#9 Penn State (8-2, 6-1 Big Ten) vs. Rutgers (2-8, 0-7)
I don’t want to jinx the Nittany Lions, because providing the Scarlet Knights’ first conference win would be the embarrassment of all embarrassments. Still, I’ve got to say that I likely haven’t seen as putrid a season’s performance as Rutgers’ this year. Therefore, we’ll consider this a bye week, tantamount to playing a scrimmage before a home crowd, just for the hell of it.
Big Ten opponents have outscored the Scarlet O’Haras 290-73, and although it is hard to imagine a program that is in worse shape than Maryland, Purdue, Illinois, and Moo U., Rutgers is it. They’re so pathetic that ESPN, who typically have a comment for all occasions, said the following in their Big Ten Power Rankings:
14. Rutgers (2-8, 0-7): Mama said if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.
Well, my mama passed away five years ago, so I can say what I want to say with impunity. Not nice, I know, but here goes, Lawrence — I’ve been saving up some “U’s” for this one:
Rutgers could muster no points at all against Ohio State, Michigan, and Moo U., losing by the scores of 58-0, 78-0, and 49-0. For Sparty last week, the encounter was doubly fortunate, as it broke a seven game losing streak.
On their best day, the Scarlet Nights (sic — a vague allusion to the red-light districts of the past) could probably barely muster a win against the Secaucus Sisters of the Poor.
Is this a rivalry game?
However, the Big Ten is trying to make it half a rivalry for Penn State and Moo U., alternating with Maryland for the final game of the year. As I mentioned in my rivalry article, that blows big time. What you can expect to see for this so-called contrived rivalry is a High Point Stadium three-quarters full of Penn State fans. It’ll have a home game atmosphere — anything but rivalrous. And yeah, I made that word up.
They’re purportedly playing this one in prime-time based on the 8 PM kickoff, but there’s just something about BTN prime time that says it ain’t real prime time. Hell, we’re liable to get Matt Millen again as color analyst. I don’t know about you, but I don’t regard Matt as one of PSU’s more articulate products. I’d rather see Spice Adams, a recent BTN hire, in the broadcast booth. I hope they’re training him for the job. He’s hilarious.
And isn’t the BTN the outfit that spent lots of time during the PSU-Indiana game covering some kids trying to get some wayward footballs out of a fir tree? Do they call those “firballs”? Yeah, I guess I can empathize with the Fox production crew in this case. The damn game was boring as hell when the easily distracted director switched to Firball Cam.
When the forthcoming game doesn’t provide much to talk about, I get like this. Pure bullshit mode is what it is. I run off at the keyboard, but what the hell? It’s my blog, so I can do whatever the hell I want, even if the net effect is reducing my readership from six to four! Trying to find interesting things to write about a crappy opponent is almost like dancing with a midget broad. Whatever you say to her goes right over her head, but her head is right where you want it to be. How that applies here, I know not. I guess I just wanted to lace this prosaic post with non-sequiturs reminiscent of James Franklin’s press conferences. But I digress.
I can think this way, but they can’t!
As I said, it would be beyond embarrassing if Rutgers were to even score any points, let alone play competitively. The danger is in the young Nittany Lions letting their back-door #9 ranking and the 27.5-point spread go to their heads and getting into a “we can’t lose” mindset. They will have to show up and play.
Perhaps Iowa, Minnesota, and Indiana were cocky enough to believe they didn’t have to play. Although they all won, the scores were 14-7, 34-32, and 33-27, respectively. Folks, I hope James Franklin can juice his team up for the Rutgers game like Jim Harbaugh, Urban Meyer, and Mark Dantonio did with theirs to produce their shutout results. Anything less than a shutout is unacceptable.
The preceding paragraph’s name droppage is merely flashing my ability to recall the names of some Big Ten head coaches. When my memory actually works, I display it with pride. When it doesn’t, I make shit up. See? But I digress yet again.
All right, maybe the shutout is a stretch, but they sure as hell better hadn’t get caught with their pants down. The Big Ten Championship game is so tantalizingly near, but yet so far. Two games and an Ohio State win over Michigan stand in the Nittany Lions’ way between being a conference also-ran and being in the big game. They can’t do anything about Ohio State and Michigan, but they need to show up ready to play against Rutgers and Moo U. Focus, boys!
The sweet low-down: how low can you go?
You can go pretty low in the case of Rutgers. Their rushing defense, for example, ranks 124th out of 128 FBS teams. If the Penn State offensive line can manage to do a halfway credible job, Saquon Barkley could have a field day. The Scarlet Knights will probably load up the box to dare Trace McSorley to pass, but the Rutgers passing efficiency defense ranks 106th. PSU has got them coming and going — on paper. Barkley has 1,113 yards rushing, while Rutgers has given up 2,513, the absolute worst in the Big Ten.
