Idaho Vandals (4-7, 3-5 Big Sky) vs. #15 Penn State (9-4, 6-3 Big Ten)
This will be a lame post for a few reasons. Primarily, I have much more going on in my life than I know how to handle. On top of that, Category 4 Hurricane Dorian is targeting this area on Monday. Therefore, writing is a temporary therapeutic distraction for me, but I do not expect this piece to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Besides, the outcome of this game is hardly in doubt.
Who are the Idaho Vandals?
The Vandals, winners of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl as recently as 2016, have had losing records since then. After the 2017 season, Idaho and New Mexico State were dropped by the Sun Belt Conference, who picked up Coastal Carolina. Meanwhile Idaho joined the Big Sky Conference and New Mexico State became an Independent. The Vandals finished ninth of thirteen teams in the Big Sky Conference in 2018, resuming their losing ways.
The Idaho Vandals are coached by Bobby Petrino’s younger brother Paul, who has run the team since 2013, when the final record was 1-11. Since that time, Idaho has enjoyed only one winning season. That was the aforementioned 2016 9-4 season culminated by a Famous Idaho Potato Bowl victory over the Colorado State Rams, 60-51. Definitely not a pitchers’ duel!
Do not confuse Idaho with the two better teams in the Potato State, who both are coming off winning seasons. Last year, the Idaho State Bengals finished fourth in the Big Sky Conference while the #23 Boise State Broncos were first in the Mountain West. (They lost the championship to Fresno State, then played in the First Responders Bowl, which was aborted due to lightning).
Do I expect Penn State to show up?
It is good that the first game of the year is such a softy. The boys need a confidence-builder. Idaho gives them the opportunity to hone some skills and prepare their mindset for future endeavors. So, yeah, they show up, but they’ll be rough around the edges. Idaho might catch them off-guard once or twice, but I think the outcome is pretty well assured.
One thing I’ll be looking for if I even watch this game is the offensive line play of Penn State. Sean Clifford must have decent protection. His predecessor used his swift feet to get him out of jams, but Clifford is slower and as yet untried under pressure. He has a couple of decent receivers to target led by K.J. Hamler and Pat Friermuth, but how will he handle being hurried?
This game won’t tell us much. If I watch the game, I’ll expect to see a couple of long, score producing passing plays and maybe a long punt return or two from Hamler. However, seeing that kind of thing happen against Idaho will in no way clarify my outlook for the season.
Everybody is looking for a big year for Ricky Slade but we’re also likely to see Journey Brown and Devyn Ford. Given the new NCAA rules regarding red-shirting, true freshmen will be able to get more reps this year before donning the vermillion jersey. That includes Noah Cain.
Idaho has no defense, so no matter which members of the running back committee play, they will likely look good. Again, we have to keep an eye on the offensive line for clues to the season beyond Idaho.
I think this might be the bright spot, but again I will take a wait and see attitude. Micah Parsons is back, as is Yetur Gross-Matos. Cam Brown is back but won’t play the first half of Saturday’s game because of a targeting penalty in the bowl game against Kentucky. The secondary has lost some significant talent, so keep an eye on the new guys for a portent of what is to come later in the season. It is this turkey’s hope that they start strong and grow stronger as the season progresses.
Name the Player
Taking a break from the Idaho game for a moment, gaze intently at the photo you see here. Who are those guys? Hint: they played for Penn State and were co-captains of a Nittany Lions team. Which team was that and what positions did they play?
Extra points if you can respond without using search engines, other than the one in your brain.
I’m extremely worried about the weather here in Central Florida; I’m not worried at all about State College. Nevertheless, for the record, it appears that we’ll have a nice late-summer day at the Big Beave, partly cloudy with a forecast high of 75.
By the way, Accuweather changed its policy with respect to free widgets. I will seek a new weather widget for the front page of The Nittany Turkey when other priorities allow.
Da Bottom Line — Idaho Loses
Hell, most sports books are not touching this one with the proverbial fork! For grins, though, the consensus money line on Vegas Insider is 66,000 to 24,000 in favor of Penn State. You just don’t see 2-1 odds like that in serious games. Anyhow, the spread is PSU – 40 and the over/under is 58.5. That would portend a 49-9 Penn State victory. Giving up 40 points is something I would never do, in spite of Idaho’s literally being in a different league (and division). I could see this one ending 66-10, but I can just as easily see it being a sloppy game that winds up 35-3. I’m all over the map in my thoughts, which are mainly encumbered elsewhere, so I won’t make a prediction.
(I’ll be back after the game with another lame post!)