November 11, 2010

Game Week Q&A with The Buckeye Battle Cry

It's that time of year again...
Our Buckeye buds over at The Buckeye Battle Cry brought up the idea of a game week Q&A. Naturally, I couldn't resist running my mouth about Penn State football, and it's always a pleasure to chat up the opposition about their own squad.

You can find the BBC's Q&A with me, HERE.

LBU: Ohio State is obviously more concerned with beating Michigan each year, than beating Penn State. But taking UM out of it, how would you gauge the "rivalry" between the two programs, particularly since the series became an annual Big Ten matchup?

BBC writer James: Taking UM out of it, Penn State is right up there with Wisconsin as the most competitive game each year on Ohio State's schedule. The closeness of the two schools (relatively speaking) as well as the yearly match up probably bumps Penn State above Wisconsin (who we didn't play in 2005 or 2006) in terms of a 'rivalry' in the eyes of most Ohio State fans.

Bringing UM back in to it, the limited number of games with Penn State and the lack of history keeps it from coming close to the Michigan rivalry.

Given the conference expansion and the division alignment, the Penn State game will only grow in intensity and impact for Ohio State. And who knows, if the Big Ten brass continue to mess with the OSU/UM game, Penn State might even come close to matching it.

I personally would hate that scenario and really hope that the Big Ten ends up putting Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan into the same division. Since that is what I would like to see, I am sure it will never happen, however.

LBU: Talk about your favorite moment in this series. Could be one play, a drive, or whatnot.

BBC: Some Ohio State fans claim that this interception return by Chris Gamble in 2002 was the loudest that Ohio Stadium has ever been. Since it was the game winning score during an undefeated season, I will go with that play, although there have been many other exciting and memorable moments over the years for both teams.

LBU: I mentioned that team up north. So, would you rather go 11-1 with the only loss to Michigan, or 1-11 with the only win coming against UM?

BBC: I would rather go 11-1 for a few years.

I know I am not supposed to say that, but I really couldn't stand going 1-11 (even though it would be hilariously satisfying to beat UM for our only win each season, particularly if it ruined their shot at a title or the Rose Bowl).

I say for a few years because the Ohio State coach in charge during those 11-1 seasons would be fired within a decade, and then we can hire someone else that will win, even though I suppose that is cheating on the question a little bit.

LBU: Into the Xs and Os, while there are plenty of unit-2-unit match-ups that should favor OSU in this game, what should MOST favor the Buckeyes against Penn State?

BBC: I think the Ohio State defensive line has the biggest advantage against Penn State's offensive line.

Penn State's running game has seemed to struggle so far this season with Royster only breaking 100 against Temple, Michigan, and Northwestern. I would be very surprised if he got close to 100 against Ohio State.

LBU: To follow up, what should LEAST favor Ohio State this weekend?

BBC: The injuries in Ohio State's secondary have made it by far the weakest unit not only on the defense, but probably the entire team.

I am hopeful that Penn State's young quarterbacks won't be able to exploit this weakness on the road (also hopeful that the bye week helped fix some of the issues back there), but Minnesota had success throwing the ball early in our last game, so we will see what happens.

Terrelle Pryor... making Buckeyes fans giddy with joy,
yet royally pissed off at the same time, since 2008.
LBU: There's no way to avoid talking about Terrelle Pryor. He's an incredibly talented football player, and has proven it the last few seasons. But he does have his "ugh" moments here and there. What's your worst TP moment? What's the greatest?

BBC: I was unfortunate enough to attend the Purdue game last season, and that entire game was by far the worst extended moment for me (sorry, I know you were looking for his fumble against you guys in '08).

The greatest moment was probably his game clinching TD run against Wisconsin in '08. He took the team the length of the field and won with an electrifying TD run in the last minute... at Wisconsin... as a true freshman.

The entire Rose Bowl was pretty great as well.

LBU: The only other thing I'll ask about TP is this: Does it ever bother you or Buckeyes fans that, while it's great to have a superstar player like TP on your team, the rest of the team hasn't been nearly as dominant as the pre-Pryor seasons?

BBC: First, I don't think that is necessarily true. Second, not really.

Other than the end of the '05 season and the '06 season, when Ohio State had three first round receivers and a Heisman winning quarterback, I would say that the offense this year is at least as talented as any other one in the Tressel era.

Beanie Wells was basically the entire offense in 2007 and 2008 and when he was injured (which was unfortunately quite a bit) the offense really took a step back. The situation with Pryor is similar to the one with Wells; if they go down the entire offensive game plan has to be adjusted.

It would be nice to have more weapons and a dominant well-balanced offense, but there's always next year.

LBU: I'm curious to see what you have to say about Joe Paterno. Our fanbase won't shut up about him and his future, whether or not he should go, why the team "sucks" or why not. It's sometimes tougher to have a rational discussion on the matter when you're doing it in the echo chamber of one's own fanbase. But you're an opposing fan, an "outsider" who pays only casual attention to Penn State. Should Joe go?

BBC: I think the JoePa situation is a lose/lose for Penn State. It seems clear that he has hurt the team on the recruiting front and is barely involved in preparing for games during the week or making adjustments during games on the sideline. I have also heard rumors of some internal fighting amongst the assistant coaches without Paterno in charge (or at least as in charge) of the day to day operations.

If that is true, and even if it is not, it seems clear that if Paterno isn't finished after this season, he will be soon, whether he wants to be or not.

At the same time, in my biased opinion, it will be extremely difficult to find a head coach that can keep the team at the level that Paterno has brought it to. Penn State's recruiting in Ohio and western Pennsylvania has seemingly dropped off significantly in recent years, and with Conner Crowell's commitment to Ohio State, the hold on the east coast is seemingly eroding as well.

Long story short, I think JoePa staying hurts Penn State, but I also think it will be difficult to find a new coach that will be able to hold everything together without drop off (not impossible, but very difficult).

If Penn State gets into a situation where they keep going through coaches looking for a replacement that will bring them back to past glories, they could easily slip down the slippery and dangerous Notre Dame slide to mediocrity.

That is my biased, outsider, worst case scenario take on the situation. It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't kind of thing with JoePa, and an extremely delicate and complicated one at that.

Thanks for having us over, Mike!

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  1. I still think if Penn State ended up getting a guy like Bill Cowher, the program will be able to recruit more into Western Pennslyvania and Ohio area. His name alone will have recruits thinking Penn State in my opinion.

  2. I agree with the Cowher comment. I would also like to see them interview Bradley, Johnson Sr., Golden, and Ferentz

  3. Top 3 "ideal" coaches are:
    1. Bill Cowher
    2. Kirk Ferentz
    3. Tom Bradley