Hard to Get Excited about Indiana
It’s really hard to write something objective and positive about Penn State, as the division leading Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) wrap up their five-game home stand against the Indiana Hoosiers (4-1, 0-1) this coming Saturday. After that shitty 20-14 win over Army, we cringe over the prospect of losing to Indiana, who fell to Ohio State last weekend 34-27, but were in it until the final gun.
Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered Am I
I recall the 18-13 Michigan loss last year after which fellow Penn State football blogger Todd Sponsler, proprietor of The Lion’s Den, decided to hang up the keyboard. His terminal post is still there for all to see. Like him, it is hard for me to get pumped up for writing about this mess week after week when the disjointed crap we’ve been seeing on the field is what we now have come to expect from the Nittany Lions, with no end in sight. If there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we’ve been conditioned to believe that it must be an oncoming train. Just when we think there has been a breakthrough, as in the passing offense exhibited in the San Diego State game, we have a major regression to crap football.
I’ll persevere. What keeps me going is the hope that someday we’ll have a coaching staff that knows how to effectively employ the talent at its disposal. The turkey as an optimist? That “someday” might be a long way off, but I believe it will happen. Penn State football is not dead. It’s just been in hibernation for 10 years. Alright, maybe 20. These things are cyclical, I suppose. Teams are good for a while, and then they’re not so good. Alabama rode the crest of a wave for a long while but the Crimson Tide now appears to be in decline. Perhaps, like the business cycle predicted by the Kondratiev Wave, Penn State will return to prominence in 50 years or so.
The Sanguinarians are in constant denial over this, thinking that national relevance and glory are right around the corner. Well, we’ve turned lots of corners and they’re still wishin’, hopin’, and prayin’. And tryin’ and lyin’. We’ll know that we’re getting close when the offense can convert more than half of its third-down situations against decent defenses. I might not live that long, because I’m an old geezer, but I’m retired and I have the time, so I’ll keep on writing my drivel. I hope someday I’ll get to write something glowing and positive.
Editorial comments aside, I’ll now bore you with my take on the Indiana game, which I face with great trepidations.
Our Opponents, the Mighty Hoosiers
You all remember Nate Sudfeld, right? He’s the Indiana quarterback who torched the Nittany Lions two years ago. In 2013, as a sophomore, he was 23-38 for 321 yards, 2 TDs, and an INT in Indiana’s 44-24 win. Sudfeld didn’t play in last year’s Penn State game, and now, he injured his ankle in the OSU game last week (more on this later), and had to be relieved by his backup, sophomore Zander Diamont.
Last year Diamont played rather crappily in Indiana’s 13-7 loss to Penn State. So, there’s always hope. Diamont is the scrambler of the Indiana QBs. He can bust a long run if you’re not careful, as was the case in the OSU game, in which he had a 79-yarder. After Sudfeld’s ankle injury in the first half, Diamont went 6-14 passing for 76 yards with no TDs and no INTs, to augment Sudfeld’s 10-21 for 134 and no TDs or INTs.
Also suffering an ankle injury in the OSU game was primo runner Jordan Howard, who had been effectively shut down by tOSU defense. He left in the third quarter with 14 rushes for 34 yards. Sophomore Devine Redding was more effective, with 30 rushes for 45 yards and two touchdowns.
In all, tOSU gave up 402 yards, 226 aerially and 176 terrestrially. The Buckeyes themselves gained 517 yards in the 34-27 unconvincing victory. The killer for tOSU was sloppiness. Penalties’ll kill ya: they had eight for 109 yards. Turnovers’ll kill ya: they had three, two fumbles and an interception. But Indiana held onto the ball for the Lion’s share of the game (pun intended), with TOP of 34:14 to tOSU’s 25:46.
Then what do I have to say about Indiana’s defense? It suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks — probably about as bad as Penn State’s Offense. I just looked it up. The Hoosiers rank 118th in total defense; the Nittany Lions rank 116th in total offense. So that’s a draw, right? LOL. Looks like another stinkeroo forthcoming.
