Penn State is ranked 7th in the College Football Playoff Poll!
WE ARE . . . PENN STATE!
Penn State is ranked 7th in the College Football Playoff Poll!
WE ARE . . . PENN STATE!
Remember this commercial (OK, I’m dating myself a bit here):
I can’t remember the last time I was looking forward to a Penn State football game like I am looking forward to this weekend.
Maybe 2005? Or 2010 when Joe Paterno won victory #400 over Northwestern?
Since the sanctions in 2011, however, PSU football changed. No matter how well they performed on the field, there was no ranking. No polls. Who cares who won the Ohio State-Michigan game? Or if Washington wins? I didn’t even pay much attention to the polls the past five years–until a few weeks ago.
Bill bless-his-heart O’Brien made watching the games fun. He might go for it on fourth down on his own twenty yard line. You might be elated by a 4 OT win over the wolverines. But you might witness Penn State’s first and only loss to Indiana in football.
I was getting tired of the old argument . . . the sanctions. No depth. Not enough talent. Will take time to get back on top. Anticipation . . .
Yet, here we are. Tied at the top in our division. Almost to the Big Ten Championship game. Perhaps even a few lucky breaks away from a bigger prize . . . .
Spartans. Spartans. Spartans. Focus, Todd.
Must. Beat. Michigan State.
One game at a time.
The team that really has the conundrum is Michigan State. I may be going out on a limb here, but even despite the ugly Land Grant Trophy that is up for grabs, a win over Penn State this weekend would be bittersweet. The Spartans aren’t going anywhere in the post season regardless. And a Spartan victory would send Michigan or Ohio State to the title game, and possibly a national championship. I may be wrong here, but I doubt Michigan State fans loathe Penn State as much as they loathe their in-state rival, or the long history with Ohio State. If I were a die-hard MSU fan, I might actually root for Penn State this weekend.
Of course, a Michigan win over the Buckeyes will put a considerable damper on things, but all will not be lost. I almost feel kind of dirty rooting for the Buckeyes. But these are strange times we live in. I’m no fan of the wolverines either, and I can enjoy a victory over Harbaugh as much as one over Urban Meyer. In this case, I could really enjoy it. A happy Meyer begets a happy Lion.
So . . . .
GO STATE! BEAT SPARTANS!
and LET’S GO BUCK-EYES!
Rutgers did its best to hang in with Penn State, and even managed to make it to halftime behind by only 9 points.
But Rutgers is a really bad football team. They have two wins on the season. Howard. And New Mexico. They have not won a Big Ten Game this season. They came close with a 34-32 loss to Minnesota.
Yet, the score was a god-awful 9-0 at the midway point. Penn State fumbled the opening kick-off. The Knights still could not score, as they missed a field goal. I’d have to check the stats (and quite frankly I am too lazy to do that right now) but that might have been the only time they started in PSU territory all night.
But true to form, the lackluster first half performance was just a bland appetizer to the festive and delicious meal yet to come in the second half. Penn State pulled away while the defense shut down the Scarlet Knights and handed them their 4th shutout of the season.
Special teams avenged their game opening fumble with a blocked punt in the third quarter.
I almost felt sorry for the Rutgers players as the stadium was nearly empty by the middle of the fourth quarter. Granted, the weather was not pleasant, but still you would have thought some of their fans would hang in there until the end. I guess that makes them fair weather fans.
Next Up: The Michigan State Spartans.
Sparty almost upset the Buckeyes on senior day at home in East Lansing, but a questionable decision and subsequent play call to go for two with over four minutes to play in the game, left the Green and White a point short. They lost 17-16.
Up north, the wolverines dispatched the annoying Hoosiers 20-10, but trailed Indiana 7-3 at the half.
This sets up the season finale next week.
If Michigan wins, they will go to the Big Ten Championship game.
If Ohio State wins, and Penn State wins, the Nittany Lions will play in their first ever Big Ten Championship game in sunny Indianapolis, a prize package worth millions.
Since UM and O$U face off at high noon, Penn State will know the outcome of that game by the time they kick off in Happy Valley at 3:30.
The Spartans played the Buckeyes tough, but O$U has struggled on the road this year while dominating at home. The game against Harbaugh’s team will be in Columbus. Ohio State opened as an early 7 point favorite.
