(Yeah, this is my official pre-season prediction post for the Penn State Nittany Lions 2013 football season, but there’s something I must get off my chest first. Again.)
Even after I told them to stop using that vacuously vogueish vulgarity — athleticism — they kept on writing it, speaking it, taking it to dinner, and bending my mind with it. Retards! Of all the egregious etymology employed in the inherently insipid, grammatically grotesque spewing of sports speciousness, athleticism exists on a singular plateau above all the others, because not only is it made up, but also it is completely fucked up.
Go ahead! Look it up in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster’s lists the adjective athletic as meaning “of or relating to athletes or athletics,” or “used by an athlete.” The adverb form athletically is listed underneath, with the assumption that anyone looking in this area — except perhaps a sports commentator — would know the difference between an adverb and an adjective. Finally, the nominalization athleticism is listed alone, the implied definition of which being whatever the hell one’s imagination makes it.
Do we really need another noun? Isn’t athlete good enough? Doesn’t athlete imply athleticism? Can you have a non-athletic athlete? Are there degrees of “athleticism”? Can someone be more athleticistic than someone else?
OK, so that’s my opening rant for the day. I told you I wouldn’t be writing about the Sandusky scandal or anything related to it anymore unless it was real news and not just the whining of a bunch of high school girls about who’s going to the prom with whom and we don’t like the BoT and that kind of crapola. I meant it. However, I still have a need to rant. It is an outlet for me. Writing is therapeutic, and vitriolic writing is purgative. So, please allow me to purge. You have no choice.
Trite expressions will be highlighted through use of Italics. Their use is strictly for comedic effect. Accuse me otherwise, and I’ll deny any unwitting excursion into such hackneyed bullshit phrases.
The 2013 Campaign Ahead
Now, on to the season ahead. (What a següe!) What follows represents this turkey’s best take on the 2013 Nittany Lions’ football season, which at this point is veiled in mysteriosity and replete with athleticism, whatever the hell that means.
After surprising everybody (another vacuous and worn-out cliché) last year with an 8-4 record and a thrilling overtime victory over Wisconsin to end a going-nowhere season with a bang, the Nittany Lions return under the continued dark cloud of the NCAA sanctions, but without the strong feelings sparked by last year’s fresh wounds. At this point, that’s old news for everyone except the whiners who remain in denial. Now, the team, adeptly coached by the fiery Bill O’Brien, must find a way to rise above itself once again, but absent the passionate senior leadership of Mike Mauti, Matt McGloin, and Mike Zordich, that will be hard.
We fans tend to be sanguine at this stage of the season. We’re also demanding. An 8-4 record last year after a slow start can only mean one thing: we’ll do better this year. To paraphrase BWI publisher Phil Grosz (who has yet to offer his usual pie-in-the-sky prediction this year), anything less than a 9-3 record from this team is unacceptable. I’m speaking the fans’ mind, not reality. I’ll reveal below what I think is realistic, and I don’t think it will be even close to 9-3.
Why? Penn State is replete with talent at all positions and it has a quarterback who just might be the best in the country, now that he is assured of not being coached by one or more Paternos. To view that last statement in a more positive light, Christian Hackenberg will be coached by Bill O’Brien, the guy who coached Tom Brady in the pros. That’s another leap of faith that Phil might take, but with which you and this turkey will instantly find flawed. A kid coming right out of high school is not Tom Brady, with four years at Michigan (two as a starter) and nine years at the Patriots (seven as a starter) by the time he ran into O’Brien. Hackenberg will undoubtedly be good and he has an excellent bunch of receivers to work with — if, in fact, he plays. Many writers are putting the whole team on his back, though, and that’s a lot to ask of a kid his age.
I haven’t mentioned Tyler Ferguson. As I’ve alluded above, O’Brien still hasn’t favored us with a decision on who will start at quarterback. By all accounts from so-called insiders, Ferguson’s performance in training camp had him on the inside track in the competition for starter. O’Brien has stated that both guys will play this season, whatever that means. Both are solid quarterbacks, but both are untested in real combat. I kind of like the drama that is unfolding here. If we have to wait until the boys run out onto the field at MetLife to see who takes the first snap, I’ll be thrilled.
