Well, well, well, look who is back on the schedule. After an 18 year hiatus, the Penn St Nittany Lions are back to renew a rivalry that dates back to 1922. Well it really isn’t much of a rivalry, as the season series is lopsided to the tune of 23-40-5. In the eyes of many Orange fans, it was becoming a rivalry, when we took consecutive games in ’87 in the dome and ’88 in Happy Valley. It would have been interesting to see how the teams would have played in the 90s. However, the series halted when SU failed to give in to more home games at Penn St and the Big East failed to envision itself as a football conference when it shunned overatures by PSU to join the conference. With that, the concept of “Eastern” football died.
What we Know
The Nittany Lions went 9-4 last season, doing most of their damage in Happy Valley. Wins over Florida Int, Notre Dame, Buffalo, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue, Temple and Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl. Losses were to Michigan, Illinois, Ohio St and Michigan St.
Conventional wisdom has this team in the Top 25 even though they could finish 4th or 5th this season in the Big 10. I would hesitate to say that a 10 win season is attainable, especially considering the Cuse is probably the marquee game on a non-conference slate that includes Coastal Carolina, Oregon St and Temple all at home – yikes!
When you think of Penn St, you think of those generic white uniforms and Joe Paterno. Paterno has personified longevity, coaching for an absurd 42 years. And with that stability you would expect tranquility but alas, the Lions had their share of off the field hijinks and it pails in comparison to sneaking in to steal equipment.
On the field, LB Sean Lee went down w/ an ACL tear, leaving the Lions w/o the Big 10′s 2nd leading tackler. Fortunately, potential conference Def POY candidate Maurice Evans is around. A sack machine who registered 12.5 last season, Evans leads an experienced Dline that returns 7 players who saw significant time. The line was a prime reason the D was stingy against the run, rating 7th in the nation.
On offense, the major concern will be at QB as Joe Pa could be placing junior Daryll Clark and sophomore Pat Devlin on the proverbial merri-go-round. Their offensive line will be a strength w/ AQ Shipley at C and guard Rich Ohrnberger both starters for the 3rd straight year. The trio of WRs Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood are in the top 10 in receptions in school history. Throw in RB Evan Royster who rushed for over 500 yds as a frosh and its easy to see that the Lions should maintain their 30.3 pts per game average next season.
As for the spring game, well let’s just say that they drew a few more fans than we did and leave it at that.
Despite a long and proud tradition, the Lions have only one Heisman and that’s John Cappelletti in 1973
Why we can win
One need only look at last year’s stunning win over Louisville to see that there is hope that a top 20 foe can be knocked off. The game is at home, where the Loud House can have influence. Even PSU blogger There Is No Name on My Jersey gives us a punchers chance, albeit before the suspension of Mike Williams. Teams were able to hang and beat PSU via the air last season and that will likely be the way such an upset would occur this season.
Why we can lose
The strength of PSU on both sides of the ball is their lines. Evans and company may have a field day harassing ARob if the line reverts to its porous sack numbers. A stout run defense could make life miserable for Hogue/Carter and Brinkley. I could see Joe Pa calling out mobile qb Pat Devlin to run roughshod on the LBing core, similar to how Jake Locker did last season against us in the dome.
While its nice to see some old school rivals on the schedule, this team is ill prepared to handle a team that is as balanced as Penn St. Of course we said that last year at Louisville too and that game came off of demoralizing efforts against Washington and Iowa. The stands should be filled, hopefully in orange. Still, this game seems tailor made for a loss. How big of a loss will determine how well the program is received with FCS foe Northeastern in town next week.
Next week Norhtheastern
Now talk to the Zero Hand…