Penn State hosts Nebraska on Saturday
The Corn Huskers are mere shadows of their former selves, so to speak. Big Red, who gave us some epic battles in the past, is a much smaller Red. Having endured coaching and recruiting issues, and the hiring of a new AD, they’re in third place in the weak Big Ten West, no threat to leader Wisconsin.
Unranked Nebraska (4-6, 3-4 Big Ten) arrives at St. Joe Memorial Stadium at Beaver needing a win there plus a win over Iowa the following week to be bowl eligible. Meanwhile, the #10 Nittany Lions (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) need to win out to ensure that they play on New Year’s Day instead of one of several Toilet Bowls. (The Nittany Turkey Shitty Bowl Name winner for the 2017-18 bowl season is the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in St. Petersburg, which beats out the former title holder Foster Farms (aka Tainted Chicken) Bowl in Santa Clara by a slim margin).
Nebraska is coming off a sound thrashing by Minnesota (5-5, 2-5), 54-21, while PSU put the clamps on Rutgers (4-6, 3-4) in a 35-6 Homecoming win at St. Joe.
Horrible Huskers: Coaching Turmoil for Two Decades
Things couldn’t be much worse for Nebraska. The Mike Riley Era, a failed exercise in coaching, is about to come to an end. With a potential 4-8 record this year the future couldn’t look much bleaker, but perhaps the darkest hour is before dawn. ESPN, who you all hate, ranked Nebraska #12 in its Big Ten Power Rankings (PSU was #3 after Wisconsin and You Know Who).
The new AD at Nebraska, Bill Moos said he would stick with Riley through the end of the season, even though the fans have been demanding his figurative execution since Wisconsin and tOSU demolished them in consecutive games. Riley is 19-17 in his tenure at Nebraska. They’re in danger of missing a bowl appearance, which has happened only twice since 1961.
Five Coaches in Twenty Years
Of course, there has been coaching turmoil at Nebraska since Frank Solich took over for retired legend Tom Osborne in 1998. Solich was eventually fired and replaced by Bill Callahan for the period from 2004-2007, when Callahan was also fired. Tom Osborne returned as AD, and hired Bo Pelini, who had worked as Solich’s defensive coordinator. All seemed to be going well until 2014, when Pelini was fired after having amassed a 67-27 record, winning at least nine games in every season. It was his big foul mouth, regularly expressed to the sports media and via social media, that did him in. Mike Riley was brought in from Oregon State, and there we are.
But I Digress. How are they on the field?
The Huskers undoubtedly would like to have Solich back to straighten out their defense. They’re next-to-last in total defense in the conference, last against the rush, and eighth against the pass. They’re also next-to-last in scoring defense.
Offensively, Nebraska is sixth overall — 8th in passing (#32 in the FBS) and dead last in rushing (#114 in the FBS).
In their last outing, against Minnesota, the Auric Subterranean Rodents out-gained the Corn Huskers 514 yards to 380. Clearly, not a pitchers’ duel. Of Nebraska’s 380 yards, 311 were passing and only 69 were on the ground, where they ran the ball 33 times for a measly 2.1 yard average. Worst of all, Little Big Red gave up 409 yards rushing. Oy vey!
In the Ohio State game, Nebraska allowed a humongous 633-yard offensive performance by the Buckeyes, consisting of “only” 279 yards rushing and “only” 354 yards passing. Ohio State almost tripled Nebraska’s first down production, 41-15. Complete humiliation.
Sandwiched between the Ohio State and Minnesota loss, the Huskers pulled one out in West Lafayette. They did put up some good passing stats of 32-50 for 431 yards, although their rushing was typically putrid, with 27 attempts gaining only 40 total yards.
So, you could say that Nebraska is a passing team, and not much else. Junior Quarterback Tanner Lee leads the passing effort. This season he is 198-346 for 2539 yards, with 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He’s been sacked 12 times. Leading rusher, Devine Ozigbo, has only 468 yards on 119 carries and two touchdowns this year.
What Penn State Needs to Do
Simply stated, play its game, don’t shoot itself in the foot, and a win will happen for Penn State. Even facing the worst rushing defense in the conference, I don’t see any great hope for the revival of the Nittany Lions’ rushing game. You saw how crappily the offensive line performed against Rutgers, who had the second worst rushing defense at the time. So, if they relax, play their game, take what the defense will give them, don’t turn the ball over, and don’t kill themselves with penalties, PSU should win easily.
Only God can accurately forecast Central Pennsylvania weather at this time of year. But since AccuWeather is an outgrowth of the Penn State Meteorology department, sorta kinda, where I worked in 1964, they’re as good as any other mortals. They’re declaring a shitty day with periods of rain and a high of 45°, with a low of 29°. Winds will be from the south at 14 mph, with gusts to 20 mph. Snow is in the forecast for Sunday.
Kickoff is at 4 PM, so throw some darkness into the second-half picture, willya?
In other words, more typical Central Pennsylvania late fall weather is in the offing, and I hope that by this time, the Nittany Lions have learned how to handle the ball in the rain and cold. Crappy weather favors the running game, but because neither of these two have one, ball handling and passing accuracy are going to be of prime importance.
Da Bottom Line
Yes, it’s time for the Official Turkey Poop Prediction, which is typically about as foul-smelling as the awful fowl offal from whence its moniker and aroma emanate.
Our buddies the bookies opened up the bidding at PSU – 24, and that has since increased to 26, with an over/under of 56. This works out to a break even score of approximately 41-14, in favor of Penn State.
Well, lemme see. I think the weather will keep the scoring down a bit, but I think Nebraska might well be able to complete some passes and do some damage. The Nittany Lions have to come out and play four quarters of decent football, and then the game will take care of itself. Focus! This is the time of the season that separates stalwart men from weary boys. Penn State 38, Nebraska 13. Take the under.
I’ll be back after the game with a complete rundown on the less than epic battle in a less than full Beaver Stadium.