Offensive numbers are similarly fetid for Rutgers. Oy, vey! They’re 127th in total offense. Behind the running of senior running back Justin Goodwin, the Scarletinas manage to rank as high as a tie for 88th in rushing offense. Goodwin has 98 attempts for 411 yards this season, an average of 4.2 ypc. His best game was a 97 yard effort against Minnesota. Good luck to him against the Big Ten’s ninth best rushing defense, which is at least better than Rutgers’ fourteenth place run-stoppers or sieves or whatever you want to call them.
The Scarlet Knights’ passing offense is even worse, ranking 122nd nationally and, of course, last in the conference. After the Illinois game, Rutgers switched Italians at quarterback, replacing senior Chris Laviano with red-shirt sophomore Giovanni Rescigno. (Fuggedaboudit! I think that the late Tony Soprano must be pulling da strings here — see below. By the way, anybody heard from Laviano since the Illinois game?). Rescigno has completed 52.8% of his passes for 638 yards, with five touchdowns and five interceptions in his four games at the helm. Just in case you were wondering, Laviano stood at 48.3% when he sat down or when he took a ride in the woods. Whatever.
What Penn State needs to improve.
Yeah, the third-down crap needs to improve, man. You might patiently explain to me that this is a big-play offense that doesn’t have to convert many third downs, but I’m calling bullshit on that. Against defenses like Maryland and Rutgers, maybe you don’t have to convert many, but in tough games with tough defenses where the offense must grind it out, the short game is like totally important, man.
The good news is that the Nittany Lions have improved, albeit slightly. Now, they are ranked fifth from the bottom in the FBS, and they’re out of the Big Ten cellar, thanks to Illinois. Penn State’s third-down percentage is now 28.5%, a full 4.0% better than last place Bowling Green.
The Nittany Lions now look pretty good in turnover margin, with a +5, thanks to Indiana’s five fumbles. It’s middle of the pack in the Big Ten, particularly when compared with B10 leader Ohio State at +12, but it’s out of negative territory and on the upswing. Let’s keep it that way! Rutgers stands at -5, so perhaps our defense can get them to cough up a few. In the Moo U. game, in which they barely had possession of the ball, Rescigno managed to throw two interceptions while the Spartans had no turnovers at all.
Of course, the disarray on the Penn State offensive line needs to get fixed. This will be a good game to get back on track.
Finally, how about surprising the shit out of us by playing four good quarters instead of waking up for the second half or worse, just before the fourth quarter, as in the Indiana game?
Extraneous Bullshit — Alumnus of the Week
No, Skip, I’m not going to feature Asia Carrera this year. Sorry. *
This week’s alumnus of the week is the late James Joseph Gandolfini, Jr. (1961 – 2013), an American actor whose most famous role was that of Tony Soprano, leader of a mafia crime family in New Jersey. The Sopranos stands as one of the best crime drama series ever produced for television.
Gandolfini garnered great praise for his performance, winning three Emmy Awards, three Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, and one Golden Globe Award.
Born in Westwood, New Jersey to an Italian immigrant bricklayer father and an American mother, a high school cafeteria lunch lady who was raised in Naples, Gandolfini was about as authentically New Jersey Italian as it gets. They spoke Italian in his house as he was growing up. He graduated from Park Ridge High School in 1979, and from Rutgers in 1982. He earned a BA in Communications there.
Sadly, the world lost a treasure in 2013, when Gandolfini unexpectedly died of a heart attack in Rome.
Right now, da fuckin’ forecast calls for Saturday to be mostly sunny and nice with a high of 64°F and a low around 42°F. Good wedda for a one-way drive in da country, capisce? Fuggedaboudit!
The Bottom Line
As I previously stated, on paper this one is already in the win column. However, the temptation to “mail it in” could wreck that whole notion. I’m somewhat worried that this young team will take Rutgers too lightly, like Cousin Chris took Tony Soprano too lightly. We don’t want to see the Nittany Lions getting whacked like Chris, so they best be vigilant, focused, and committed to earning a victory.
Having said all that, look at the damn spread, will you? Penn State is favored by 27½ points, already. The over/under is set ridiculously high at 62. This suggests a Penn State victory of leviathan proportions as viewed by the bookies, and if you don’t pay up they’ll break your legs, so you better listen. Yeah, on paper, it’s about 45-17, but on the field, it’ll be more like Penn State 52, Rutgers 3. Take the under.
I’ll be back after the game with some impertinent comments and the obligatory Turkey Wrap.
