While Penn State is on their bye week, the world stops to witness the greatest “Game of the Century” yet. On Saturday night, the Yankees and the Red Sox square off in a winner-take-all fight to the death. Or maybe it’s a boxing match between Muhammad Ali in his prime and Mike Tyson in his prime. Or Katy Perry vs Zooey Deschanel in a look-alike contest?
Nah, it’s just an overhyped match-up of two professional football universities from the south.
Someone who’s never overhyped, Adam from Black Shoe Diaries threw some questions at us during our off week. How dare he! Be sure to hit up BSD later this week for a “greatest hits” of sorts. In the meantime, check out what these anti-$EC blokes are saying:
Follow the jump for some barking…
Question #1 The Nittany Lions now sit at #15 in the polls, having won 7 straight. Think back to the morning of September 3rd. What were your expectations for this team? Are they were you thought they would be today?
The Underdogs: I didn't really have expectations going into the season. I had no idea what we had as a team. I thought there might be a good defense in there, but didn't know that Hill/Still would become the wrecking force they have. I think we all knew the schedule, save Alabama, was pretty easy over the course of the first two months and that the fate of the entire season would swing one way or another in November. And I find myself in the exact same place as 9.3.11, I have no idea where these final three games will take us. The fulcrum of our season wasn't the beginning of September but the beginning of November.
Rowlff Dogg: I expected Penn State to finish at 9-3 (losses to Alabama, Northwestern, and Ohio State), but 1 extra win/loss either way would not have surprised me at all. I assumed that the coaches would settle on a quarterback early and establish an offensive identity by now. The WRs have been disappointing, but the offensive line (which I annually assume will be terrible) has been impressive at times.
I figured the defense was going to be good, but not this good. Especially without Michael Mauti. Creating turnovers is how I distinguish between a “very good” and a “great” defense, and the 2011 unit looks more the latter.
Special Teams is a roller coaster that appears to be more up than down. So, in short, I think this team’s performance averages out to what I expected (with the O being a bit worse and the D being a bit better than I would’ve figured).
J Schnauzer: I thought back then that the offensive line was better than most expected and they would scratch out a win past Iowa to go 8-1. All three have proven to be true, but nothing like how I expected them to be true. Football is a funny game, no?
Question #2 The defense has obviously been spectacular, and several players have made game changing contributions. For much of the year, the defensive MVP has looked like Devon Still, who is playing as well (or maybe even better) than Jared Odrick during his stellar senior campaign. Recently, Gerald Hodges has been virtually unstoppable. Who is the defensive MVP after nine weeks?
The Underdogs: I'm going with Jordan Hill. Devon Still has a been a monster, no doubt, but let's remember why he's able to be a monster. He's facing the majority of the one-on-ones, a matchup I'd pick him to win 99.44% of the time, and hence making plays in the backfield. Meanwhile, Mr. Hill is playing the role of the favored uncle coming over during the holidays while the rug rats (the offensive line) drape from each of his limbs. Amazing really. That we have been on the receiving end of so few holding calls this season, that when we actually got a few versus Illinois, it illustrates just how badly Illinois was holding all game. Something I pointed out on twitter after the first or second series. It all starts with the anchor upfront.
Rowlff Dogg: Devon Still. He has been nothing short of a beast. It all starts up front and Still is a big part of the reason that other players have looked as good as they do. He is an absolute pleasure to watch blow up a play.
J Schnauzer: Stand-out individual defensive performance resides on a bell-curve of team defense. On the worst defenses no one stands out, on mediocre-to-good defenses one or two players stand out as they make big plays to neutralize coverage mistakes by others. On the best defenses no one stands out because most everyone is performing at a high level. As a result I would have to split my MVP vote. I would award it to Still and Hill, who have created so much interruption in the backfield of the offense that it allows the linebackers to utilize their talents to the fullest.
Question #3 Is there any appropriate way to get Rob Bolden playing time at this juncture? What do you expect will happen with him by the end of the year?
The Underdogs: During the Illinois game, I was beside myself that they brought him in despite the struggles of the offense to that point. In a blizzard, with a cold, rusty, low on confidence QB, we bring him in and immediately start throwing the ball? Were we trying to get him killed so we don't have to face these questions anymore? Look, I'm in the camp that the best Rob Bolden was the one that stepped onto campus his first day. And we've slowly over coached him (or under-coached?) to (hopefully not) the point of no return. The kid is not playing loose, relaxed. He's stiff and thinking too much. Sports are never best played that way unless you count chess a sport. Even then, it is largely intuition and still muscle memory.
With all that said, we know McGloin, perhaps even better than Bolden. He hasn't regressed because he's got enough moxie to ignore Fredo Corleonterno (sic). He also struggles mightily versus athletic defenses that sit back in zone and dare His Royal Moxxiness to fit his ball into tight holes. The next few games could go very badly if he's not careful with the ball.
Rowlff Dogg: There are only two circumstances where Rob Bolden should step on the field: an injury to Matt McGloin or a complete blowout where Rob just has to hand off. Rob looks like Ed DuhCheLLLLLLis trying to talk to a ref: he’s timid, afraid, and has no idea what to do.
J Schnauzer: Only in end-of-game situations or due to an unfortunate injury to McGloin. Although I think it best that McGloin finishes out the year, I have not given up on Bolden in the long term. Keep in mind that only 18 months have passed since his high school graduation. Many of his fellow high school graduates still have not played more than a dozen downs of NCAA Football and will still become great quarterbacks in 2012 and 2013. Bolden, given his experience and struggles, could mature into an incredible Penn State quarterback. Booing will NOT help, though. Stop it. Stop. It.
Question #4 Silas Redd has rushed for over 1000 yards and still has at least four games left on the schedule. What will he finish with for the year?
The Underdogs: 1300. Gonna be tough sleddin' the rest of the way.
Rowlff Dogg: Silas is going to embrace the devil: 1,666 yards.
J Schnauzer: 1,372 to finish out the regular season, with the bulk of those yards coming against Nebraska.
Question #5 Most Penn State fans have embraced this teams "win ugly" attitude and believe they can finish strong. If this team were to lose 2 of the next 3, how will that change your opinion of them?
The Underdogs: It won't. I'm *hoping* we can pull out one of three.
Rowlff Dogg: As long as Joe is still the head coach and STEP is still in place, my opinion of the team will not change. I’ll always love the players for choosing to come to Penn State and I’ll always appreciate their effort. On the flip side, I’ll never embrace the acceptance of mediocrity from the coaches. Beating the bad and equal teams while getting whipped by the top dogs is not good enough for what we are expected to pay.
J Schnauzer: It wouldn't change my positive opinion of the players. It wouldn't change my negative opinion of the coaches.
Question #6 Predict the team's record and bowl game.
The Underdogs: 8-4, Alamo.
Rowlff Dogg: 9-3. Citrus Bowl vs Georgia.
J Schnauzer: 13-1. Win Rose Bowl. They have no business winning any game remaining on the schedule and I don't think they can do it, but they keep proving me wrong. I'll just continue to expect the unexpected.