Quarterback battle notwithstanding — and I’ll admit that the attendant drama is one great way to whip up the troops to an emotional and cohesive frenzy — it will be difficult to match the passion that drove the team through last year. It was the grit and determination of guys like McGloin, Mauti, and Zordich who kept spirits elevated through the adversity of the pre-season bailouts of Redd, Fera, Brown, etc., and then again through the early losses to Ohio and Virginia. That leadership doesn’t yet exist this year. Hackenberg is said to be cut in the same mold, though, and the big questions are whether he will step forward to take the reins and will the older guys on the team accept his leadership. This is probably the strongest reason for some pundits to say, “as Hackenberg goes, so goes the season.”
In an earlier post, I gave my turkish overview of the team without knowing what the final depth chart will reveal. I restricted my commentary to a pretty good collection of potential starters. If we could count on those guys to play 60 minutes a game from next Saturday through the end of the season, a Phil Grosz fairy dust season could be in reach. You and I know that there is little depth available on this squad — and that’s going to get worse instead of better in subsequent seasons because of the scholarship reduction at the behest of the NCAA’s draconian sanctions. Youth, inexperience, and mediocrity will conspire to lose football games — and that’s the reality of the situation Penn State is in. The second halves of games will be rough sledding, let alone the latter part of the season.
Does the B1G still suck?
Another issue we have to consider is whether the Big Ten really sucks as bad as it has been sucking. Fortunately for the conference (and unfortunately for Penn State’s won/loss record), I believe that the league is on the comeback trail. Michigan and Ohio State (aka “the big two”) are loaded with talent and have recruited very well. Scout.com places Ohio State sixth and Michigan twelfth in their recruiting rankings. Wisconsin might have lost Montee Ball and Coach Bret Bielema, but they’ll be back up at the top of the conference, as usual. Nebraska won’t be far behind, either. Cornhusker QB Taylor Martinez is among the best in the Big Ten. Even Northwestern, albeit not on the PSU schedule this year but astutely coached by Pat Fitzgerald, actually won a bowl game last year after producing double-digit wins. To this turkey, it sure looks like the Big Ten is on the upswing.
Breaking Down the Season
So, armed with opinions straight out of the turkey hole, let’s take a look at the season ahead.
Syracuse. Playing this one on neutral turf benefits whom, exactly? Syracuse is a state university of New York, while Penn State has 50,000 alumni in the New York metropolitan area. The game will be played in MetLife Stadium in Hackensack Meadows, NJ. Both teams stand a chance of being overcome by the noxious air wafting over from the Port of Elizabeth. That’s why they call it neutral turf, not because the grass’ pH is neutral. It ain’t. Acid rain has driven the pH of the turf down to about 2.5. Just ask the Giants, who had to switch from metal to nylon cleats because the former kept dissolving at embarrassing moments like cut-backs on runs, and furthermore, the players had to take frequent decontamination showers. But I digress.
People seem to be giving Syracuse a lot of respect this year. I guess they should, coming off an 8-5 season, including a 38-14 bowl victory over former Eastern Independent rival (back in the day) West Virginia. Syracuse is in the ACC now, and West Virginia is in the Big 12, which I think has ten teams at the moment, while the Big Ten has twelve and so does the Pac-12. Confused? Yeah, so am I, which is why I’m still not sure about who will win this game, acidic turf or not. Therefore, I’m going to waffle on the predicted result for now and do a “what if” in the synopsis far down below.
Eastern Michigan. What I call the “Brick Dick” game, due to a conspicuous feature on the EMU campus. (See picture here.) With a demoralizing 2-10 season behind them last year, the Eagles will dig themselves yet another hole into which to hide their phallic mascot this year. I think that unless the Syracuse game is a completely devastating Orange crush, this win is assured.
