A week without football means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To Penn State fans, it’s a bye week. To Anna Paquin, it’s a bi week. To Lane Kiffin, it’s a buy week.
Nevertheless, the show must go on.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Adam from Black Shoe Diaries has given us some work to do in the off week. Be sure to head on over to BSD later this week for a “greatest hits” of sorts. In the meantime, check out what these folks are saying:
Follow the jump to read us doggs’ thoughts…
Question #1 Northwestern always plays us tough, and this year was no exception. Which of the last three meetings was most memorable and why?
Equally quick and dirty. The most recent. Memory tends to fade over time that way.
Rowlff Dogg: The game this past Saturday was the most memorable. I can’t remember a more pumped up noon crowd than what we saw in the 4th quarter. We witnessed a team growing up right before our eyes.
J Schnauzer: Undoubtedly this one. When Northwestern went up 28-17 I thought there was a chance that Penn State could come back and win the game. I thought it impossible for them to win it with a double-digit margin. It boils down to this: in previous games Penn State won in spite of themselves, this year Penn State won because of themselves.
Question #2 Who are your offensive and defensive MVPs through the first half of the season?
The Underdogs: BOB/McWhorter. The strides shown by McGloin and the offensive line are downright remarkable considering how slowly players developed in years past.
Rowlff Dogg: First and foremost, I believe the coaching staff is the overall MVP. They have breathed life and excitement into a stale product, and they’ve done it under very difficult circumstances. No way is the old staff 4-2 right now.
The easy choices, player-wise, are Matt McGloin and Mike Mauti. Despite having a second consecutive off-game, McGloin made big plays in crucial moments. His game may never be pretty, but it’s undoubtedly been effective. He has complete command of O’Brien’s offense and for the most part has made the right reads. McGloin’s performance is the single-most important showcase recruiting tool for the O’Brien offense. Take away McGloin (or insert a Jay-coached McGloin), and this season is vastly different.
Defensively, Mike Mauti has been a monster. It has been a pleasure to watch his enthusiasm and his nose for the football. The guy is just everywhere. I would also like to give some dap to Jordan Hill and DaQuan Jones whose play up front goes largely unnoticed in the stats column, but allows the rest of the players to make plays.
J Schnauzer: Do I even need to say Allen Robinson and Mike Mauti? I doubt we've ever had a year where the MVPs on both sides were so clearly established at this point in the season.
Allen Robinson has had a few drops, but his ability to pull in catches when it absolutely matters has given this team the offensive lifeline they need to stay in games. He's had seven touchdown receptions in six games. To put it in perspective, here is the list of Penn State players with more than seven touchdown catches over an entire season since 2000:
Derek Moye, 2010 (8 TD receptions)
Deon Butler, 2005 (9 TD receptions)
That's it. Yes, it's a wildly (wildly!) different offense, but recall that the 2005 and 2008 teams had arguably the best wide receiving corps in Penn State history and markedly better passing quarterbacks than Matt McGloin. I look forward to seeing Robinson catching passes from a quarterback with a great arm and consistent coaching. He could blow up the record book.
As a leader and a player, Mike Mauti is possibly the most important player in Penn State history. He talks the talk, walks the walk, and the Rotary Club of Houston's snub of him for the Lombardi Award is a disgrace. The Rotary Club places this Lombardi quote prominently on it's website: "The achievements of an organization are the result of the combined efforts of each individual." Which individual in college football today has done more to make his team achieve—to draw out the best in every student-athlete—than Mike Mauti?
Question #3 Is this team where you expected them to be after six games?
The Underdogs: Reasonably. Though looking at the schedule preseason (and not completely overvaluing our losses) I thought there was a decent chance we could be 6-0 at this point. We'll chalk up Ohio to a few bad bounces plus some growing pains under a new system and UVa to the losses at kicker coupled with continued adaptation to the system, new starters, etc. and yeah, 4-2 is just about right.
Rowlff Dogg: I figured there would be many built-in improvements simply by virtue of having a real head coach and a capable staff. That said, to my surprise, the team is still further ahead of my expectations. I assumed there would be a lot more growing pains in the shiny new offense. Especially considering the defections and the switch from a playbook the thickness of a Hallmark card to one the size of a Dostoevsky novel. Defensively, I thought there would be a drop-off, and to this point I’m glad to be completely wrong.
J Schnauzer: The off-season killed my interest in college football. I read no preseason reviews, watched no footage, and couldn't do much except read about transfers from the program. I was so angry and discouraged from what I perceived as a very complex injustice that I tuned college football out of my life. I watched the Ohio game more as an obligation rather than as a passion. Their performance changed me in 60 minutes. Yes, the final score was frustrating, but the team's never-say-die desire and emotion turned me from discouraged to determined.
This team's perseverance is more beautiful than any long pass from Geno Smith pass or bruising run from Marcus Lattimore. Penn State is far more than what I expected: they make it fun to watch college football again.
Question #4 Given what we've seen up to this point, what's your prediction for the rest of the way?
The Underdogs: 4-2 to finish 8-4, right about where anybody sober probably would've predicted or not doused in grimy grips of schadenfreude (*those players must pay! says Gregg Doyel, probably). Having OSU at home and Nebraska on the road gives us about a 50/50 chance at either game. I'll say we either pull one of those two out and slip up somewhere else along the way or drop both and win the other four.
[*Side note] And pay they have. But consider it a down payment on the rest of their lives. Rather than take the easy way out (Fera exempted) or go be coddled at another athletic program, these kids chose to stuck it out, work hard, come together as men, athletes, and a team. I suspect they'll reap rewards for coming out the other side as stronger individuals and as lettermen long into the rest of their lives unlike whatever worth a possible Pac10 or Big12 runner-up trophy is worth. Although many of their wins and records have been wiped from memory and the NCAA's arbitrary record book, they are the Unforgettables.
Rowlff Dogg: 4-2 the rest of the way to finish at my preseason projection of 8-4. Trouble is, I really don’t know where those losses will come. Penn State is capable of beating everyone remaining on their schedule, including the Buckeyes. As excited as I am for their progress this year, I think it’s too much to expect them to run the table. At some point, a break will go against us and an injury here or there will expose some depth issues. Either way, 8-4 would be a tremendous accomplishment. The true measure of this year’s success, however, will be in the retention of its players through free agency and the incoming recruits.
J Schnauzer: I think this team will end up 8-4, but I'll keep picking them to win each week.