*But wait, there’s more. Skip has been having some health issues, so I felt bad about not favoring him with a picture of Asia Carrera, who attended Rutgers. He might have been looking forward to this week and I don’t want to disappoint him, although I couldn’t disappoint him anywhere near as much as the Cornhuskers did in their recent loss to tOSU. Anyhow, for you, Skip, here’s a couple of “then and now” pictures of dat broad Asia Carrera, née Jessica Steinhauser:
OMG, Asia what happened!
The Nittany Turkey says
Time and tide… She looks like she could use some Tide. I don’t think she’s getting too many video roles at 43.
Big Al says
That after picture sure won’t help Skip with his health issues – unless his health issue is sexual addiction.
Big Al says
Penn State will win this game but I wouldn’t call it a bye. It will probably follow a similar script as the last 2 road games – low scoring 1st half, tied at half time, and State pulls away in the 2nd half. Let’s say a final score of State 30 Rutgers 13. Take Rutgers getting 27points and the under.
Under Franklin, the team’s peak performances have occurred in the 7th through 9th games and they’ve limped through the final 3 games of the regular season. Unlike the first two years, this year’s final two opponents are B1G bottom feeders, so they probably won’t lose those games. But I don’t expect any performances that will impress the CFP committee.
Karma is a bitch but she does have a sense of humor. When State attempted that field goal with one minute left in the Indiana game, I thought Indiana was going to block the kick and return it for a touchdown. Since that didn’t happen, I figure that Karma has bigger plans for State and has decided to make us this year’s Iowa.
So, reading Karma’s mind, I predict the following:
-Penn State will beat Rutgers and Moo U,
-State will lose to Wisconsin in the B1G championship game on a last minute touchdown drive that consumes most of the fourth quarter,
-We will be curb stomped by USC in the Rose Bowl, (while Wisconsin loses to Alabama by 40 points in the CFP)
-Franklin will get a Ferenz-like contract extension during the off season, and
-State will finish 7-5 next year, but beat Michigan on a game ending field goal in the annual white-out.
The Nittany Turkey says
Now that’s a set of predictions for the ages or for Karma, whoever she is (maybe Asia’s cousin — who knew?).
Should your predictions be fulfilled, you and Miss Karma (star of the epic film “The Devil in Miss Karma”) will bring about some closure for some loose ends that have been nagging at me for some time. One ring will be closed with the Wisconsin loss in Indianapolis. We’ve already lost to USC in the Rose Bowl, so that one isn’t a loose end or a closure of the circle. What was it, 38-24 in 2009?
Your Franklin prognostication brought me an eerie sense of calm. Franklin is a “love to hate” sort of coach, which polarizes fandom. Many Sanguinarians and doubters alike can join together in their disdain for Franklin, while similar solidarity exists on the other side of the pole, with Sanguinarians and Agnostics uniting in their support of the wondrous recruiter and orator. In that sense, Franklin is a uniter.
Beating one good team unexpectedly has been a long-standing habit of the PSU teams of the past two decades. So, is losing to one gawd-awful team. You picked UM for the anomalous win. It’s as good as any.
UNLESS, of course, either an angel sits on their shoulder or they sold their soul to the devil, one or the other. Those are the only two notions that can explain some of the shit that’s been going on. In the Ohio State win, it took favorable happenstance coupled with the complicity of a non-call by B10 officials, who have historically slanted decisions away from Penn State. This makes me believe that there is indeed some kind of mysticism at play, whether it be angelic or satanic.
Karma is more complex. You have to do something to somebody for it to come back and get you.
Oh, but we can bullshit, can’t we?
Anyhow, now Paris Palmer is gone for the year. Under normal circumstances, I’d rejoice, but he did take up a lot of space and we are devoid of replacements. Mahon was still in the hospital last I heard. We might be able to handle Rutgers without an O-Line, but when Moo U. comes to town, they’ll be licking their chops. So, Franklin and his boys better come up with something better than moving guys from guard to tackle and so forth. I feel for them — there ain’t much can be done when two starters and a statue are out with long-term injuries.
Big Al says
Well, Miss Karma is more likely to work in Bollywood than in porn films but she’s well versed in the Kama Sutra.
I was only half serious with most of those predictions. I do expect two of them to come true – State will wind up in the B1G championship game and Franklin will get a contract extension. The Rose Bowl bid is not very likely (although USC probably will win the PAC 12 championship) since the Rose Bowl will invite the Blue Weasels if State loses the championship game and Wisconsin gets a CFP invitation. I’d bet the ranch that tOSU wins out and gets into the playoffs, even if that means passing over Wisconsin for the playoffs
I agree that Moo U is fully capable of beating the Lions. In fact, their defense scheme is based upon packing the box and leaving their cornerbacks on an island. So, unlike Indiana last Saturday, they won’t be amateurs at using that strategy. But I wonder if they will “show up ready to play”. (I hate that cliché – what else would they “show up” for – an afternoon nap or a Saturday brunch?). Ohio State will take Sparty’s best shot this Saturday at East Lansing. After that shot misses the mark, the players won’t have a whole lot left for Penn State. They’ll probably be thinking about turning in their equipment and going home for the holidays instead of preparing to play in a hostile environment like the Beav.
