#22 Penn State (2-0) visits Auburn (2-0)
Can I produce post titles, or what? Shit, yeah! Today’s title will make sense for you (or not) if you read further when we delve into trivia after presenting the basics.
Penn State (2-0, 1-0 Big Ten), somehow ranked #22 by the AP, thus raising Sanguinarian® expectations, travels to Auburn (2-0, 0-0 SEC) for the premiere out-of-conference game of the year for both squads. Auburn is coming off a squeaky, 24-16 victory over San José State, a game in which the Tigers were heavily favored, while the Nittany Lions, as you know, kicked some serious Ohio U ass, 46-10. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 PM ET on Saturday, which means 2:30 in Alabama.
Le Grand Orange was the nickname the Montreal Expos hung on Rusty Staub, their big first baseman, because he was big, and he had red hair. Ginger. Rusty. Orange. Although he was with the Expos for only three seasons (1969-1971), the locals loved the slugger so much that the Expos retired his #10 jersey. So, just how the hell does that affect what we’re here to talk about?
I’ll tell you. Auburn must have hired Guido d’Elia in the off-season, because the Tigers, big on pageantry, have declared this game to be an “orange-out” in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Yea, verily, with an expected crowd of 80,000 plus, Jordan’s Hair will be bright orange. The Nittany Lions might well feel as if they’re in the prison yard football movie “The Longest Yard.”
King James Prepares
At his media mash-up yesterday, PSU head coach James Franklin said that he was doing whatever he could do to prepare the troops for the environment in Auburn. I don’t know whether he rented an eagle to fly around Holuba Hall, so that phase — preparation for the mighty War Eagle — could be lacking. However, he mentioned the orange-out and something funny going on with the scoreboard at one end of the stadium, plus the noise, so who knows what form preparation will take? I’m hoping that it won’t involve orange paint.
Speaking of which…
Orange paint brings back memories of studenthood at Penn State in the 1960s, when we would do all-night guard duty around the Nittany Lion sculpture on the eve of the Syracuse game. Rumor had it that student pranksters from Syracuse were packing orange paint and were prepared to douse our sacred lion with it. The co-eds (what we used to call what are now known as womyn) set up a coffee stand and a socialization area in front of Pattee Library. I remember it like it was yesterday, even though I had brought a flask of something more internally warming than coffee. Those days are long gone, but nostalgia is comfort for aged old farts like this foul old fowl. So, I will continue to bore you with these digressions.
But I digress…
Auburn is a run-oriented football team, and that spells trouble for the not yet coalesced front seven of Penn State. They better start making some tackles. In the SJSU game, Auburn’s ground attack produced 210 yards. Their leading rusher was freshman QB Robbie Ashford, with 61; in his previous outing against Mercer, he ran for 100 yards. Tank Bigsby, their big junior tailback, had 51 yards on 13 attempts, an off day after his 16-147 against Mercer. You might remember Tank from last year’s game with PSU, where he gained 102 yards on 23 carries.
Quarterback Controversies Everywhere
Auburn is no exception to the requisite quarterback controversy at this stage of the season. In addition to Ashford, there is junior QB T. J. Finley, a huge, 6’7″, 250 lb pocket passer who went 13-20 for 167 yards in his outing against SJSU. His stats in the prior game were similar. Finley was named starting QB prior to the season, but Ashford made his strong presence felt when he was tapped in the second half of the Mercer game. Head coach Bryan Harsin maintains that Finley is the starter and indeed, he is listed as the only starter for the Penn State game. (This, after last week’s depth chart listed Finley OR Ashford as the starting QB).
So, Auburn will give a couple of different offensive looks, depending on who is lining up at QB. Aside from that, here’s more trivia for you. Finley, a transfer portal acquisition from LSU, was the first college football player to sign an NIL deal with Amazon. However, a search on Amazon yields no T. J. Finley jerseys or any other sportsmerch. Speaking of the transfer portal, the Tigers also acquired QB Zach Calzada from Texas A & M. Ain’t the pecuniary world of college football in 2022 just darling?
