently in the Nebraska game, which was another second-half failure. But does Indiana have the talent to do that? Ranking 83rd in the FBS with an average of 138.2 yards per game, I think not. Its leading rusher, junior running back Stephen Houston, is averaging 58 yards.
On the other hand, the passing hand, aerial supremacy is the Hoosiers’ only hope. Ranked 26th nationally against Penn State’s secondary, which also lacks depth, a hot-handed Cameron Coffman could give the Lions trouble. Trouble, as it were, is his middle name. OK, I made that up. He threw for 282, 275, and 315 yards, respectively, against the decent defenses of Moo U., Ohio State, and Iowa. Through ten games he has had a paltry six intercepted passes — none against those three schools — and a total of twelve touchdown passes. If the defensive front seven tire in the second half and the sometimes erratic secondary makes a few fatal misjudgements… Oy!
I should write the same thing each week about special teams. Penn State’s suck, however last week Sam Ficken had a perfect day, kicking three of three field goals! Cool! Maybe he is salvageable, as of the 11th game of the year.
That’s enough! Enough pseudo-analysis (or “breaking-down”). Oh, yeah — I just thought of another sports wonk atrocity: “reset”. A “game reset” means we’ll show you statistics thus far during the game. Do they all go back to zero once they’re reset?
Who’s a Hoo?
Today’s featured alumnus is Internet wunderkind and sports owner Mark Cuban. Cuban, 54, owns the Dallas Mavericks, among lots of other billionaire toys. How did a nice Jewish boychik (original family name “Chabenisky”) from Pittsburgh wind up with a degree from Indiana University (not the one in Pennsylvania)? Actually, he transferred from the University of Pittsburgh after a year, and who can blame him for wanting to leave Pitt? Of course, he chose Indiana’s Kelley School of Business because it was the cheapest of all the business schools he investigated. His business career started at the age of 12 when he sold garbage bags to raise funds for a new pair of sneakers. He funded his college expenses by collecting and selling stamps. Anyone who pulls the wealth envy crap on Cuban ought to understand that he’s seen both sides of that fence. Maybe that’s why his NBA players think he’s such a great guy — he can rub elbows with mere millionaires like them and not act like he’s slumming.
Miscellaneous Notions and Prediction
Such nice weather for football. You never know what to expect in November in State College. But this will be a perfect day, mostly sunny with game-time temperature around 47° Fahrenheit or 24.8438° Richter. (Yes, there is a Richter scale for temperature — so don’t expect the ground to shake!) Winds will be calm, so weather is absolutely not a factor.
The intangibles associated with this game are many. The emotional loss to Nebraska deflated Penn State’s communal ego. The job of focusing these young guys rests on Bill O’Brien’s shoulders. Hillary said that it takes a community to raise a child, but The Nittany Turkey says it takes a damn good football coach to make men out of a bunch of boys. Indiana knows who they are — if not, they were told who they really are by Wisconsin — and Penn State needs to figure out who they are and where they’re going. With end of season doldrums come let-downs on the field, but they’re playing for pride out there, if only O’Brien can instill some of that magical commodity in them. Our boys need to show Indiana who they are.
If all goes well, the outcome of this game should be equivalent to all the others played between the two. In spite of what the NCAA has done with its vacating of PSU wins, Penn State has won them all. However, Indiana has been pesky at times, including that 29-28 game in 1994 that could have been the straw that broke the national championship’s back that year. So, yeah, it’s a major thing to not look past this scrappy band of vandals, as perhaps Moo U. and Ohio State might have done earlier this year. We need to give them the full Montee treatment, so to speak.
I’m out of puns, so it’s time for the Official Turkey Poop Prediction for this 11th game of Penn State’s first sanction clouded season. Lions favored by 17, up from an initial two-touchdown opening spread, with an over/under of 56. Fifty-six? Do whut? Hell, Wisconsin scored more than that alone, without any help from the Hoosiers. Or maybe with lots of help. Anyhow, I don’t see any chance for an upset here at all (which means they better damn well be careful out there). Penn State 45, Indiana 16. Take the OVER!