UCF. Faith and begorrah, laddies and lassies. This one will be a barn burner, a year prior to the same game being played on pH neutral turf in Dublin. The connection to Ireland is obvious: two head coaches named O’Leary and O’Brien. (This game is kicking off at six O’Clock, but that doesn’t count as Irish, already). UCF had double-digit wins including a bowl victory last year and O’Brien’s former boss knows how to coach football, even if he is known to incorporate fatuous misrepresentations into his resume. The Knights’ losses were respectable: Ohio State, Missouri, and Tulsa (twice). Now they’re playing in what many still think of as the Big East, but is now the American Athletic (or is that the American Athleticism) Conference, which is the remnants of the Big East after several departures. (They wisely chose not to include a number in their moniker). Penn State is one of their signature opponents this season, so you can bet that George O will have them pumped and ready. Meanwhile, having once worked for him, BoB knows a lot of O’Leary’s tricks, so it’s on! I think that this is the first meeting of these two teams in which UCF has an excellent chance of winning. Disclaimer: I worked at UCF, I was awarded a degree by UCF, and I live 15 miles from UCF, but that doesn’t make me a UCF homey. I’ll always bleed blue and white (and red, even). However, I’ll reserve judgment on the prediction for this one for the time being. More later.
Kent State. You know, this ain’t the Kent State of old. They wound up 11-3 last year, including a bowl loss to Arkansas State. Sure, they didn’t play anybody, but they beat Ohio, which is more than one can say for Penn State. Used to be that playing a MAC team was an automatic win. That’s not the case anymore. After playing three games, we’ll know whether there’s any leadership worth a damn on the Nittany Lions and we’ll start to see how injury replacements function. If either of those significant components are compromised, this game could be lost. No, I’m not kidding. A lot depends on how new quarterbacks and restructured offensive lines perform — on both teams. It’s a home game for the Lions, which means a touchdown, in this turkey’s humble opinion. However, since I consider this another pivotal game, I’m deferring my decision about its victor to the final synopsis, which I’ll deliver when the smoke clears and all is said and done (at the end of the day).
@ Indiana. Not the Big Ten pushover of years past but close to it, with a 4-8 record last year. This will be played in Bloomington, in front of a crowd of about 853. Unless Penn State has some serious morale problems after being surprised out of their jocks by some shocking early season losses, this one should go to the Lions.
Michigan. Oy, vey! This is a Homecoming game, already? I think my friend RD will go into this one smugly expecting something like last year’s Wisconsin game, but this year he’ll be wrong. Way wrong. Michigan is loaded, even with Denard Robinson now leaving his shoes untied for the Jacksonville Jags this year. (Do you know that they have Robinson’s position listed in the roster as “OW”? That stands for Offensive Weapon. The Jags sure as hell need offensive weaponry, already! But I digress.) I see a distinct home loss on the horizon here, with a road game against the Buckeyes ahead on the schedule.
@ Ohio State. These are the times that try men’s souls. Braxton Miller and the gang of Anointed Ones will hand the Lions a defeat in the Horseshoe. No question in my mind about this one. Even a week off is not enough to salve the wounds that will have been suffered against the Wolverines. The Buckeyes might take pity on the Lions and actually waive the charges on the autographed jerseys they’ll give them, although there might be a barter deal for the “God’s Gift” tattoo that Andrew Quarless had removed from his triceps area when he went to Green Bay.
Illinois. Hahahahhahahhahahahha. LOLOLOL. LMAO. 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 This is as close to a Division II opponent as PSU will face this year. LOL. The schmucks tried to raid our team when the NCAA declared it a free-for-all. Karma, baby! Karma! 😛 😛 😛
@ Minnesota. Well, give the Golden Gophers a little respect, willya? Last year they did beat Purdue and Illinois, both of which sucked. They also beat our kickoff opponent, Syracuse, which does not suck. But suckage being what it is, Minnesota is a mediocre team that a new stadium didn’t seem to help much. Maybe if the old Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome roof had collapsed under the weight of the snow just one more time — while the Gophers were on the field — it would have helped. Count this as a road win for Penn State.
