Let's talk Penn State
And there's no one better to talk Penn State than columnist David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
* Is Penn State's late surge this season as simple as the switch to Matt McGloin?
"I kinda think it's as simple as the Minnesota, Michigan, Northwestern and Indiana defenses. That's four of the last five opponents. Talk about a get-well gift that keeps on giving. Y'know, part of that "Murderer's Row" Gordon Gee was referring to.
"That said, McGloin has added a little WTF attitude to the offense. Bolden I like a lot and I still think he's going to be a very good quarterback. But his demeanor is more Obama-like."
* Why the heck didn't McGloin win the job in the first place?
"He's short, he had a horrific spring game, he's a former walk-on and he legitimately began August camp as the fourth-string QB for good reasons. But the more practice reps he's gotten the more confidence he's gained. He's still not great at reading some coverages. Ohio State played a lot of staid Cover 3 in the 1H and he picked them apart with underneath stuff. When they began rolling up their corners and pressing he got a little flustered. But a lot of that was being put in stressful 2nd- and 3rd-and-long situations as Paterno tried to baby a 14-3 lead that quickly evaporated. It wasn't nearly all his fault."
* Who is Penn State's starting quarterback in 2011?
"I still think it's totally up for grabs. All of this "resurgence" would have happened with Bolden. He was 11-for-13 at Minnesota when he got his concussion. I think he would've eventually figured out NW the same way but Joe pulled him in the 2Q. And you've seen Michigan's defense -- just a disaster."
* Have you been surprised by any particular area of struggle for the Nittany Lions this season, such as the rushing attack?
"No. I predicted them to go 4-4 in the league and I think that's exactly where they're headed. The OL has been a work in progress all season and anyone who didn't expect that just wasn't paying attention. You had a pair of converted guards trying to play starting tackles. You had a rookie center and last year's center moving to guard. Evan Royster needs to play off his blocks; that's what he's best at. When the pile isn't pushed at least a little for him, he's not the kind of guy who can either blast through crevices like Marcus Lattimore or get the edge with speed.
"The running game has gotten a boost lately by the latter kind of guy, a true freshman named Silas Redd. He doesn't run in traffic and bounces outside a lot. But when he gets in the open field, look out. Lots of spin moves and jump cuts and flat-out speed when he can get vertical."
* When these annual Paterno retiring rumors come around every year, do you even flinch? When do you think he'll hang it up?
"No. I said in the video from FedEx I didn't think he was going anywhere. I honestly think he'll die on the field somewhere. He's a freak of nature. Who else would want to do this job at 84?"
* What are your keys for Saturday's game? If you're willing, a prediction?
"Sparty looks like a different team than all those Smith and Williams and even Saban editions that managed to take a pratfall somewhere along the way. Dantonio seems to have infused his austere personality into this program which is exactly what it needed. Before, this was always the group that made the ill-timed knucklehead move that cost the game, be it on the field or from the bench. (The 2-minute offense at the close of the 1H at Ohio State in '05 comes to mind.) Maybe I'm jumping the gun, by I don't see that happening to this team. Yeah, they had the disaster at Iowa and they almost lost against Purdue -- but then they held together and saved it.
"Michigan State's pass defense was just such a sieve the past couple of years and it seems to have tightened up some. I think that's important. I've seen the secondary still out of position in games I've watched and I think they got lucky a couple of times in the Wisconsin game when Scott Tolzien simply missed open receivers or the balls were dropped. But just the fact that the secondary isn't horrendous sways me in MSU's direction.
"Penn State's defense lost its best LB and playmaker overall in Mike Mauti two weeks ago. If he plays, he'll be below par with shoulder and knee maladies. No single player on this defense must be accounted for unlike many past years where you had a Tamba Hali or Jay Alford or Paul Posluszny or Aaron Maybin. It's a bunch of pluggers. I don't think that cuts it against Michigan State.
"What all this means is a LOT of points. I think this game is WAY over the number whatever it is (I haven't even looked; 53-54?) and I think Sparty finally wins in State College for the first time since Bubba Smith and George Webster.
Michigan State 40, Penn State 31."
There you have it, tremendous stuff, and if you want more from Mr. Jones, here's his take on Paterno's decision to return for next year.
Also, MSU's defense is looking to recover from an off week vs. Purdue. And this week we debate whether you should be sad to see this MSU-PSU short-term tradition end. (AND BEFORE I GET IN TROUBLE, IT'S THE TRIP TO STATE COLLEGE, NOT STATE COLLEGE ITSELF, THAT BRINGS TO MIND A TETANUS SHOT).
Next stop: State College.