Okay, that was sarcastic.
The #18 Penn State Nittany Lions (0-1) host the #3 Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0) in what will be a vacuum-packed monster mash on Halloween in Beaver Stadium (which will eventually be known as something like St. Joe Memorial Field at Verizon Beaver when the $73.5 million fund raising campaign to resolve the football program shortfall sells naming rights to the highest bidder). Penn State will be dressing up as a football team. Trick or treat!
Just like how the looming national election is being touted as the most important, consequential, monumental, and other similar superlatives, adjectives which we encounter every four years, this version of the Game of the Century ain’t all that.
Why, you ask?
Why, you ask? Because I said so. And in your mind of minds, you say so, too. The best indication of that was in some of the responses to a post on Facebook asking what must happen for PSU to win, which evoked responses such as “Ohio State’s bus breaks down” or “Ohio State’s top 70 players test positive for Covid-19”. Such disrespect for mighty Penn State, already!
What does eloquent Penn State head coach James Franklin have to say about the forthcoming game? Here it is, courtesy of Twitter:
Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State!#WeAre
— James Franklin (@coachjfranklin) October 25, 2020
The silver-tongued, pseudo-selfless James, who attempts to emulate George H. W. Bush‘s technique taught to him by Bush’s mother to not use “I” in his public speech, fails to convince us on that score. However, from the Tweet above, we can glean that he knows how to spell Ohio State. Ohyesyesyes! Moreover, he didn’t miss a single comma or the terminal exclamation point. I’ll add that George H. W. Bush famously stated, “Fluency in English is not something I’m often accused of.”
As for Franklin, same old crap, only with more iterations. Vintage James Franklin is an old dog that resists learning new tricks, like effective clock management.
But I digress, as usual. What of this game?
Vell, I’ll tellya. I don’t hold out much hope. I’d add a couple things to the list of Facebook responses I mentioned above. Do everything quarterback Justin Fields smacks his head on a leaky steam pipe at Beaver Stadium, suffering a concussion with attendant amnesia. Or Ryan Day is so disoriented by the absence of a white-out that he and his team cannot find the stadium. Dumbass comments, but they’re the best I could concoct. You get the picture.
The big hope is that tOSU’s running game will sputter as it did against Nebraska in their rust-laden initial outing. They tried a bunch of runs, for which Scott Frost had prepared his defense. When Day saw what was going on, he gave the ball back to his baller and he balled. Justin Fields, that is. Running and passing, this boy is a star. Passing numbers of 20-21 for 276 yards and two touchdowns are damn near perfect — except when you add 15 carries for 54 more yards and a touchdown on the ground, you get a guy who can do it all.
Defensively, though, the Schmuckeyes allowed 370 total yards, including 210 yards rushing, in that game against Big Red. ‘Braska was able to get 5.8 yards per carry. Adrian Martinez managed to complete 12 of 15 for 105 yards passing.
Turkey’s Pretentious Keys to the Game
The Nebraska game performance doesn’t look as lopsided as the final score of 52-17 would make it appear. Yes, there is a glimmer of hope if Penn State can get its passing attack in gear and figure out who should be running the ball, but THEY MUST STOP JUSTIN FIELDS. The last part of that is going to be difficult, but the running game is problematical, too, given that both Journey Brown and Noah Cain are done for the season. It will be Devyn “I’m Taking It In” Ford and two freshman prospects providing the rushing offense.
It goes without saying (so I’ll say it) that the following are trusims, courtesy of the late Frank Gifford, as sardonically mocked by the late Howard Cosell:
- Turnovers’ll killya.
- Penalties’ll killya.
- Mistakes’ll killya.
Speaking of errors, missed field goals suck! We all thought we PSU was sound at the kicker position going into the Indiana game. Now, not so much.
I’ll stop using “I” for a while, so can sound like Franklin. Didn’t see much hope for the passing game against Indiana. Not going to know much about it until seeing it perform against Ohio State’s defense. Had to run a dumbed-down offense due to limited practice opportunities. Missed lots of open targets. Not many “chunk” plays. Lacked “explosiveness”. Too few “explosive” plays. (I’m sure as hell getting tired of hearing Franklin use that word “explosive”.). See Jahan Dotson run. Run run run. Oh Oh Oh. Won’t happen this week. No No No.
I’m back to writing in the first person. ????? ??? ???? ??????? Screw it!
I agree with ESPN’s Matchup Predictor, which is based on ESPN’s Football Power Index. ???? ??? ???? It gives PSU a 21% chance of winning. p = .21
Did I mention last year’s score of 28-17 at the Horseshoe? It has little relevance to this year’s outcome, but I thought I would mention it anyway because it was one game in which the confusion factor of a Will Levis run paid off. The Lions had a helluva third quarter after trailing 21-0. Jake Pinegar made a 42-yard field goal in the miraculous comeback, part of the 17 unanswered points. It didn’t even get close to either upright. Alas, nothing happened in the final stanza except for tOSU scoring a meaningless Fields to Olave touchdown to seal the victory.