As an old Swiss chef I knew used to say, “On the other one hand…” Yeah, on the other one hand, Penn State is ranked 15th in total defense (just behind tOSU) while Indiana is 19th in total offense. Another push?
(So, on the other hand, you have five fingers.)
Wait, what? What’s that you say? Indiana is not for real? They haven’t played anybody! I’m calling “bullshit” — neither has Penn State.
The potential absence of Sudfeld and Howard from this game could change its complexion, at least with respect to Indiana’s offense. However, at the time I’m putting this wondrous article to bed head coach Kevin Wilson said that both were dressed at practice but limited in what they were required to do. “We’ll see how the week progresses,” Wilson said. “They’ve played enough; we don’t have to over practice them.”
But What of the Penn State Offense?
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Oh, wait. A couple of things. The already putrid offensive line will be devoid of both Andrew Nelson and Angelo Mangiro. Furthermore, it will be a noon start. You know how that works, especially when it is coupled with the Franklin/Donovan conservative first-half approach and absence of significant second-half adjustments. Whether Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley, the only real generators of offense on the team, will play is still in question. Nevertheless, the crappy defense of the Hoosiers should give the offense some opportunities. Can they leverage those opportunities into points? God knows we want to think so!
And the Vaunted Penn State Defense?
We’ll see. We’ll see. The way I see it, this game is pretty close, but great defense usually wins games that are otherwise even. Penn State has a pretty doggone good defense. A lot depends on Sudfeld’s availability, fersure. K. John and Big Al brought up the legitimate point that when our starters tire on defense, depth is lacking — at least decent depth. Given that the Nittany Lions find it hard to muster any offense, nursing a slim lead into the fourth quarter can let the other guys hang around for way too long — if there is indeed a lead at that point.
Extinguished [sic] Alumnus — Jim Jones
James Warren “Jim” Jones (1931 – 1978) was an American religious leader and community organizer. As founder of the People’s Temple, he embraced communist ideals and believed that the world would eventually be largely destroyed by nuclear war. After seeking a number of safe havens around in the Western Hemisphere, he and his followers settled into a commune called Jonestown in Guyana. If you don’t know the rest of the story, then you had your head up your ass in 1978. So, I’ll tell it to you anyway.
Jonestown was to be a “socialist paradise” and a sanctuary from the media scrutiny Jones and his temple had been subjected to in San Francisco, the previous venue for the group. There, he preached communism and proclaimed his group to be the purest communists of all. Like many communist enclaves, Jones did not permit members to leave.
In November 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan traveled down to Jonestown to investigate allegations of human rights abuses, bringing along relatives of Temple members, an NBC camera crew, and reporters from several newspapers. Their three-day visit concluded when one Temple member unsuccessfully attacked Ryan with a knife. They took fifteen members who had expressed a desire to leave the commune back to the United States.
As Ryan’s delegation was boarding their two small planes at the remote airstrip, Jones’ armed guards ambushed the group and began firing on them, killing Congressman Ryan and four others. One of the supposed defectors suddenly pulled a gun and began firing on other members.
Later that same day, 909 inhabitants of Jonestown, 304 of them children, died of apparent cyanide poisoning. An audio tape recording recovered after the massacre revealed Jones’ reason for the mass suicide, stating that the Soviet Union, with whom the temple had been negotiating a potential exodus for many months, would no longer take them because of the airstrip murders. Jones argued that the group should commit “revolutionary suicide” by drinking cyanide-laced grape-flavored Flavor Aid. Later-released Temple films show Jones opening a storage container full of Kool-Aid in large quantities. However, empty packets of grape Flavor Aid at the scene show this is what was used to mix the solution, along with a sedative.
Nevertheless, the expression “drinking the Kool-Aid” has persevered through the decades, referring to a person or group holding an unquestioned belief, argument, or philosophy without critical examination. In fact, it was last used right here in this blog by Big Al in a comment about some Penn State fans drinking the blue Kool-Aid.
So, if you’re now suffering from eyestrain after reading all this crap, blame Big Al! If you want more information on the Jonestown Massacre and Jim Jones, check out Wikipedia.
