October 17, 2010

Looking at Penn State's final six games

Beaver Stadium Press Box
Can Penn State return Beaver Stadium to its place among
the toughest places for visitors to win a football game?
The 2010 season hasn't turned out (so far) quite how any of us had hoped, but the schedule has been set up quite nicely with a bye week coming right in the middle.

With all the injuries and personnel shuffling, it's really a great time for the team to get a week "off."

Today we'll go through Penn State's final six (hopefully with a 7th tacked on soon...) games, all Big Ten conference matchups, and gauge how things look at this point going forward.

@Minnesota - Oct. 23

Sept. 2at Mid. Tenn.W 24-17
Sept. 11S. Dakota (FCS)L 38-41
Sept. 18USCL 32-21
Sept. 25No. IllinoisL 23-34
Oct. 2NorthwesternL 28-29
Oct. 9at WisconsinL 23-41
Oct. 16at PurdueL 17-28
Oct. 23Penn StateTBD
You can see the string of six straight losses, which resulted in Tim Brewster getting fired this weekend. It hasn't been pretty for Minnesota this season, particularly losing to FCS(I-AA) South Dakota at home and to MAC team Northern Illinois. Things started to get really ugly after another loss to Wisconsin. But with it all coming down to a win-or-else game at Purdue, Brewster's Gophers couldn't deliver anything other than a pink slip to the head coach.

Coming into this week against Penn State, Minnesota has all the makings of a Jeckll/Hyde team. The Gophers could very well come out fired up ready to beat the world, or they come out flat and get rolled again. Either way, Penn State must play its best effort of the season. It's an 11 a.m. kickoff, which always gives Penn State trouble in the whole showing-up aspect of the game.

The feeling right now: Probable Win

Michigan - Oct. 30

Sept. 4UconnW 30-10
Sept. 11at Notre DameW 28-24
Sept. 18Umass(FCS)W 42-37
Sept. 25Bowling GreenW 65-21
Oct. 2at IndianaW 42-35
Oct. 9Michigan StL 34-17
Oct. 16IowaL 38-28
Oct. 30at Penn State8 p.m.
My how the mighty men of Michigan have fallen. The Wolverines started out the season with five straight impressive (if you like offensive fireworks) outings against mediocre opposition, giving birth to a Heisman contender in Denard Robinson. I guess when you score 41 points per game with a Superman-esque quarterback, a few chinks in the armor can be rather easily covered up.

After getting by Indiana in a shootout, Michigan returned home for the annual rivalry game with Michigan State. Well, "Little Brother" won again, this time in convincing fashion. Then this past weekend Iowa ruined homecoming with a 10-point win that wasn't as close as it looked.

Michigan can be slowed by decent defenses, but can't be stopped. The problem for a team like Penn State is that the Nittany Lions can't do one particular thing well enough to guarantee any kind of win against Michigan.

The feeling right now: Toss Up

Northwestern - Nov. 6

Sept. 4at VanderbiltW 23-21
Sept. 11Illinois St(FCS)W 37-3
Sept. 18at RiceW 30-10
Sept. 25C. MichiganW 30-25
Oct. 2at MinnesotaW 29-28
Oct. 9PurdueL 20-17
Oct. 23Michigan StTBD
Oct. 30at IndianaTBD
Nov. 6at Penn StateTBD
The early 5-0 record had the Cats riding high, but things got real in a hurry, as Purdue crashed the party two weeks ago. Though the loss to the Boilermakers doesn't look so bad, now that they are 2-0 in the Big Ten, it still hurt Northwestern to go into a bye week with their first loss of the season.

Northwestern always plays Penn State tough. Last season it was a three-point game at the half; current QB starter Dan Persa played most of last year's game in place of injured Mike Kafka. Penn State traditionally defends spread offenses well enough to win, but with a shaky defense, this could come down to how many injured Nittany Lions come back in time for this game.

