Franklin Said It, So It Must Be True
Dripping with sarcasm, Nittany Lions Head Coach James Franklin addressed the assembled media wonks yesterday. “This week with Michigan State and Coach [Mel] Tucker, who I’ve known for a long time and got a lot of respect for, obviously going to be a challenge coming into our place playing for maybe the most beautiful trophy in all of college football. If you guys haven’t seen it or anybody listening to this hasn’t seen it, look it up. The Land Grant Trophy is just a sight to be seen. It’s just beautiful.”
I’ve written about it before — many times — so, I won’t bore you with further bitching and moaning about it. Clearly, Franklin shares the opinion of about 99% of the college football community, but is too polite to decry the abomination it is before a public assemblage. His biting ironies will suffice for now. To sum up my feelings, this agglomeration of disparate, ugly, heterogeneous Dollar Store elements should be awarded to the loser, not the winner, of the annual Penn State vs. Michigan State game.
(And if I were the head buyer for Dollar Store, I’d quickly fire the clown who bought the crap pictured here!).
Big Day in College Football
All that having been said, #11 (still) Penn State (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) hosts Michigan State (5-6, 3-5 B10) on Senior Day in St. Joe Memorial Stadium at Beaver Field on Saturday at 4 PM, nicely sandwiched between the noon starts and 7-8 PM games. In the former category, we have the big game of the day for Big Ten and CFP watchers: the battle of undefeateds, #3 Michigan at #2 Ohio State. Later games of interest to playoff watchers will be #5 LSU at Texas A&M and #15 Notre Dame at #6 USC. In our time slot, the only viewers who care about Auburn at #7 Alabama live in the State of Alabama.
The Spartans are playing this game for more than pride. A win makes them bowl eligible. Meanwhile, the #11 Nittany Lions would like to wind up in a New Year’s Day Bowl*, and a win could seal that deal.
A Rich History
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, who retired a couple of years ago, contrived this rivalry when Penn State joined the league in 1993. It was never really a rivalry before it was manufactured by Delany, whose flimsy justification was that both institutions were original land grant schools. Since then, the Nittany Lions lead the series 15-10. However, back in those good old days that few of you remember, the land grant school we have nicknamed “Moo U.” would regularly beat the crap out of the Kitties. The only PSU win from 1914 to 1966 happened in October 1925, when the 20s were roaring and the stock market was soaring. Later, during my mid-century time at University Park in the Rip Engle days, Duffy Daugherty was the head coach of the Spartans, and Big Bubba Smith was a holy terror. Penn State lost at home 23-0 in 1965 and in 42-8 in East Lansing in 1966.
That Was Then and This Is Now
In the modern series, this game is often replete with surprises. Typically the last game of the regular season, emotions and the weather play a part in who might come out on top. Regrettably, the game was not scheduled in 2011, 2012, and 2013 because Delany was busy playing “Leaders and Legends.” If you don’t remember that, it’s like the damn Land Grant Trophy — I bitched about it at length back then, so I’ll let you do your own research. Or you can just let it be, because it suuuuuuuuucked.
Who Gon’ Win Dat Thang?
Last year, the Nittany Lions let the Spartans snatch away that trophy, winning 30-27 on their home turf. They will bring the trophyto Beaver Stadium with them on Saturday. One must hope it will be covered by an opaque drape of some kind. The aesthetically challenged prize will then adorn the trophy case of the lucky winner for a year going forward, with the year and the score engraved on one of the plethora of plates using a Boy Scout knife. (Whoever wins should keep the drape to avert psychological trauma to small children who might view the trophy case).
OK, I’ll quit bitching about the trophy. I promised. I lied.
Michigan State has some standout players, including a punter who leads the nation in punt average, and a decent defense at times, although they average 25.4 points per game on offense and allow 26.7 on defense. That typically makes for lots of punts, so it’s good they have some competence at that position.
You know that PSU beat Rutgers 55-10, and, as Franklin confirmed, they need to work on third down productivity, ball security, and I’ll add punting to the deficits to be remedied. Also, the offensive line did allow some sacks, which will probably continue this week because Moo U. has some decent defenders, albeit potentially with criminal records. But I digress.
