Penn State (4-0) vs. Northwestern (2-2)
Purple Haze? I’m proud of that thematic title, you know. During the summer, Northwestern University fired its successful, longtime head coach, Pat Fitzgerald, in the wake of revelations regarding hazing rituals conducted by senior members of its football team. Fitzgerald denied knowledge of any hazing, and his lawyers were not successful in creating a smokescreen haze for Fitz, so he is no longer wearing purple. Purple hazing done him in.
Some of the allegations were that players called each other names, and worse, required sexual acts to be performed by hazees. Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me; on the other hand, forced blowjobs will leave lasting scars. Many of these activities took place at the Wildcats’ summer camp in Kenosha, Wisconsin, home of Jockey International and the notorious Garbage Plate Meal at Frank’s Diner. Obviously, Fitzgerald was so completely absorbed in Jockey plant tours and heartburn from meals at Frank’s that he missed what was happening right under his nose. Several players are now suing the University, claiming damages due to the hazing. The Purple Haze thickens.
So, what about the game, already?
Given all the chaos, which would have provoked a death penalty for Penn State back in quaint days of yore before the NCAA realized that pursuit of money was the primary object of college football, it is surprising that Northwestern is able to play at all, let alone with the ominous purple haze of hazing scandals hanging over them. Getting down to the team at hand, Northwestern’s record is also hazy. Last year’s worse than crappy season by the purple-clad hazers was 1-11. They managed to beat only Nebraska, an ignominious distinction which hastened the departure of Cornhusker head coach and homey Scott Frost.
Now run by Interim Head Coach David Braun, the pesky, purple ‘Cats have done a bit better this year, at 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the Conference. After losing at Rutgers in their opener, the Wildcats put the big hurt on UTEP, then lost to Duke. In their most recent outing, they outlasted Minnesota in overtime, 37-34.
Ratings, Rankings, and Bupkis
Northwestern ranks an even 100th in total offense, and 76th (that’s the spirit!) in total defense. Compare that to Penn State’s 33 in total offense and Big Numero Uno in total defense, and what you have is just bullshit statistics. Coach Prime, of big mouth fame, found out what his formerly highly regarded defense was worth when he dropped into Autzen Stadium last weekend, so until at least half the season is in the can, these stats mean bupkis (who, I’m pretty sure, was an erstwhile linebacker for University of Illinois). On another tangent again, am I? My senile attention span betrayeth! Reel thyself back in, damnit!
This brings me to bullshit overall FBS rankings, like #6 for Penn State. Again, based on what? (Or based off of what? “Based off of” — who thought up that ridiculous thing? It wasn’t common usage ten years ago, so some asshole must have popularized it via social media or TV, in their ongoing conspiracy to sabotage the English language. But I digress.). Rankings mean nothing until the big Waterloo games of the season. For PSU, this means tOSU, seven games into the season, perched perilously posterior to a powderpuff Game Six.
How They Beat the Gophers
Northwestern’s successful showing versus the Golden Gophers, who play their home games in The Late, Revered Former Artist Formerly Known as Prince’s hometown, was accomplished by peppering the field with passes. Minnesota led the game 24-7 at halftime and then ran out of gas. This game was played in the remote purple haze of Evanston, so even Prince could not save them. NWU quarterback Ben Bryant threw 49 times and completed 33 for 396 yards and 4 touchdowns with no interceptions. Leading receiver Bryce Kirtz caught ten of those passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 21.5 yards per catch including an 80-yarder. On the other hand, or on the other leg, as it were, the Wildcats attempted only 29 rushes for a total of 92 yards.
Minnesota’s defense managed to get two sacks and six tackles for loss. Manny Diaz is licking his chops as he reads this. (Did you know that Manny is an avid reader of The Nittany Turkey? Well, I didn’t either.). And when you get down to special teams, well, not much there to talk about in purple. And as for attendance, the fans didn’t want to be out after dark in Chicago, as only 20,000 attended the game, 43% of the capacity of Ryan Field. Penn State should bring some bigger numbers, as the Chicago fans brave the broad daylight bullets, hopefully to attend a huge upset. Many of them will take the Purple Gang plus the huge point spread with their favorite bookies.
Weather promises to be nice, with a high of 66, which shouldn’t favor anyone and shouldn’t alter any strategies. A fine, fall, football day in Evanston awaits our confident leonine warriors, who are only thinking of going 1-0 this week. Or so says James Franklin.
Da Bottom Line
And now, for the Official Turkey Poop Prognostication, the penuriously proffered prediction posed by this fetidly foul fowl. In viewing this game through the vaunted Nittany Turkey crystal ball, what do I see? Looking through the purple haze therein, I see players kneeling. Wait, hide my eyes!
The spread is ridiculous. I’ve seen anywhere from 25.5 to 27 points. For our pseudo-analytical bullshit purposes, I’ll use 25.5. The over/under is 46, which suggests a final score of roughly 35-11. There are lots of factors at play here. Big Al thinks this will be the game Penn State is not supposed to lose but loses anyway. Well, it has all the trappings of a trap game: a noon start, an easy-to-disregard opponent who is coming off a big win with commensurate confidence boost, and a Nittany Lion team coming off an emotionally draining conference win. Plus, they are no doubt looking forward to the 1-4 Minutemen as an extended bye week. And, look, there is intense pressure on PSU to cover the spread for the thirteenth straight game. All those things conspire against PSU. So, I’ll go with Penn State 47, Northwestern 10. Take that, and by the way, please, I beg of you, take the over.
I’ll be back after the game either to wipe the egg off my face or to gloat over my sparkling prediction and the efficacy of my purple hazed crystal ball. You know how that works. You make a wacko prediction so if you’re right, it’s a big deal, but if you were wrong, you just took a shot knowing it was out of left field. I bet you know guys who pull that shit.