Well, Happy Valley seems to be getting a break from the rain, or at least that’s what Joel Myers and AccuWeather.com think. The forecast high will be 59° with some clouds and sun, a nice autumn day. I didn’t see anything in the forecast that would make it anything but a perfect day for football. So, no weather excuses this time, OK?
Official Turkey Poop Prediction, Such As It Is
Las Vegas doesn’t like this game, and as such ain’t no significant money floating around on it yet. There is an opening line favoring Penn State by eight, but no one has established an over/under. That said, the Nittany Turkey Sportsbook will set its own line and over/under. I say that anything more than a three-point spread between these teams is an overlay. If you can get the eight somewhere, take the Hoosiers and eight. Meanwhile, the Nittany Turkey Sportsbook’s official over/under has opened at 23. Now, this is just mind-betting, because I suck at predictions, particularly after crappy performances such as that against Army. The uncertain playing status of Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard further cloud my crystal ball. One thing we know for sure is that this crappy offense is getting worse instead of better and it can’t score points. If Sudfeld and Howard don’t play, maybe we’ll get lucky and Indiana won’t score any points, either. Accordingly, in loving memory of the late, great sage, Yogi Berra, we’re looking at déjà vu all over again. Penn State 13, Indiana 7. (That’s one pick-six by the PSU defense plus two Joey “Big Toe” Julius field goals — no points by the Penn State offense). Take the under. LMAO.
I’ll be back with a Turkey wrap after the game. Wishin’, hopin’, and prayin’ for some semblance of an offense!
I really am expecting a PS loss Saturday, but in deference to your staying on board the ship, I’m going to go 15-14 Lions. I’m putting all my faith in “Big Toe”, ’cause I’m expecting Indiana to have 7-8 people in the box on every play and the traffic cones to look like they’ve been run over by an eighteen wheeler by the end of the game. In some respects, this will be a good game for Hack to prepare for what he’ll be in for against the Bucknutz next Saturday night.
I have no faith in Donovan’s ability to come up with a game plan to exploit the Indiana defense weaknesses nor do I have any faith that he’ll be able to make any half time adjustments, so I just think we’ll get close to the 20-30 yard line area enough times to allow “Big Toe” to hammer away at a half dozen or so kicks and hopefully convert on 5.
This is a do or die game to have any possibility of bowl eligibility. The only other possibilities will be Maryland and Illinois and I’d really rather be sitting with 5 wins after this weekend than having to hope we win two of two.
The Nittany Turkey says
Bucs and Pens blew it. It wouldn’t surprise me now if the Nittany Lions lost on Saturday and the Stillers lost on Monday night, just to make it a “perfect” weekend.
I think your expectations are similar to mine. Seems like predictions for this game are all over the damn map. Sanguinarian Phil Grosz even predicted a high-scoring win for Indiana. K. John says the Hoosiers are not “for real”, whatever that means. And you and I are looking for a low-scoring, sloppy snoozefest. To coin an old cliche, that’s why they play the game.
I agree with your last paragraph. These guys better come to play and not slack off “just because it’s Indiana” and because they’re favored. That shit seems to be getting into their heads this year.
Noon start = zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Big Al says
Take Indiana getting eight points. If Barkley doesn’t play, State loses. If Barkley does play and is 95% healthy, State wins by less than a touchdown. It’s sad that Penn State’s chances of winning come down to this, but Indiana’s defense will pack the box and put press coverage on the receivers. State’s offense will NOT be able to sustain long drives against that defense and will have to score on explosive plays. And Barkley’s the only explosive threat State has.
I don’t see State’s defense shutting out Indiana like the did last year (Indiana’s only points came on a Hack pick six). Indiana will score at least 21 points, so the issue will be whether State can scrounge up more points than that. If Barkley plays, I’m optimistic that that they will. My prediction State 27 – Hoosiers 24.
Guess I’m drinking the blue Kool Aid this week. BTW My internet sources claim that the true identity of the grape drink that Jones’ followers imbibed is undetermined.. Their storehouse stocked both Kool Aid AND Flavor Aid and some people think that the fatal brew included both drinks. Anyhow, the cyanide probably made it impossible to identify the drink that was used..