So, what kind of weather will we see in Beaver Stadium? Funny you should ask. I haven’t looked it up yet. Hang on and I will. Okay, I’m back. Ahh, late October in State College. Wait fifteen minutes and it will change. (Wait! They say that everywhere!) Kickoff time temperature is forecast to be 38°, which should hold steady for the game. Winds will be 7 MPH, with no precipitation forecast. A slightly chilly game for the fans, but since no fans will be there, nobody cares.
Official, Lame Turkey Poop Prediction
For you nonexistent new readers, this is the section of my weekly pre-game column where I issue my out-of-the-ass prognostication for the game ahead. I call that the Official Turkey Poop Prediction (OTPP), because like all sportswriter predictions (only worse), it is an awful, steaming pile of offal. And you can take that to the bank. (Or more likely, the poor house).
What do the gamblers think? They are laying off Penn State, that’s for sure. ???? ??????? ???? That p = .21 is sure looming large in their thinking, with the money line as lopsided as it is. However, tOSU is favored by 12 now, with an over/under of 63.5. The spread might tempt some. Just remember 52-17 was the outcome of the Nebraska game. (I know. I know. We’re not Nebraska, already!).
Now, let’s translate the present gambling imbalance to the score the betting suggests, which is 38-26 (Penn State on the losing side, of course). How does this intrepid turkey see the game? I think the defense will overcommit to Fields, which won’t make any difference because he’ll get his yards one way or the other. Absent a strong and persistent presence of PSU defenders in the backfield, the Schmuckeyes will win this one going away in a walkover. What’s that you say? We always keep it close in Beaver Stadium? Not this time. Penn State 23, Ohio State 49. Take the over.
I’ll be back after the game with some comments if I have time before the Steelers take on the Ravens in The Game of the Century.
lawrence hamilton says
I don’t see how one week of practice is going to make a difference for this team. Maybe if the next opponent was Maryland, Northwestern, Rutgers, Minnesota…maybe, just maybe, they could pull their act together and get an upset, yes, upset win against them. But, OSU? No way can the team and coaches figure out how woebegone they looked after their first 8 minutes on the field last Saturday.
Clifford had an outstanding game….except for the two cartoonish interceptions he seemingly threw intentionally to the IU defenders. Indiana is not that good of a team but PSU made them look like it. They were good enough and well coached to take advantage of PSU’s boneheaded plays and gawdy mistakes. Special teams? Oy vey!
Last weeks game was a big shock and seemed like watching a slow moving bus slide sideways and crash into your beloved Prius with you at the wheel…oh my God, tell me this isn’t really happening!
The Nittany Turkey says
Great analogy, except you would have to substitute a politically incorrect gas guzzler for the beloved Prius. Otherwise, I am impelled to go watch train wreck videos on YouTube.
Fields can be a one-man wrecking crew. (I hate that hackneyed characterization, so I use it anyway). He missed on only one of twenty-one passes. I guess receivers get to be open because if the defense tries to contain Fields as a runner, someone’s got to get open. It must be cool to have the option to find an open man or just run for it and get the first down either way. Until someone stops Fields, I am not going to believe doing so is possible.
The PSU defense has surprised at times, but hey… Luketa’s targeting ejection, which sidelines him for the first half on Saturday, doesn’t help a defense already seriously missing Micah Parsons. I dunno, but I think Fields might just tax them to the limit. If tOSU isn’t up by at least 17 at halftime, I’m the stupidest turkey in the coop.
And if Devyn “I’m Taking It to Da House” Ford doesn’t mature into the role of starting running back, there are a couple of promising but raw freshmen to train. I think Ciarocca and his offense are overwhelmed at this point, absent any semblance of stability. Since Dotson is the only proven receiver, no doubt he’ll be well covered on Saturday. I have to agree with you that 20 more hours of practice won’t get this offensive train back on the tracks.
Thanks for your comments! I hope they surprise the hell out of us all on Saturday. It keeps “almost happening” so a combination of Giffordesque negatives — penalties, turnovers, mistakes: they all killya — might save our asses.
Big Al says
I don’t see Penn State getting more than 17 points in this game, so tOSU’s margin of victory will depend upon how well the Kitties defense holds up. If Urbz were still the head coach I could see the Schmuckeyes offense playing super conservative to avoid turnovers and winning 24-14. However, Day is probably going to be more aggressive and try to end the game by half time. So I’ll go with tOSU 42 Dear Old State 14.
I don’t think we’ll really know how good (or bad) this year’s Penn State team is until they play Nebraska. The lack of depth at all the skill positions is a real concern with COVID hanging over their heads. I’m afraid we’re a couple of positive tests away from a 2 win season.
The Nittany Turkey says
What, you’re assuming they’ll beat Maryland? LOL.
I agree that Nebraska is the start of the most interesting stretch of the schedule, with Iowa, Michigan, and Schiano Part Deux immediately following.
I hadn’t thought about the lack of depth/Covid-19 connection. Obviously, you’re right that a couple positives could decimate the already thin RB, TE and WR corps.