The feeling right now: Toss Up

@Ohio State - Nov. 13

Sept. 2MarshallW 45-7
Sept. 11Miami(FL)W 36-24
Sept. 18Ohio W 43-7
Sept. 25E. MichiganW 73-20
Oct. 2at IllinoisW 24-13
Oct. 9IndianaW 38-10
Oct. 16at Wisconsin L 18-31
Oct. 23PurdueTBD
Oct. 30at MinnesotaTBD
Nov. 13Penn StateTBD
With its only signature win over a falling Miami Hurricanes team, Ohio State's loss this past Saturday at Wisconsin didn't feel as earth-shattering as it probably should have when a No. 1 team falls. But the Buckeyes are still a ridiculously dangerous and talented team. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor's Heisman campaign (not that there ever really was one) is over, but that doesn't mean he can't single-handedly beat any team in the nation, including Penn State.

With a few weeks before this meeting between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions, much of what has already happened may not make much impact on how this game unfolds. Penn State could be a healthier, stronger team in three weeks, while Ohio State will probably do its usual November thing and lock up the Big Ten title.

The feeling right now: Probable Loss

@Indiana (in Landover, MD/FedEx Field) - Nov. 20

Sept. 2Towson(FCS)W 51-17
Sept. 11BYEBYE
Sept. 18at W. KentuckyW 38-21
Sept. 25AkronW 35-20
Oct. 2MichiganL 35-42
Oct. 9at Ohio StateL 10-38
Oct. 16Arkansas StW 36-34
Oct. 23at IllinoisTBD
Oct. 30NorthwesternTBD
Nov. 6IowaTBD
Nov. 13at WisconsinTBD
Nov. 20Penn StateTBD
Indiana took a big hit this past week when starting running back Darius Willis went down with a knee injury and will miss the rest of the season. That's forced an already-potent passing attack, led by Ben Chappell, to become even more of a force in the offense. With a very suspect defense, Indiana will need every point it can get.

The Hoosiers have been putting up great numbers all season, except for an expected low-scoring day against Ohio State. Even against Michigan, Chappell threw for almost 500 yards. But against a team like Penn State, with a defense still much better than Michigan's, Indiana could have trouble keeping pace.

The feeling right now: Probable Win

Michigan State - Nov. 27

Sept. 4W. MichgianW 38-14
Sept. 11Fla. AtlanticW 30-17
Sept. 18Notre DameW 34-31(OT)
Sept. 25N. Colorado(FCS)W 45-7
Oct. 2WisconsinW 34-24
Oct. 9at MichiganW 34-17
Oct. 16IllinoisW 26-6
Oct. 23at NorthwesternTBD
Oct. 30at IowaTBD
Nov. 6MinnesotaTBD
Nov. 20PurdueTBD
Nov. 27at Penn StateTBD
The Spartans have been hands-down the most impressive team in the Big Ten this season. They've gotten all the right breaks that usually make up a dream season, including the magically-successful fake field goal to beat Notre Dame. On top of it all, Michigan State avoids Ohio State on this year's schedule. And with the Spartans' win over Wisconsin earlier this year, and Ohio State's loss to the Badgers this past Saturday, Michigan State is in the drivers seat for the Big Ten title, if not more. It will all come down to the Oct. 30 meeting at Iowa.

Penn State has already played two teams like Michigan State--Alabama and Iowa--and lost both games. There is always the Senior Day factor working in Penn State's favor, as the Nittany Lions haven't lost its final home game since 1999. Even during terrible seasons like 2004, Penn State beat up a much better Michigan State team on Senior Day.

The feeling right now: Possible Loss

The Takeaway

Penn State will have to win the two games it should (Minnesota and Indiana), and pull off another toss up game to earn a bowl bid. That's not a promising situation, given how this year's Nittany Lions haven't shown the kind of improvement you want to see through the first six games. But with Minnesota on deck and a big home night game against Michigan after that, Penn State has the perfect opportunity to begin the second half of the 2010 season on the upswing. But notice how both Michigan and Ohio State have bye weeks before playing the Nittany Lions? Yeah, that won't help matters much.

No matter how optimistic I want to be, the second half schedule is just as difficult, if not moreso, than the first half. Scary? You bet.

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  1. I feel like Penn State will be relevant again when they get a new head coach, and new assistants. Wipe the slate clean, start over. I hope Joe gets his 400th win. That way, he will not try to come back next year. "Insider" stuff is coming out that the program is in shambles. Assistants vieing for position, Joe shows up 2-3 times/wk. His illness was worse than what was reported. He is not running things anymore,etc. So why is he still head coach? Probably hanging on for win #400.