Ain’t No Defense for Dat
Defensively, Auburn gave up 329 total yards to SJSU, 275 of which were aerial. They shut down the running attack very well, allowing only 54 yards on 29 attempts. In the prior game, they held mighty Mercer to 31-74. Unless Penn State can continue to break Nick Singleton loose on the outside, Penn State will need to throw the ball much of the time. I don’t think you can count on our offensive line to enable the inside running game quite yet, and this team still sucks at converting third downs. Franklin mentioned it in his presser — said they’re going to work on it. Yeah, right.
Famous Alumni and Alumnae
In the old days before all the gender bullshit and sensitivity to gender-specific suffixes, we classified all students who were graduated by an academic institution, without regard to their gender pronoun (he, she, it, sheeit, they, whateverthefuck) as alumni, which is the plural of the Latin masculine alumnus. For coeds (what womyn, women, girls, broads, babes, chicks, wool or whatever were formerly called in the college context), we used the Latin feminine alumna, of which the plural is alumnae. But no longer. From supposedly college-educated idiots of 2022, we hear such abominable utterances as, “I am a alumni of the University of Pittsburgh” (just a random example 🙂 ). This is utter bullshit! Back to the point, I’m simply happy that the Penn State Alumni Association has not (yet) become the Penn State Alumthey Association.
Of course, that previous paragraph got us nowhere. We’re here to name some important alumni of Auburn University. You’re all aware of names like Charles Barkley and Bo Jackson, no doubt. But did you know that Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Computer, is a 1982 alumnus? Well, I didn’t either. No way I’m going to put a picture of his face here, so I’ll move on.
Notre Dame is 0-2
While drinking my morning coffee, I encountered an article no doubt written by a Fighting Irish homey on Fentanyl, desperately declaring that Notre Dame still could make the playoffs. Ever have coffee explode out of your nose?
The weather in Auburn Alabama in mid-September is always a factor. Our genius head coach has stated that he will prepare the team for the heat (along with the eagle, the scoreboard, and the sea of orange I previously mentioned) by piping steam heat into Holuba Hall. Heat strokes are anticipated. However, this could all be overblown, as a late summer cold front makes its way across the Heart of Dixie.
Our friends at AccuWeather are anticipating a nice football afternoon, with a high of 85 and a RealFeel® of 90. Not so hot, from this Turkey’s Central Florida perspective. So, we’ll have more heat strokes in practice in steam heated Holuba Hall than in Jordan-Hare.
Da Bottom Line
We’ve reached the point in the season at which we think we know something about the Nittany Lions. Yet there are still many unknowns, including weaknesses in tackling and pass rush by the front seven, as well as the omnipresent question marks regarding the offensive line. This makes the Official Turkey Poop Prognostication a crapshoot, but that is what I do here: shoot crap.
The notion of relying on explosive plays is also confuddling. Penn State’s third-down production is putrid, which will bite us badly in close games where the nuclear option has been nullified. I am just not comfortable with an offensive so unproductive on third down. Don’t let 46 points against Ohio U jade you.
Getting there, already…
Last week, I screwed up big time, thinking PSU wouldn’t cover the spread and that Ohio U could keep it close. I learned something from that. What did I learn? I learned that, despite my age, I have not yet acquired the requisite wisdom to intelligently forecast football games, so I resort to bullshit. There! I’ve taken myself out of the pressure cooker, and I can spew nonsense again. (As if I ever stopped…).
The current line in Las Vegas is Penn State by 3 and an over/under of 47.5. That works out to a Penn State victory of 26-22 on hostile turf. Can Nick Singleton do it again? The Auburn defense is not Ohio U, so this is a big test, one that will leave the Sanguinarians crying in their beer. Auburn runs for 300 yards and shuts down the mighty Nittany Lion offense’s plastic explosives. Meanwhile, with explosions stifled, the Nittany Lions go 3-15 on third-down and punt a lot. Auburn 24, Penn State 20. Take the under this time again, maybe, perhaps.
I’ll be back after the big game to give you something more to think about, mister! (Echoing the ancient words of my late dad). Was he wrong to call me “mister” before I made the decision regarding which of the currently available six genders I ultimately wanted to be? Wait, we have way more than six. Calculus is involved, as “non-binary” is a continuum. But I digress…