Last week, the Spartacans lost a highly entertaining double-overtime game to our friends, the Hoosiers, 39-31. Although they racked up 540 total yards, 29 first downs, and dominated time of possession, they could not close out the game. Five penalties had something to do with it although Indiana has seven. Another turning point occurred in the fourth quarter in the form of a pick-six when Moo was winning 31-14. The blunder let Indiana get back into the game, making it 31-22. Another losing move was a 22-yard field goal missed by senior place kicker Ben Patton with the score tied at 31 and two seconds on the clock in regulation time. Patton had another kick blocked in overtime, leading to the Spartans’ loss.
Thugs on Trial
As you know, a large portion of Machine Gun State will be sitting out this game awaiting trial for their prison-style stomping of a Michigan defensive back after the October 29 Michigan vs. Moo U. game. County prosecutors have filed criminal charges against at least seven Michigan State defensive players. This crap has no place in college football. The assholes should be thrown off the team and the University should not interfere with their trial. (Having worked for a University for many years, I know that this shit happens). Those thugs need to do their time and embark on their forthcoming criminal careers instead of polluting the college football milieu.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said it well: “I’m coming from this from a perspective of being a parent. These young men are entrusted to me by their families and to our program, and we have the responsibility to each player to treat them like our own, and I take that responsibility very seriously. An apology will not get the job done in this instance. There should be serious consequences for the many individuals that are culpable.”
With this in mind, the PSU cops need too bring riot gear and should shackle any assholes in green who appear ready to start trouble.
Late November is always a joy in Central Pennsylvania. However, Saturday looks to be “not too bad”. About 70% cloud cover with a high of 50 and a low of 39 won’t freeze anyone’s buns too much. The wind is expected to be a little brisk, but again, “not too bad.”
Da Bottom Line
The last regular season game should bring an outpouring of emotion, lamenting that this will be the last Official Turkey Poop Prognostication you’re likely to see until the bowl game preview. That’s like a month away. I’m touched by this imagined adulation, living in my geriatric fantasy world, so let me give you my best effort this week.
The crooked noses and their customers have this one currently at a spread of 18.5 points in favor of Dear Old State (the blue and white one, that is). The over/under is 53. So, if you’re adept at 8th grade algebra (which isn’t taught until the sophomore year in college these days), you’ll quickly see that the gamblers are looking at a break-even score of roughly 36-17. But I think Manny Diaz’s defense is rounding into form. I kinda like the number 17 for an upper bound on Moo U’s output, even though the Spartans will be fighting hard for bowl eligibility. And I’m thinking that this being Senior Day, Franklin will want to get the seniors who haven’t seen much playing time into the game for their final hurrah in front of the appreciative home crowd. Plus, PSU will be missing top receiver Parker Washington, who is out for the season. However, I changed my mind since I originally wrote this. Let’s have a look at some young receivers against the depleted Moo U. defense. I’m going for the season-ending blowout here. Penn State 63, Moo U. 17. I’m taking the over.
Regarding the forthcoming trials for
As for the assholes: Jacoby Windmon, Brandon Wright, Justin White, Malcolm Jones, Tank Brown, Angelo Grose, Zion Young, and Khary Crump — also known as the Eight Dumbasses — I’ll set the over/under on total time to be served as 180 days.
*Note that the nominal “New Year’s Day” game this year is likely to mean New Years Day Plus One (i.e., January 2, 2023). Sunday, New Year’s Day is a big day for the NFL, so to optimize TV revenues, we move the college games to Monday, which is the recognized fuck off from work holiday. Two semi-major bowl games are played on January 2: The ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa (known to most of you as the Outback Bowl), and the Citrus Bowl in Orlando (known to some of you as the Capital One Bowl, but long known as the Citrus Bowl here in Central Florida). Penn State is an odds-on favorite to be invited to the latter, should they happen to take care of business on Saturday. (And no, Sanguinarians®, there is absolutely no chance in hell that the Nittany Lions will be selected as one of the four CFP teams).
I’ll be back after the game to give you a recap and to bitch some more about that damn trophy. In the meanwhile, I’m laying low because you know what time of year it is and you know what that means for turkeys. My brethren have set their price 20% higher this year, hoping to price themselves out of the running for the abattoir’s axe. Hard times for Turkeys and those who eat them. Nevertheless, I wish all six of my readers a very Happy Thanksgiving!