Penn State Hosts Ball State in Home Opener
The Ball State Cardinals (1-0, 0-0 MAC), last year’s MAC champions come to St. Joe Memorial Stadium at Beaver Field Saturday at 3:30 PM offer themselves as a sacrifice to the football gods. The heavily favored #11 Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0, 1-0 B10) will seek to improve to 2-0 in front of a packed house.
Ball State is coming off a not very impressive 31-21 over Missouri Valley Conference Western Illinois, while Penn State, as you well know, beat Wisconsin ugly last week, with an anemic ground game and several gifts from God through His servant Graham Mertz. Sanguinarians now predict a 12-0 season and a playoff berth for PSU, as you know, but this Penn State team should easily handle the Cardinals. Should, I said — unless they’re too preoccupied looking ahead to Auburn next week.
Ball State’s secondary was porous against W Ill, allowing 367 passing yards, but their rushing defense held the Leathernecks to just 70 yards. It would be nice if Penn State would manage to do better than last week’s 50 yards on the ground. A couple of sustained drives by the Nittany Lion offense in the first half would earn major appreciation by the weary defense.
Penn State’s secondary was competent last week, and they’ll need to remain so this week. Ball State’s Super Senior Justin Hall leads the FBS with 265 career receptions. Last week, Hall had eight catches for 137 yards against Western Illinois.
The Cardinals are a well-seasoned bird, with most of their team returning from last year, including sixteen fifth-year seniors.
I hope the Penn State rushing game works in the first half, because I will be bored otherwise. The offensive line play will be key. They weren’t remarkably effective last week, but that was Wisconsin. How about a hundred-yard day for No(v)ah Cain, for starters?
And the kicking game. Franklin explained that there are three parts to the kicking game: the snap, the hold, and the kick. He said the laces weren’t positioned right. That sounds like my excuse on the golf course. My shoes are laced up wrong. Yeah, that’s it. (I know the ball position on the hold is critical but come on. A missed extra point and a chip shot field goal?) Get that act together!
Last week, I failed miserably. I took the “over” and had Wisconsin scoring 42. The PSU defense is better than I thought, and they should easily handle David Letterman U this week. But the Cardinals are a hard-working, experienced squad, and they won’t be showering us with gift cards like Wisconsin did. Or should I just reduce it to Graham Mertz? Yeah, he’s the guy hanging in effigy in Madison as I write this.
Saturday is forecast to be a genuinely nice late summer day in University Park: partly sunny with a high of 74. I’d love to be there instead of steamy Central Florida!
Da Bottom Line
Time now for the fallible forecast, the Official Turkey Poop Prediction, that awful offal extruded by this foul fowl. Yessssssss! And it counts!
The gamblers have made Penn State a 22½-point favorite, with an over/under of 57½. A little math reveals that this represents a break-even with the Nittany Lions winning 40-17 or some such thing. If Western Illinois can score 21 on Ball State, I believe Penn State can double that — IF they can muster some semblance of a running game. Relying on “explosive” plays (low percentage plays, in other words) can be a dangerous game. Not much chance of outright losing this one, but will they cover? I’m thinking they’ll put 32 on the board and allow 13, Just because I think Justin Hall can give our secondary some trouble. Yeah, that’s it. They ain’t going to cover the spread. I’ll go with Penn State 32, Ball State 13. Take the under.
(I’ll be back after the game with my sparkling witticisms, seasoned with a few I-told-you-sos).