Either way, PSU needs to take care of business on their own senior day. The Spartans have three wins (Furman, Notre Dame, and Rutgers.) When you’re marquee win is against Rutgers, it really puts your season in perspective.
I think Penn State wins this game comfortably, but if UM beats O$U, it may take the wind out of our sails and work against us.
But . . . an Ohio State victory? Beaver Stadium will be rocking!
Penn State left Bloomington, Indiana with a 45-31 victory, but the outcome was far from established as the Lions trailed 24-14 with 3:13 left in the third quarter.
The first half was so boring that the TV network concentrated more on how some kids were going to get a football out of a pine tree near the stadium. At one point, there were three footballs stuck in the fir tree, because some future brilliant IU students thought the best way to get the ball out of the tree was to throw more balls at it. Amazingly, this did not work. But just so you can sleep tonight–they got all the balls safely out of the tree. And we know this because of the stellar off the sideline reporting. At least, the TV network this week showed the correct game.
The dramatic come from behind win over the Buckeyes–faint memory of the past, fading with each tick of the clock as the Hoosiers out-gained us, out-first downed us, and in the end, ultimately out-fumbled us. Total domination over Iowa a week before–may as well have been centuries ago. Football wasn’t even invented then.
All of the good feeling of this resurgent season came to rest on this team as they mounted a 5 play, 74 yard drive scoring drive in 1:41 to pull within three points before going into the final quarter of play.
As we sat in Champs to watch Indiana play us to a 14-14 draw at the half way point, I mused that we were definitely a second half team. We always seem to play better in the second half. We make adjustments. Just wait.
As we fell behind by 10 late in the third, I was amending my assessment. We are a fourth quarter team. We always play better in the fourth quarter. If we go into OT then we will definitely be a better over-time team. We are like wine–we get better with age.
Something had to be done. During the Ohio State game, my niece, sitting behind us, somehow managed to spill her hot chocolate on us, if you define spill as splattering us from head to toe (yes, we were wearing white jackets!), the people in front of us, and the lady across the aisle. It was like being in the Shamu splash zone. But it somehow was the pivotal point where Penn State started took control of that game.
In the second half of the Purdue game, we ordered victory egg rolls. And Penn State rolled to a victory over the Boilermakers. Do you see a pattern here? I don’t either. I am digressing at an alarming rate, and I appear to be obsessed with food and drink.
Hot chocolate wasn’t on the menu. I was reluctant to put that much pressure on egg rolls again. They can only handle so much, you know. So I ordered a pretzel.
The team came alive as I enjoyed that soft pretzel. McSorley added some razzle dazzle flea flicking passing and the Lions surged ahead. But Indiana would not stop.
THEY. WOULD. NOT. STOP. Were they not the least bit distracted by the football eating tree in the back of the endzone?
They were relentless. They were really starting to irritate me. Die Hoosiers! Die! All hail the magic pretzel. My friend ordered a pretzel, and Penn State surged ahead once again after the annoying Hoosiers took back the lead 31-28.
In the end, the defense came up with the biggest play of the day, stripping Indiana’s QB of the ball and then scooping and scoring the final seven points to cap victory number 8. I wonder if Torrence Brown had a pregame pretzel?
Later, John sent out this text to some of his other buddies:
Down 24-14 and things looking bleak my friend Todd made what at the time seemed like a selfish move by ordering a bowl of soup and a pretzel. What I didn’t know at the time was the pretzel was a good luck pretzel. As soon as it hit the table the comeback started.
After Michigan lost to Iowa, he texted me:
That pretzel looks even bigger now.
Harbaugh losing capped a wonderful day of football. Pitt upset Clemson and USC took out Washington, as numbers 2,3 and 4 all fell. None of those teams fell behind us in the polls, but we moved up to 9th in the AP poll as Auburn tumbled out of the top ten.
Penn State opened as a 24.5 point favorite over Rutgers. The Scarlet Pimpernel’s are coming off a 49-0 loss to the Spartans, which is MSU’s first and only Big Ten win on the season. RU notched wins over New Mexico and Howard (the football team not the duck,) solidifying Rutgers claim to being the Birthplace of (REALLY BAD) football.
