As in The-M. A big block letter, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Apologies to William Shakespeare and The Nittany Turkey.)
Since entering the Big Ten, it has been us against THEM. In their first match-up at Beaver stadium, the Lions were penalized for “crowd noise.” Are you kidding me???? This was before Guido D’Elia and piped in music, mind you. And it only went down hill from there.
A bad call on Tony Johnson in 2002. (Replay appeared the next season, I believe.)
Two seconds and the infamous heel-toe in 2005.
At one point, they defeated Penn State 9 consecutive times over 11 seasons (as they rotated off the schedule for two years.) They still lead the all-time series 7-10, but Penn State has won the last four meetings, and has not lost to THEM since 2007.
Ann Arbor University is still the only Division I school that I know of that honored a retiring referee, Dick Honig, who coincidentally has/had a shrine to UM in his office.
We could go on and on, but rehashing the past doesn’t affect the match-up this weekend between these two traditional powerhouses. There is no Lloyd Carr or Joe Paterno on the sideline. No Chad Henne or Mario Manningham. No Daryll Clark or Matt McGloin either.
Penn State opened as a two point favorite, but the line has fluctuated since then, with THEM being a two-point fave at one point, but currently nursing a one point favorite at home as of the time I type this. The oddshark power ratings have PSU at 37 and the wolverines at 69. They still have PSU as a two-point favorite.
The outcome of this game will hinge on the answers to the following questions:
1) Can Hoke save his job, and does he think by winning, that will change the outcome? Let’s face it, if Hoke has given up, all bets are off.
2) Can Penn State rebound from the loss to Northwestern, and show improvement on the offensive line? Even a modicum of improvement will go a long way.
3) Can Gardner play without being a turn-over machine?
4) Can Hackenberg regain his confidence?
Here is the wolverines season in a nutshell:
They avenged their loss to Appalachian State in the home opener, defeating the Mountaineers 52-14. Of course, Appalachian State is only 1-4 this season so far, while the 2007 unit that upset THEM in Ann Arbor went on to a 13-2 record and won the FCS Championship that year. Interesting that although Appalachian State beat THEM in 2007, the wolverines still managed to beat us. This year, THEM won the Appalachian State game . . . does that bode a WIN for us?
Unfortunately for wolverine fans, that one game was not a season. Any good feelings were gone the next week as the Irish drubbed the wolverines 31-0.
Miami (OH) gave the wolverines another chance to feel good about themselves, and they beat the Redhawks 34-10. Of course, the Redhawks are now 1-5 on the season.
THEM then lost to Utah in a rain-delayed game, 26-10.
Minnesota then spoiled the conference opener in Ann Arbor, handing the Brady Hokies a 30-14 loss.
And last week, the mighty Scarlet Knights of New Jersey defeated the wolverines 26-24 in Piscataway. In case you forgot, or Brady Hoke played you with a concussion, PSU beat Rutgers on the same field 13-10.
So at 2-4, and accusations of playing a player with a concussion, the wolverines are a team in apparent disarray. The opponents they are victorious over are a combined 2-9 (0.182). Contrast that to Penn State, whose defeated opponents are 10-11 (0.476) and is skewed lower because UMass is 0-6! UCF is currently losing to BYU 24-17 in the third quarter.
But a team in disarray can be a dangerous beast. Hoke has nothing to lose at this point. His job is in all likelihood lost, unless he can somehow figure out a way to beat Ohio State and/or win the Big Ten title. Neither are likely, and the issue isn’t if he will be fired, but when.
We cannot discount the referine factor.
This game will be anything but a cakewalk, but I hope that Penn State learned something from the loss to NW. Hopefully they answer that wake up call with some inspired play on Saturday.
I predict a Penn State win, 27-20 with the defense making a stand late in the game to seal the victory. But I have been wrong before.
In the Big Ten:
Maryland, Rutgers, Ohio State, and Nebraska are off.
Michigan State takes on Purdue in West Lafayette. GO SPARTANS!
Indiana travels to Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes. GO HOOSIERS!
The Illini travel to Madison to take on the Badgers. ON WISCONSIN!
Northwestern travels to Minnesota to attack the gophers. GO WILDCATS!
In games featuring past opponents:
UCF is taking on BYU tonight. GO KNIGHTS!
UMass looks for their first win against Kent State, which happens to be looking for their first win. Good luck with that guys! GO MINUTEMEN!
Akron takes on Miami (OH). GO ZIPS!
GO STATE! BEAT THEM!