The Nittany Turkey says
The game finally made it onto the sportsbooks’ boards. While the spread has narrowed to 6.5 in some houses, it remains at 8 in others, reflecting the wide ranging sentiments regarding PSU-Indiana. The o/u is not 54.5. If we go with the 6.5 spread, that would give us about a 31-24 gaming sentiment. The over/under suggests that the gamblers have the same lack of faith in the PSU defense holding “not for real” Indiana to single digits as you do.
Having seen no evidence that the Lions can sustain drives thus far, I don’t see any reason to conclude that they will do so in this game, even against the 119th ranked defense. Chronic offensive ineptitude makes bad defenses look good.
Got your for PSU 27, Indiana 24 — a needed win for hopes of Toilet.com Bowl eligibility.
The Nittany Turkey says
Thanks for the Kool Aid versus Flavor Aid clarification. I appreciate the research you did. We’ll continue to refer to Kool Aid drinkers as Kool Aid drinkers.
I know people are thinking Indiana is for real. They aren’t. Personally, I don’t think much of last week’s Indiana game is relevant. Ohio State’s defense is nearly as flawed as its offense. I think we will see the defensive starters take the majority of snaps in this one and Indiana’s offense held in check. Due to the number of cut blocks Indiana employs, they won’t play as many snaps as they will at Ohio State but more than Army. Look for Penn State’s D to flirt with double digit sacks in this one. Indiana QBs have only been sacked thrice but haven’t face inside pressure like they will on Saturday which negates the quick outside throws. Zettel, Johnson, Nassib and Sickels turn Indiana’s O-line into traffic cones. Cabinda and company bottle up the running game bringing Indiana’s over-rated offense crashing to earth regardless of who starts at QB.
Offensively, Penn State is not good and will not be great regardless of opponent but they can do to Indiana exactly what they did to Rutgers with or without Barkley. Franklin bows to pressure and Hackenberg is allowed to thrown the ball more than ten yards down field on at least ten occasions in the first half. With good weather on tap and Barkley in the lineup (he could have played last week but they wisely held him out), look for some down field passing to open things up. In what has become a weekly occurrence in Donovan’s offense the last year and a half, Hack’s numbers stink but his play is borderline great. The traffic cones hold up while the Hoosier Daddy defense has to defend more than ten yards of the field early. The receivers only bungle half a dozen routes in this one and only drop two sure fire catches. Barkley hits a 100 by the half after sitting out the game against Army (he could have played but they wisely held him out). Gesicki, who has quietly improved his blocking the last couple of weeks continues to make progress.
Then the second half begins. Donovan pulls a Donovan and they have fewer yards in the second half than either the first or second quarters. Shoop goes a little soft on D to limit big plays making the game look more competitive than it is in the second half (Think San Diego State). The bipedal sheep in the media start bashing Christian Hackenberg after his final stat line is less than impressive. The dopes that cover Penn State football find things to troll the Penn State fan base with and the Penn State pessimists remain in full force after another unimpressive win.
Penn State 24
The Nittany Turkey says
I might think that Indiana was for real if I knew what “for real” meant. Is a sports team either for real or not for real? No shades of grey in between? Maybe they’re 40% for real or something. That would still be good enough to beat PSU with the right breaks going their way, given the continued chronic offensive ineptitude by the Nittany Lions.
I’m not convinced the Penn State defense is quite for real this year. Holding Rutgers to 3 was more a function of a team in shambles due to off-field crapola than it was a benchmark of great defense. All the other opponents have scored 14 or more. When I predicted 13-7, it was kind of like predicting a 6-4 Iowa game. I dredged up a crappy memory and used the score as a trigger. I’d like to believe that the defense can hold Indiana to 7, but in my heart of hearts, I have a queasy feeling that they’ll allow three touchdowns.
So, again, that’s why they play the game. The fact that predictions for this game are so wide-ranging indicates that no one knows what to expect. That’s what makes it interesting. We’re going to find out an awful lot about both teams in this game.
Got you for PSU 24, IU 10.