GO STATE! BEAT KNIGHTS!
It was Military Appreciation Day at Beaver Stadium. Navy beat Notre Dame earlier in the day. And Penn State released it’s shock and awe weaponry on Iowa. The Lions devoured the Hawks to the tune of 41-14. And it really wasn’t that close.
The Hawkeyes were ranked as high as 13th in the AP poll (11th in the Coach’s poll), before North Dakota State went all Appalachian State over them in week 4. The Hawkeyes never recovered completely, dropping games to Northwestern and Wisconsin before coming into Beaver Stadium looking to prove themselves bowl worthy.
Of note, the Hawkeyes were only giving up 18.9 points per game. The most points they gave up so far this year was 38 to Northwestern. Penn State posted 599 total yards, scoring on their opening drive and never looking back.
Defensively, Penn State held the Hawks to 234 yards, and only 30 on the ground. THIRTY yards. On 26 carries, in case you thought they did nothing but pass the ball.
According to GoPSUsports, it is the first time since entering the Big Ten that PSU has held two consecutive Big Ten teams to 50 yards or less rushing. Penn State has now guaranteed its 12th consecutive winning season, something only four other teams have done in that span. (They don’t list those teams unfortunately.)
On special teams, we did have a blocked field goal that cost us 3 points, but otherwise, we played very solid. The return game, especially on kick offs, has vastly improved.
Iowa had the Big Ten’s leading kick off and punt returner. The Hawks managed to average 19.5 yards per return on kickoffs, and though PSU only punted TWICE, they had zero yards in punt returns. Put that in your pipe, but don’t inhale!
Penn State went into this game dead last in third down conversions, but despite Iowa’s supposedly good defense, we went 7-14 on that dreaded down which also helped us win time of possession 35 to 25 minutes.
The only thing we lost all day was the coin toss.
Saquon Barkley continues to impress and added a 57 yard scamper for Penn State’s second touchdown. He ran for 169 yards and had 211 all-purpose. He went over 1,000 yards for the season and is the 8th PSU back to have multiple 1,000 yard rushing season.
One of the big plays in this game, perhaps the turning point if you will, was Cabinda’s Arrington-esque leap to stop Iowa on a fourth down play on their opening drive after PSU took a 7-0 lead. Iowa was driving with a tying score in mind when this happened:
106,194 fans enjoyed an absolutely beautiful autumn evening in Happy Valley. The drum major stuck both flips. The half-time show honored our military. The Penn State glee club sang “God Bless America” and there was a USO performance as well.
Next up are the Indiana Hoosiers, who are coming off an amazing trouncing of Rutgers, 33-27. They lost to Ohio State, Nebraska and Northwestern, as well as Wake Forest. They beat MSU 24-21 in OT in the Big Ten opener, but the Spartans are 0-6 in conference play, and their only wins are against Furman and Notre Dame. Who would have thought their marquee victory would be Furman?
That’s not to say that this game is an automatic win for Penn State. If nothing else, the last five years should have taught us there are no automatic wins. Indiana played the Buckeyes tough for a half of a game. With the exception of Purdue, we haven’t played as well on the road, and it will be an early start (12 eastern.)
Without going into specifics, I predict a slow start, but a comfortable margin of victory when the final seconds tick off.
Penn State debuted at #12 in the College Football Playoff Rankings last week. They are already ranked 12th in the AP and 14th in the coach’s poll after beating Iowa. Nebraska, Texas A&M and Florida were all ranked ahead of us in the CFP ranking, so we could conceivably crack the top ten this week.
For the moment, Penn State is back. We are winning. We are improving each and every week (something that I did not see in Franklin’s first two seasons as PSU head coach.) We are ranked. How wonderful is that?! Every game left is WINNABLE, but not automatic. 10-2 is not unrealistic. This team is exciting. There is chemistry. They are fun to watch. They don’t give up when the chips are down or if they make a mistake.
Strap yourselves in. There are 3 more wild regular season rides to go.
GO STATE! BEAT HOOSIERS!
I know this game was played 2 weeks ago, but I wasn’t blogging then. This was my Facebook post after Penn State upsot THE ohio state university. And beating the Buckeyes and Urban Meyer never grows old.