The last time Penn State (1-0) met Eastern Michigan (1-0) at Beaver Stadium was in a different era. St. Joe was still coaching the Lions. Jerry Sandusky hadn’t been indicted. Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin were competing for the quarterback job. The Nittany Lions already had one loss earlier in the season (Alabama) on their way to a 9-4 year. PSU won that game, 34-6, in spite of a still unstable field goal competition among the vaunted law firm of Fera, Ficken, and Lewis LLC, PA. However, in the course of winning, Mike Mauti and D’Anton Lynn were lost to injury.
That was 2011. Seems like a long time between then and now. Everything has changed. Bill O’Brien is coaching, the Tickle Monster is in jail for life, McGloin is playing for the NFL Oakland Raiders, Christian Hackenberg has won the starting quarterback job, Sam Ficken is B1G Special Teams Player of the Week, and Penn State enters the game with no losses (and The Sanguinarians are still thinking PSUcan go 12-0). Alas, injuries have already begun to impact the Nittany Lions.
The “injury bug”
Tight End Matt Lehman is done for the year due to a knee injury suffered in the Syracuse game. Expect to see Adam Brenneman, who had been used on special teams in Week One, on offense to fill the gap. Meanwhile, linebacker Mike Hull, who sat out the second half last week in street clothes, is listed as probable for Eastern Michigan.
Keys to the game
What will it take to win this game? Strong fundamentals, as the sports writers’ cliché goes. The Lions under the youthful guidance of Christian Hackenberg need to clean up their turnover act. It wouldn’t surprise me to see something similar to the Syracuse game plan employed by the Eagles to force the young QB to make mistakes while stuffing the run. Zach Zwinack and company need to show up for this one. Someone mentioned that this offense needs a blocking back. That’s a pretty good observation in my humble opinion, and it is interesting to note that all-purpose banger Stephen Obeng-Agyapong has been practicing with the fullbacks. The running game also could use the speed of Akeel Lynch, but I still expect most of the handoffs to go to ZZ. Allen Robinson is, of course, as serious a weapon as one gets, and with the accurate arm of Hacky, he could make it a long day for the Brick Dickers from Ypsi.
One Big Place To Improve: Third down conversions!!!!!!!!! The Lions were a pitiful 1-16 last week. It’s fundamental, damnit!
I still worry a bit about the defensive secondary, as this edition of the Eagles has a passing quarterback in junior Tyler Benz. He went 19-26 last week. The Dickers are balanced, with a decent running game exemplified by Bronson Hill running for 100 yards and two TDs last week. His cohort, Darius Jackson also ran for 64 yards. Mind you, all of that was against Howard (of Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard fame).
This is the last chance to work out the problem areas before the competition gets more serious. Of course, EMU would love to pull off the upset and will undoubtedly be focused on just that, so this is not the time to play with thumbs up the ass.
The Eastern Michigan culture, as it were
A little about Eastern Michigan — culturally, not footballistically — before I get to my prediction. I shamelessly steal some of this from my last EMU preview. (And I still ask: Why are they not called the Emus?).
So this will be a gem — a veritable can’t-miss game! Yeah, right! A noon start on BTN. Ahhhh, the Ro-Tel and Velveeta commercials! Everybody in Florida will be watching it — NOT!! — because why would they rather watch the Florida vs. Miami game in the same time slot. All we would need for the complete denouement would be for Pam Ward to be the announcer, but thank God that ain’t going to happen. On the scale of 0-to-10, where ten is Must See TV and zero is I Hope The Heart Walk Runs Way Past Noon, this one is dropping faster than a prom dress at the après dance no-tell motel.
Nevertheless, this is the last of the so-called tune-ups. With the coming of the UCF game a week hence, it gets much more serious and much more Irish. Therefore, it is worth watching for signs of sentient and atleticalistic life.
OK, so I promised some Eastern Michigan background, and that’s what you’re going to get. I feel that the cultural significance of the institution itself and the city it resides in must be made available to all. These are not just football games, homeys, they’re cultural events. Prepare to be enlightened. There will be a quiz on Friday.
What do we know about Ypsilanti? Weird name, no? The city got its name from a hero in the Greek War of Independence, Demetrius Ypsilanti. If it weren’t for Ypsilanti, Greece would be part of the Ottoman Empire and Greeks would be vassals of Allah, much like many of the modern day citizens of Ypsilanti, Michigan. Oh, and did you know that pizza king Tom Monaghan opened the very first Domino’s Pizza in Ypsilanti in 1960?
One more amaaaaaaaaaaazing fact: Ypsilanti is home to the world’s most phallic building, the Ypsilanti Water Tower, which is referred to locally as “the brick dick”. In the picture above, the brick dick is shown dwarfing a bust of poor old Taki Ypsilanti, who now must persevere in pedastalar perpetuity in the penumbra of the leviathan lithophallus, deploring his penuriously puny penile proportions, comparatively speaking. So sad.
Another fact: Dann Florek, the hardass captain from Law & Order: SVU, is a famous graduate of the prestigious institution. Other than that, Ypsilanti is merely a little town between Detroit and Ann Arbor.
Official Turkey Poop Prediction
It is now time for that feature in anticipation of which you’ve waded through all the crap above, the Perennially Pessimistic Yet Somehow Pretty Damn Accurate Official Turkey Poop Prediction. Turkey is 1-0 straight up and 1-0 against the spread thus far. At the time I am penning this prophecy, Penn State is favored by 23-½ with an over/under of 48-½. Both the line and the o/u have dropped since they opened at 27 and 54, respectively. The current line suggest that the gamblers think the Nittany Lions will win by a score of about 36-13. While it is tempting to call this one a blowout, I’m not gunna! It is still the second game of the year and there will still be problem areas to iron out. The Eagles have some semblance of a passing game this time around. Hmmm. Aw, hell, I’m going to change my mind and make it a blowout prediction. Penn State 38, Lithophalli 13. Take the Lions and the over. And remember, 10% of your winnings go to the AHA Heart Walk. If you lose, I don’t want to hear about it!
I’ll be back with post-game observations or with anything else, as the mood strikes me. The Heart Walk is Saturday morning. Seriously, please consider making a donation to the American Heart Association via the thermometer-looking link toward the top of this page. Go Lions! Lick the Dick!