But then again, nobody knew what to expect of this pseudo-season in this FUBAR year of 2020.
Got you for 42-14. I hope they deliver more than 14 points, but that will require some screw-ups by tOSU, which they might have gotten out of their system last week.
The Nittany Turkey says
And speaking of Maryland, did you happen to catch the Minnesota-Maryland game Friday night? The turtles won it 45-44 in OT. PSU defense is going to have its hands full with another slippery QB, who happens to be Tua’s younger bro. Taulia was 26-35 for 394 yards and 3 TDs with one INT. He also ran 8 times for 59 yards and 2 TDs. Uh huh. Let’s see how the D does with Justin Fields, then worry about Maryland.
But there is a bright spot: Mike Locksley might be Franklin’s equal in the manly art of clock management. Also, but for a missed extra point by a nervous Minnesota kicker, they might still be playing! And then, there’s P.J. Fleck, whose team blew a 17-point lead going into the fourth quarter. Plenty of incompetence all around.
Do NOT look past Maryland!
K. John says
I am not sure how this one is going to go. The kicking game has the looks of a season long disaster. I liked what I saw out of the offense in general. Clifford has some footwork and delivery issues as a result of be tortured, I mean coached by Ricky Rahne for two years. Remember what Rahne did to Hackenberg in two years who was nearly flawless at the end of his freshmen season. The receiver position is a train wreck however. Running back is still OK as soon as Ford gets some carries under his belt. Defensively, Lamont Wade is still the weakest link when opponents throw the ball but linebacker and defensive end are strong points. We’ll see how they hold up to a legitimate attempt to run the ball as they all project as NFL linebackers.
In what I consider to be a lost season, I don’t hold much hope. I predicted we would finish the initial 8 game slate 4 and 4. I see no reason to back down from that now. I could see us falling below that. I think we’ll give Ohio State a fight for at least the first half. After that, probably not much. The final score will likely depend on how realistic Franklin is about winning. Keep it respectable or try to win and have OSU capitalize any any mistake. Coaches never admit it but they do play for moral victories.
Ohio State – 48
Penn State – 21
The Nittany Turkey says
Your growing confidence in the offense is reflected in your prediction of 21 points. (Given the efficacy — or lack of same — of the special teams, I’m assuming that your 21 points consist of three TDs, two missed extra points, and two-point conversion run in by Clifford).
Hackenberg never recovered from his Penn State experience; I hope it’s not too late for Clifford.
You really think Franklin would play for a moral victory? What would that mean? Trying to keep tOSU’s margin of victory to no more than four touchdowns, which would put it in line with your prediction? Got you for 48-21.
In rewatching the game, PSU, especially clifford, played much better in the second half. Clifford still can’t go thru his progression efficiently, but he was better than the first half and in general, the way he finished the season last year. Doctson and some of the other WRs ran some decent routes. This must have been lost in the bourbon fog that set in around my chair during the game.
I don’t think PSU comes out strong, and tries playing catch up for most of the game. So far, I have OSU -6.5 for the first half and OSU over 19.5 first half. Any other wagers will be done live.
K. John says
The reason he couldn’t work through the progression is because he had no game experience doing it until last weekend. In the previous offense, the concept of progression through the route tree did not exist.
The QB had very little freedom under Moorhead/Rahne by design because it was built for limited dual threat passers. It carried over once he left because Rahne couldn’t or wouldn’t evolve the offense to suit Clifford.
The Nittany Turkey says
I agree that unlike Nebraska, PSU will come out with its collective head up its voluminous ass in the first half and will be playing catch-up until they cry “Uncle!” sometime in the third quarter when the dawn of realization raises its crepuscular head, metaphorically speaking as it were.
In other words, I think we’re fucked.
Your bets seem reasonable to me, and I hope the bourbon is capable of generating a euphoric fog, because that kind of feeling sure as hell won’t be instilled by watching PSU’s red-zone drives ending with missed FGs.
The Nittany Turkey says
You cashed in on the first half. Did you do anything live?
Not much there that made me want to pull the trigger. Figured I’d finish ahead.
Side note-we had the best halloween here. No masks, groups of kids roaming about, cookouts, campfires, local PD and FD getting in on the action. My one neighbor is an ex-green beret sniper and we were swapping booze/MRE recommendations.
It was so nice and releiving to have just some semblance of normalcy that the PSU game was secondary.
The Nittany Turkey says
Saturday early game halftime stuff — Trevor Lawrence out having tested positive for Covid-19 and it shows, as BC is up 28-14 on Clemson at the break. Meanwhile, Moo U. is beating their haughty Harbaugh rivals from Ann Arbor 14-10 after having played horribly in their loss to Rutgers last week. Our old friends from Coastal Carolina are putting the big hurt on Georgia State 41-0. Finally, Wisconsin at Nebraska was CANCELLED due to Covid-19 positivity rate among the teams. Cancelled means it won’t be made up, I would think. Illinois QB Brandon Peters also tested positive.
This train wreck of a season just got train wreckier!