The Nittany Turkey says
I was going to say something about the Rose Bowl. You took the words out of my mouth. I have a feeling that the playoffs and the Rose Bowl will be divided between UM and tOSU, one way or the other. And I agree that Wisconsin is likely to be highly pissed off before this is all over, as they’ll wind up in Orlando instead of the playoff bowls or the Rose. (I would love to be a fly on the wall when it is Barry Alvarez’s turn to speak if this should happen to come to pass in the playoff committee inner sanctum).
At this point, Moo U. has something to prove and, yeah, there is a part of me that agrees that they’ll go all in on tOSU, considering the season a total loss if they fail in that endeavor. On the other hand, Dantonio isn’t a guy who is likely to let up, although his players might want to. No doubt that he is sick of being called a failure this year. So, who knows?
Any way I look it this, PSU gets in way the hell over their head at some point. Indianapolis, perhaps. If not there, then the bowl game. But ya nevah know!
Relax fellas all this talk about the Conference Championships, Rose Bowls and National Playoffs, geez these Lions still have to win two games and Meeechigan still has to lose to the Bucknuts!
So on Saturday Night PS will beat Rutgers, I think by a lot, but one never knows what will happen in North Jersey this time of year and that’s where I’m going to leave it because we’re one injury away on that O-line (although McGovern practiced today) from having to either burn red shirts or move some guys who have taken zero snaps to the front lines-and none of those options are good.
Remember Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers and Rutgers.
Oh and can anyone say eight team playoffs?
The Nittany Turkey says
Yes, that’s correct. I was hypothesizing, as was Al. Playing “what if?” is the province of the sports fan. Alls I can say (to spout Jerseyesque English) is that it is what it is, but what it is and what it can be are not necessarily convergent paths; essentially, it can be what I say it can be. I consider Rutgers a bye week, but those guys on the field better not.
The Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers crapola spewed by Franklin via Twitter is for them, not for me. My wild-ass flights of fancy will continue without due deference to Franklin’s wishes.
I can say eight team playoff, but I don’t know what the hell good it will do or who will listen. For reasons known only to me and everyone else, I won’t join in that debate, because in the end, if the NCAA and her participating institutions of purportedly higher learning can figure out how to make more money on the playoffs through the efforts of their indentured gladiators (sometimes mistakenly called student athletes), they will.
Now, let’s say PSU makes it to the playoffs by some strange quirk of fate (which would be OSU losing to Moo U. and Michigan losing to Indiana and somehow Wisconsin losing to PSU in the conference championship, perhaps because they forgot where Indianapolis was). Hey, nobody thought Houston would knock off Louisville, either, already, now did they? Anyhow, once PSU hits the playoffs, anything can happen. Maybe the angel is on their shoulder or maybe Satan is watching over them. Once there, they win the first round because Alabama entire Tide defense was caught smoking pot in the boiler room at Bryant-Denny stadium. And they win the finals because Washington’s plane gets hijacked to Cuba. It’s plausible, I tell you. It can happen. Either the angel or Satan will ensure it. And by golly, if I say it will, it will!
The Nittany Turkey says
Has anyone noticed how much better the offense is doing with Trace McSorley than they did with Christian Hackenburg? 9-2 and averaging almost 36 points a game with the first upset win over a number 2 team in decades. This on top of losing a ton of defensive talent from last year. I don’t get it but I’ll take it.
The Nittany Turkey says
For sure lots of people can relate to your observation.
Hack had a few handicaps to offset the great arm he was blessed with. First, after Bill O’Brien left, the offensive system in which Hack was comfortable departed with BoB. What happened then was John Donovan, whose system blew. Secondly, McSorley has a good set of wheels, which Hack didn’t. With the offensive line being in even worse shape then than it is now, Hack found himself either running for his life or on his back all too often.
We knew that this team would have to score a lot of points this year because the defense wasn’t up to the shut-down standards of the past. Enter Joe Moorhead, who seems to understand how to get the most out of McSorley and his cadre of decent receivers, as well as mixing in runs by McSorley and Barkley.
Yeah, we’re doing much better on offense, and the defense is improving. If the patchwork offensive line holds up this weekend, and if we get a little help from our “friends” at tOSU, this overachieving will make it to Indianapolis.