This is the time of year to declare our thanks. For example, I’m thankful to have a jerk like Bret Bielema to focus all my hatred this holiday season.
Hehehe, screw you Bret. We’re gonna knock your block off.
Someone who can’t possibly be described as a turkey is our buddy, Adam from Black Shoe Diaries. As usual, he delivered the goods. So be sure to hit up BSD later this week for a “greatest hits” of sorts. In the meantime, check out what these guys are saying:
Follow the jump to hear some barking…
Question #1 The Penn State offense has struggled week in and week out throughout the course of the season. The implementation of the wildcat formation by interim Head Coach Tom Bradley appeared to signal a shift in offensive philosophy from the rest of the year. What did you think?
The Underdogs: Early in the year, perhaps even in these roundtables I've been suggesting (and only half jokingly) that Curtis Drake at QB should be given legitimate thought. Sure, his throwing is limited, but then again so are our other quarterback options. We finally got somewhere closer to a 75-25 run-pass ratio which is where we need to be. Theoretically, it should open up the passing game more as the defenses cheat forward. However (and bizarrely), OSU seemed unprepared. The wildcat, ie the zone-read with a non-QB playing as QB, is intended to isolate one defender against the two players in the exchange. In the first half, it didn't seem like (whichever wildcat was in) ever made the right read (technically). But nor did they have to. Ohio State was standing around watching as Penn State players ran past them in all directions.
Rowlff Dogg: I’m going to put the offensive performance in the simplest terms possible: it passed the eyeball test. For the first time in a long time, the offense looked like it was having fun. Not everything was clicking. McGloin missed some throws. Brown probably should’ve made some catches he didn’t. Plenty of runs got stuffed. But the team appeared to be playing with a pep in its step that overcame its shortcomings. It was really great to watch for a change.
J Schnauzer: For the first time in years, it felt like the team was inventive, creative, and having a lot of fun on the field. Ohio State never saw it coming, and it was so nice to be on the other end of this type of game. They weren’t perfect, and we’ve had better games on offense, but few have left me this pleased.
Question #2 In his Tuesday press conference, Coach Bradley indicated that the team is working on some new offensive wrinkles for this weekend's game against the Badgers. What do you expect those wrinkles to be? How effective will they be?
The Underdogs: Whatever new wrinkles there might be could only be the pages of the playbook for Curtis Drake, provided he's healthy. That sounds more like coach speak to get Wisconsin worried about some things that they won't see nor that really exist.
Rowlff Dogg: I think the primary reason McGloin was kept in during the wildcat was to not give the defense a reason to substitute. However, it isn’t hard for me to imagine that there’s a play that sends him in motion with a play-action option for Drake. McGloin throws really well on the run, so the threat of him getting the ball from the wildcatter and chucking it DERP appears to be legit. I must add that I’d be betraying my natural instinct if I didn’t mention that Jay will probably have him running right-to-left and to the short side of the field.
J Schnauzer: Sean Stanley at slot receiver. Did you see Stanley run down the Ohio State wide receiver in the open field?! We need those jets downfield every game, and think of the YAC he could grind out!
Question #3 Did you notice any differences between the defensive game called by Bradley and the defensive game called by Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden? Should we expect anything different?
The Underdogs: It would probably require some statistical analysis regarding down/distance versus playcall and tendencies of the different coaches. The real difference in my opinion has been a change in overall mindset. The defensive tactics were more varied as well as aggressive. I don't see that as playcalling, but rather something Bradley has been wanting to do for some time. More looks, more man coverage, more complexity.
Rowlff Dogg: Schematically, it was only subtle things. But characteristically, it appeared as though the players were allowed to pin their ears back and go after the quarterback/ball carrier more aggressively/often than prior to the coaching turnover. It’s only 1 game, but it seemed pretty obvious to me that the players were playing more freely and having more fun. Sigh.
J Schnauzer: The defense is an anomaly. They are one of the best in scoring defense but have been unable to stop anyone in the redzone. They are great at forcing three-and-outs but have been more prone to allow large chunks of yards than any PSU team in recent memory. I saw a more aggressiveness last week, possibly to neutralize Ohio State’s fairly toothless offensive weapons and to draw them offsides. It worked well. I think they are trying new things, like the 4-4 we saw for a bit last week, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to make some formation shifts just to catch the Badgers off-guard.
Question #4 Wisconsin's offense has been very impressive. How do you contain Montee Ball and Russell Wilson?
The Underdogs: Whatever Ohio State did in the 1st half versus Wisconsin. I'd love to tell you what that was, but I don't know. I'll say keep them off the field. Move the chains, eat the clock, win the turnover battle (hopefully by some margin greater than 1).
Rowlff Dogg: I must confess that the only times I watched Wisconsin this year, I had done so with the aid of some drinky-poos. So, let’s just say I wasn’t in the scouting mood. My thinking is that our defense is good enough to keep us in any game, no matter how many superlatives have been heaped upon the NC State mercenary transfer. Let’s just keep it close enough to let Bret Bielema mess up the game. He’s a Grade-A dunce.
J Schnauzer: Football Outsiders has them as the #1 team in offensive F+ which is a very statistical way of saying they are ridiculously good on offense. I think the game will be decided by the play of the Penn State secondary. Penn State has been incredibly fortunate to go through the season without seeing a great, uninjured passing quarterback. As a result we don’t know what to expect from the secondary when pressed by Wilson. If they make plays the game will be close, if not, it will get ugly.
Question #5 Prediction?
The Underdogs: 27-13 Badger Badger Badger, a snake a snake...nope, that's just Bielema.
Rowlff Dogg: PSU 30-24. I’d say it’s the Miller High Life talking, but I gave that up this week because it’s from that stupid cheese state. So, it’s either the Rogue talking or it’s my belief in the heart of this team. These guys are special.
J Schnauzer: 171-163 Penn State. I’m intrigued by the wrinkles in the offensive gameplan and this season is nothing but an unending stream of emotional extremes, why not finish the regular season with the highest scoring football game of all time? At this point I wouldn’t be surprised by anything.