September 3, 2010

Preview: Youngstown State at Penn State

TV: 12 p.m., Big Ten Network
Weather: Mild, sunny, strong breeze
Series: PSU leads 1-0
Last meeting: Sept. 16, 2006... PSU 34, YSU 3

Visitor: Youngstown State Penguins (FCS)
Rank: N/A
Record: 0-0 (0-0 Big Ten)
Head Coach: Eric Wolford, 1st Year at YSU
Returning Starters from '09: 6 offense, 7 defense
Starters Injured this week: (all our for ssn) WR Jelani Berassa; LB Kevin Johnson; OT John Sazdanoff; DT Roger Gillum
Season Stats to Date...
Offense: N/A
Defense: N/A
Turnovers: N/A

What Youngstown has going for it -- After a decade leading the Penguins, John Heacock--Jim Tressel's replacement--stepped aside this off-season with a 60-44 record at YSU. First year head coach Eric Woldford brings new energy to a traditionally successful football program, which could end up surprising some in the Missouri Valley Conference this fall. The problem for YSU, there won't be many surprises this Saturday in Happy Valley. In 2009, YSU had an offense that could move the ball well enough, but fell far too short when inside the red zone, converting only 85% of trips into points, and couldn't hold onto the ball, committing 17 turnovers. With a first-year starting quarterback in 2010, things could get shaky early.

But the 'Guins do have a few good playmakers on offense, and the majority of their defense returning, which could poke Penn State in the eye a few times this week. Youngstown State as two of the better defenders in the MVFC, in CB Brandian Ross and FS Andrew Elliot, who have 43 career starts between them. The defensive line returns a total 42 career starts, and linebackers Taylor Hill and Deonta Tate have 20 career starts together. This team isn't the juggernaut it was under Tressel years ago, but it can play some good football.

Robert Bolden postgame (2)
Robert Bolden... Penn State... true freshman...
starting... quarterback.
Host: Penn State Nittany Lions
Rank: #14 Coaches / #19 AP / #16 BlogPoll / TBD BCS
Record: 0-0 (0-0 Big Ten)
Head Coach: Joe Paterno, 45th Year at PSU, 394-129-3 (75.2 win%)
Returning Starters from '09: 8 offense, 6 defense
Starters Injured this week: TE Andrew Szczerba; WR Curtis Drake (ssn)
Season Stats to Date...
Offense: N/A
Defense: N/A
Turnovers: N/A

What Penn State has going for it -- Six straight terrific recruiting classes have translated into 51 wins in five seasons, including two Big Ten championships and four bowl wins over BCS conference teams. The talent level on this team will win it a few games alone, with YSU falling into that group. Evan Royster is an All-America running back, but hasn't had a season where the offense focused solely around his ability to run the football. If the offensive line can develop into a functionally decent unit, and the passing game can just keep defenses honest, Royster, Stephfon Green, and the young backs like Curtis Dukes and Silas Redd will have a field day.

On defense, the secondary hasn't had two cornerbacks like Stephon Morris and D'Anton Lynn since Anwar Philips and Alan Zamaitis were terrorizing oppoenents' air attacks. The front line might not miss Jared Odrick as much as some predict, and the linebackers could start for any BCS level program. Oh yeah, and this is the best overall coaching staff in the Big Ten, if not one of the best nationally.

The matchup overall -- Youngstown State might have a chance to frustrate Penn State's offensive line early in the game, but keep in mind the level of competition these programs are used to. Penn State will be able to get players more comfortable this week, at least going up against a team that really wants to win the game, however unlikely that is to happen. Practice can get as real as the coaches want, but this is a real game, in front of 107,000 fans on a national TV station. You better believe guys like Robert Bolden and Doug Klopacz and Chris Colasanti are feeling the pressure to play well. I guarantee that even Joe Paterno is concerned about this team. Why else would they have worked them so hard this August?

The Nittany Lions want to come out of this game having played error-free football. Without turnovers, a team can better grasp just how good they are, particularly when trying to find chinks in their own armor a week before playing the defending national champ. It's always tough to preview games like this one in any serious fashion. So let's break it down like this: If Penn State doesn't come out like world-beaters tomorrow, worry; If they do come out like world-beaters, still worry, because it's just Youngstown State. From a fan perspective, nothing can be learned from a game like this. From a team perspective, you can only hope any problems are first-game gitters.

I assure you, I'll have a better preview next week. Call this one my mulligan for the season.

Follow LBU on Facebook and Twitter. Subscribe to by Email


Post a Comment