Penn State (2-5) Hosts Michigan State (2-4)
Yes, the vaunted and ugly Land Grant Trophy is on the line at 3:30 on Saturday, but that’s not what I’m referring to with the headline. Nein, Nein, Frau Gordon! As no doubt you are aware by now, the Big Ten has changed the rules of the game in the ninth inning. Because the meaningless Ohio State-Michigan game was canceled due to a Michigan Covid-19 outbreak, they needed to contrive a way to make tOSU eligible for the CFP, already!
The Big Ten wouldn’t have been happy with Indiana or Northwestern in the playoffs. Furthermore, Columbus would become the scene of a football insurrection. While it is moot in most of our minds that the Schmuckeyes are the best team by far in the conference, changing the rules percussively to suit current circumstances and favor a certain player, team, or venue ain’t fair dinkum. What’s next?
Oh, sure, Covid-19 itself isn’t fair and this is an extraordinary year, unique in anyone’s recollection. Its crappy record aside, Penn State has fared well with its approach to minimizing the effect of the dreaded virus. Other schools have coped well, too. Those who haven’t been vigilant might have cost tOSU a shot at the CFP, truly, absent such a decision by the league. It’s not the Schmuckeyes’ fault. They were a victim of unfortunate circumstances in a time where many, many real-life people are suffering unfortunate consequences due to a pandemic well beyond their control. So, let’s give the hapless fans their wonderful Tree Nuts to ease their burden by anointing the mighty Schmuckeyes and affording them the opportunity to lose to Clemson or Alabama.
I hope Northwestern kicks their asses up and down the field to spare us the embarrassment. Good luck, Pat Fitzgerald! That would serve the Big Ten right! (I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel any special homey pride when tOSU wins the Still Somewhat Mythical National Championship (SSMNC).).
But I digress!
The above might be my all-time record digression. Let’s get back to the point: Covid-19 notwithstanding, Moo U. (2-4) will attempt to capture the lovely Land Grant Trophy on Saturday at St. Joe Memorial Field at Irwin Financial Stadium, formerly known as Beaver. (I renamed it. A big “HOWYA DOIN?” to Mike Irwin #40, the ganzamacher of Irwin Financial, who was team captain when this turkey attended Penn State). Yes, the Land Grant Trophy is what it’s all about — not!
What it is is pride, which does not depend on what your definition of “is” is. Penn State is on a two-game winning streak that will never redeem a season that began with five losses, but it will make everyone feel better and it will keep the buzz alive regarding participating in a ridiculous bowl game in some backwater town. And who knows what the rules might be for the Plus One game against the other division? The league will surely invent them on the fly to suit the circumstances. One potential outcome is no Plus One week for anyone except Ohio State and Northwestern. What would we gain by Penn State playing Illinois or Minnesota in an empty stadium? Who would interrupt a pre-Christmas Saturday for that? Only the football starved, and maybe not all of them.
That Week Nine game might get us a better shot at a premium bowl. Oh yeah. Right. Sanguinarians ASS-ume that Penn State will win out, which is sure as hell not a given here. Suddenly, two wins over the dregs of the Big Ten East have elevated the mood to irrational euphoria, so they’re checking off Moo U. and the Plus One opponent as being in the bag. What will that bring us? A bid to the vaunted K-Y Jelly Fablunget Bowl in Bogalusa, Louisiana (formerly, the Kohler Toilet Bowl renamed and moved from Wisconsin due to the governor’s preclusive Covid-19 policy) in an empty high school stadium whose original capacity was 8,000. Defeating the midlle of the pack MAC opponent there will give us a non-losing season! 5-5. Sanguinarian Magic! Oy vey is mir!
NOT SO FAST!
Reel it in, Sangies! The Nittany Kitties still must play this one against our Land Grant buddies, the Moo U. Fartin’ Spartans. Focus, boys! Them Sparties suck, but if your heads go back up your asses like they did when pouting after the Indiana loss, you’ll be back in the shits again! We must curtail the onset of (cue double-bass) The Dark Years. Part Two!
We know that the James Franklin/ Kirk Ciarocca Connection will be keeping the offense dumbed-down and the Pry Bar will be keeping the defense half-assed. Despite those immutable conditions, one would hope to see a big offensive play here and there (dare I say “explosive”?) and an occasional big defensive stop. We know they’re capable of the latter because they did it against mighty Rutgers. But pleeeeeeeease knock off the missed tackles! On offense, does Will Levis HAVE to run the ball whenever he enters the game? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on ME! A little variety, Kirk and James? How bout it?
This should be a field day for the PSU defense because Michigan State hasn’t put up many points this year. They have no rushing game, averaging only 95.2 yards per game. Even Penn State, who has been late in getting their running game off the ground, averages almost double that. But the Spartans must be respected. They provided western division champion Northwestern with the Wildcats’ only loss, 29-20 back on November 28. Maybe the ‘Cats had too much Fancy Feast Tender Chicken Hearts, Feet & Beaks (never turkey) for Thanksgiving.
The Fartin’ Spartans have had some quarterback woes. Their starter, Rocky Lombardi, looks more like he should be captain of the surfin’ squad at Pepperdine. He can occasionally shine with “explosive” plays, which must be respected. However, he was hurt in Sparty’s last outing, a 52-12 loss to the Schmuckeyes, and was replaced by redshirt freshman Payton Thorne. Thorne wound up 16-25 for 147 yards, no TDs, and one INT. Lombardi’s bell got rung and it is still reverberating; his status for Saturday is still uncertain.
Penn State still has lots of work to do. Aside from the offensive and defensive woes I mentioned, special teams are performing abysmally. I’ll give Jordan Stout and Jake Pinegar a pass on last week because of the stiff, gusty winds of Piscataway, but they still have not given us the confidence in their play that we need to have if we, the armchair coaches, are going to guide them to a non-losing season record. They’ll do better in the calm of home turf this weekend.
(I’m not mentioning the Facebook coaches, whose “solution” to all problems is to get rid of James Franklin. Hell, they even started in on Mike Tomlin after the Steelers lost their first game of the year. That’s why they get paid the big bucks to be keyboard warriors, I suppose).
But I digress. Let me say that Penn State once again is put in the unfamiliar position of being favored by the gambling community — in this case, by a couple of touchdowns. That, along with some of the crap I wrote above, portend a victory on Saturday — but they still must play the game!
Not too bad for late fall football weather — cloudy and mild, with high of 49° with a 40% chance of rain showers. Light winds = no excuses for Stout and Pinegar.
Da Bottom Line
Senior Day finds the mighty Nittany Lions favored by 15. The over/under is 47. That brings us to the weekly feature you’ve been waiting for: The Official Turkey Poop Prediction, that awful offal excreted by this foul old fowl. Boy, does the Big Ten suck this year! It’s Ohio State and the Vast Unwashed. This is a fitting pseudo-rivalry end to a pseudo-season. We can’t sort out the pecking order of the Big Ten once outside Columbus, but we CAN take care of business and join with the rest of the on-line armchair coaches in defending the illustrious Land Grant Trophy.
The gambling line works out to a Penn State win by a score like 31-16. This looks OK on the Moo side, but PSU ain’t going to score that many points. They still suck in the red zone (and the Steelers have caught that disease of late). They still drop passes (and they gave that to the Steelers, too, big time). I just needed to fill some space while I think about my prediction. OK, I’m ready. Penn State 27, Michigan State 16. Take the under.
I’ll be back after the game with a wrap-up of the game and the regular season, and possibly, maybe, perchance, peradventure, a little inkling of how the post-season will shape up.