Purdue. Another dregs of the Big Ten season ahead for the Boilermakers. Are you reading this, Larry Cottrell, retired from UCF and living somewhere up there back home in Indiana? The Boilermakers suuuuck! Posting a solid (?) 6-7 record last year, including minimum bowl eligibility so they could get the shit kicked out of them by the Oklahoma State Cowboys 58-14, the Boilermakers notched wins over such superpowers as Eastern Kentucky, BDU (Brick Dick University), Marshall, EFU (Epic Fail University, aka Iowa), The Illinois Laughingstock, and in-state rival Indiana. Can you see Purdue actually winning in Beaver Stadium? I sure as hell can’t.
Nebraska. Taylor Martinez will embarrass Penn State at the Beave. Just because Georgia beat them 45-31 in the Capital One bowl after the Huskers had received a 70-31 pummeling by the Badgers in the Big Ten Championship game, and just because they beat Iowa by only six points doesn’t mean they’re not going to come back and kick some Lion ass. They will. Count on it. They have a sucky-soft schedule this year, and Pellini will know how to use it to their advantage. Mark my words, RD and other sanguinarians!
@ Wisconsin. At Camp Randall this year. New coach. Lots of good things to be said in Penn State’s favor. But it’s going to be a tough one to win for the Nittany Lions. Yeah, Montee Ball has gone to the NFL, but Wisky (as some PSU homeys like to call them) will have a few decent replacement speedsters, as usual (with a lot of sheer athleticism), to run behind a punishingly behemoth offensive line. Yeah, I said that last year and then the “bunch of fuckers” went and beat them, but this year’s cooler emotions, hostile venue, and lack of depth, coupled with the Badgers’ vengeance will put this one in the loss column.
In the Final Analysis…
Sooooooooooo, with all that having been said, how about a season prediction, Turkey? Huh? Huh?
Yeah, you know it seems to this turkey that other “pundits” are having a rough time calling this season. So am I. Obviously, we’re still dealing with “projected depth charts”, for one thing, and we don’t have much to say for certain, other than that either Hackenberg or Ferguson will have a bunch of hotshot tight ends and one potential All-America receiver to throw the ball to. The rushing defense will probably be solid — until the lack of depth causes problems, which might be seen in second halves of games as well as throughout the end of the season. The driving forces and mental athleticism of McGloin, Mauti, and Zordich are gone and we don’t yet know who will step into the leadership vacuum.
Some experts think the boys can win the first four game, but I think that might be stretching it. This turkey thinks that it boils down to two games that will determine the course of the rest of the season: Syracuse and UCF. We will see whether last year’s spirit can be duplicated, and we’ll start to see how deep the 2013 Nittany Lions really are. Absent good team leadership, this team could lose a lot of games this year. Losing either — or God forbid, both — of those lynchpin games could be the tipping point for the 2013 season.
So, speaking out of both sides of my mouth, here are my ambiguously waffling projections. Lose the Syracuse game and they’ll be 5-7 or maybe, God forbid, 4-8 if they stumble against Kent State (shaddup! — you thought Ohio and Virginia were a lock last year). Win the Syracuse game, but lose the UCF game, and they’ll be 6-6, which would give them bowl eligibility if they were eligible for a bowl. Winning both, they’ll finish the season with a pretty decent 7-5 record. And dat’s what I t’ink!
I’ll be back later in the week with a more in-depth and definitely more FOS prognostication for next Saturday’s (yay!) Syracuse game, which no one will have any idea about and I’ll join the crowd. I’ll break it down for you and offer some quick hitters. You will witness the return of the Perilously Platitudinous yet Penuriously Perfidious Official Turkey Poop Projection, which will make you laugh and cry. The season is upon us and the Turkey is full of shit, as usual!