Penn State (5-0) Hosts UMass (1-6)
Call it another bye week if you will, but Saturday’s homecoming game against the 1-6 UMass Minutemen seems like a foregone conclusion. Were it not for the expectations of the marauding alumni, PSU players could pay the State College High football team to handle the mop-up chores for them. Such cynicism notwithstanding, this easy week presents an opportunity to get the damn Nittany Lions in sync for the big showdown with the Buckeyes a week hence.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time analyzing this game, such as it is. I might well fall asleep sometime in the third quarter if I don’t fall asleep halfway through writing this.
Fourth Oldest FBS Program
UMass, the fourth-oldest program in the FBS, has a lonnnnnng football history. A long history of losing, that is. Aside from a brief stint in the MAC from 2012 to 2015 when they returned to the FBS after a looooooooong hiatus, they have been Eastern Independents since the git-go, which was 1879. However, fortunately, the Minutemen did not play in the top division from 1907 through their MAC entry, although they won an FCS championship in 1998 playing in the lower division. Then, playing in the MAC, they were so bad that even the MAC couldn’t stand it. Seriously, though, UMass did not stay with the MAC when they declined to be a full member of the conference.
MAC or not, UMass has not enjoyed a winning FBS season in the modern era. Last year’s 1-11 record sucked. The lone victory was a 20-3 rout on Youth Day against FCS Stony Brook. Their 2022 season ended with a 44-7 defeat at the hands of Army. Boo-rah!
That was then; this is now…
Thus far in 2023, the Minutemen are on pace for another 1-11 year. They surprised New Mexico State in the Aggies’ home opener, 41-30. They also came damn close to beating the other New Mexico school, the Lobos, in a 34-31 overtime loss on September 23. Otherwise, they have lost to Auburn, Miami (OH), Eastern Michigan, Arkansas State, and most recently, Toledo.
Looking at the sadness of team stats as they rank in the FBS, we have UMass at #65 in total offense and #123 in total defense, compared with #44 and #1, respectively, for Penn State. As I mentioned before, it would behoove the Nittany Lions to use this week to tune up that offense, or they won’t be able to play on the same field with the big boys.
UMass is led by highly unpronounceable junior QB Taisun Phommachanh. Zey also have einen Tightenendenmeisterbanger named Magnus von Saldern, from Berlin, and a pair of defensive ends named Uchenna Ezewike and Zujudo Igwenagu. Punter C.J. Kolodziey is a tribute to Poland from East Longmeadow, Mass. On special teams, a rich kid from Scarsdale, NY, Bennett Abbe, rounds out the eclectic international lineup.
Whither da Wedda
Homecoming Saturday looks to be chilly and rainy — not the perfect fall day we had all hoped for. Let us hope that our Lions can get back to hanging onto the ball. The outcome of the game is not in doubt, but we want to see them play well in all weather conditions, with the second half of the season ahead.
Bottom-Drawer Bottom Line
The Official Turkey Poop Prognostication should be on strike this week, crying out for mo’ money, even though it isn’t worth a shit. Furthermore, you must stop giving me ridiculously lopsided games like this to predict. Would Penn State kindly play SOMEONE, for a change?
I expect the Nittany Lions to go 1-0 this week. It is not a noon start, but rather a 3:30 kickoff, so with a bye week under their belt, they’ll either be rusty or ready — who can say? Never a dull moment with this team, considering that we don’t know what we’re going to get. I hope we see improvements in the offensive line and the offense in general. The spread on this game is ridiculous: Penn State – 43 with o/u of 57.5. Crazy. That works out to like 50-7. I’ll knock off a couple of points for the rain and give UMass credit for some offense, so I’m like 63-9. Sorry, Mr. Phommachanh, I still cannot pronounce your name. Take the over, but better yet, don’t bet.
UPDATE: That was then and this is now. With the prospect of a soggy, cold day in State College, I must adjust my prognostication. Penn State 43, UMASS 0. Better yet, don’t bet.
I’ll be back after the game to put a proverbial exclamation point on the Homecoming festivities. And I absolutely, positively will not mention rankings until after Week 8. Until then, they only count for bullshitters’ bragging rights. After then, they’re only slightly more meaningful, in that they are more than just sportswriters or coaches (both brands of bullshitters) pulling something out of their asses, and they govern who will be accorded entry to the vaunted playoffs to determine the still somewhat mythical national champion (SSMNC).