Monthly Archives: June 2009

PSU No. 2…easiest schedule

Sporting News has come out with it’s list of college football teams they feel have the easiest schedule in all of the land this coming season.

The good news for Penn State fans, Mississippi State is No. 1. The bad news? Penn State checks in at No. 2 on that list.

Interesting note, no other Big Ten school was put on this list. But there were two other SEC schools. You can make the case that the SEC schools don’t dare schedule thunder outside of the conference because they are too tough during the conference schedule, and that’s fair to a point.

I’m more so getting increasingly tired of which conference is the best out there. You don’t win any awards unless you A) win your conference title game and B) your bowl game, anyway.

And before anyone chimes in that “yeah but X or Y Big Ten school has so and so on its schedule,” let’s examine.

  • Ohio State, among it’s non-con foes has Navy and USC. That makes up for Toledo and New Mexico State. And is better than anything Penn State has on its schedule.
  • Illinois has arguably the toughest non-con slate in the conference with games against Missouri, at Cincinnati and hosting Fresno State, who is always tough no matter record or venue. They also mix in there Illinois State. Again, tougher anything Penn State has.
  • Iowa doesn’t really have a lot of pop on its schedule either, but they are hosting Arizona toward the end of September. They open with Northern Iowa, at Iowa State and also tangle with Arkansas St. This would be comparable to Penn State’s schedule, if they didn’t have a BCS-Conference school in Arizona in there.
  • Michigan State, much like Iowa, has little to write home about. Montana St., Central Michigan and Western Michigan, but they do travel to what should be an improved Notre Dame. Again, Notre Dame alone is better than any team PSU has on it’s non-con schedule.
  • Michigan has two of the directional Michigans, plus Delaware State and also Notre Dame. All at home. This is probably the third worst non-con in the Big Ten, but again, Notre Dame is better than anything Penn State plays in its non-con slate.
  • Wisconsin hosts Northern Illinois, Fresno State, Wofford (why?) and then a Dec. 5 trip to Hawaii, which is never an easy trip, or place to play. Fresno and Hawaii make this harder than PSU’s.
  • Minnesota travels to Syracuse, hosts Air Force and California, and later South Dakota State. OK, so a common opponent of PSU, but Air Force and California are decent games. Again, no fault for putting a relatively even level BCS Conference school on the schedule (assuming Cal and Minnesota are mid-pack teams.)

You have to work your way down through the Big Ten all the way to

Daryll Clark and Penn State should cruise through the first month of the season/AP Photo

Daryll Clark and Penn State should cruise through the first month of the season/AP Photo

Northwestern to find something nearly even to PSU. The Wildcats are likely going to see the Top 25 before reality sets in later in the year with games against Towson, Eastern Michigan, at Syracuse and later Miami (Oh).

Even Purdue has dates with Notre Dame and at Oregon sandwiched between a couple of gimmes.

Indiana’s schedule stinks too if not for a trip at Virginia. They too have a date with Akron. And wins against Eastern Kentucky and Western Michigan to open the season, but Virginia is better alone than anything PSU has.

No one doubts that Penn State has the potential for another 11 win season based purely on some individual talent coming together. But one of the main reasons is the schedule.

The Nittany Lions are going to win-out in September including a rout over Iowa to close the month and the only two pot-holes on the schedule to me are at Illinois and the home date with Ohio State.

A possible trip spot is at Northwestern if the Wildcats ride momentum from an early winnable stretch.

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Weekend mailbag

Mail call. Thanks to all who chimed in.

Larry writes: “Does Joe really care about that wins record? And do you think Bobby Bowden should be punished at FSU and lose the games?”

Larry, thanks for writing. It’s simple. Yeah, I do think Joe cares about that record. It’s not what will define him ultimately, his legecy is is defined by his longevity. Nobody, likely in any sport, will ever coach as long as Joe has at PSU. As for the second part, I’m on the fence. Bowden had to know something. Even if he didn’t, it’s his team. It’s a tough situation, but yeah, he has to assume some accountability for whatever happened.

Ed writes: You say there is precident for Ohio State reloading and making a conference title run which is why you think they are getting preseason love. Isn’t it more anti-PSU and anti-Joe media than love for Ohio State? I’m tired of that.

Thanks Ed, but please. Are there some who don’t like Joe? Yes. Is he a cranky old man sometimes? Yes. But it has nothing to do with Penn State having a lack of love in the eyes of the preseason magazines. If you want an honest assessment of PSU and where they stand, go buy Phil Steele’s magazine. It’s the best out there. As I stated previously, I am still pegging PSU as the Big Ten champ this season.

Mike writes: Why didn’t Pennsylvania use Garry Gilliam more in the Big 33?

Mike, thanks. No idea. I thought we’d see him more on defense…but you could tell on the one pass play from Curtis Drake to Gilliam late in the game, Gilliam would have been a matchup nightmare for Ohio.

Tim writes: Hi Eric, been a fan of the coverage. Living in Cincinnati, obviously Ohio State is the tops here but the Bearcats are moving up the charts and there’s a lot of excitement about them after the Big East title. With all the talk about the Big Ten expanding, why not them?

Tim, thanks, always good to hear from those out of Pennsylvania. I think they would be a great fit for the Big Ten and that could only improve their stock in recruiting, which they are doing fine at already. I had the chance to talk to Brian Kelly last Friday at the Big 33 dinner, he has the right mindset and there’s a reason why his name will pop up on vacancy lists when a major one pops up. Geographically it makes sense, but if it were to happen I’d bet the Big Ten would wait to see if they keep going in the right direction (they will).

Don writes: In the spring you commented that Kevin Newsome had throwing problems. Where do you think he stands now?

Thanks Don. He looked fine at the Blue White game. Physically, it’s never been a question that he is ready. He has a good frame, it was a matter of him throwing a little side arm in the coaches’ scrimmage. You could tell at the BW game he had been working pretty hard to improve it. I think he will be fine.

As always, e-mail reaches me at ethomas626@yahoo.com and you can follow constant updates via Twitter.

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PSU first three games on BTN

The Big Ten has announced it’s football television schedule for the first couple of weeks of the 2009 season. Penn State’s first three games of the 2009 season will be carried by the Big Ten Network.

The BTN covers a minimum of one non-conference and one conference game for each of the 11 teams, so that means PSU will be shown four times on the network this season as the first three games are all non-conference.

Decisions on which PSU conference game will be aired won’t be made until at least 12 days before that game because ABC and ESPN have first choice on games they air.

Below is the schedule for the Big Ten Network broadcasts.

Thursday, September 3

* 8 PM ET – Eastern Kentucky at Indiana

Saturday, September 5

Noon ET – Akron at Penn State

Noon ET – Montana State at Michigan State

Noon ET – Towson at Northwestern

Noon ET – Northern Iowa at Iowa

Noon ET – Toledo at Purdue

* 7 PM ET – Northern Illinois at Wisconsin

Saturday, September 12

Noon ET – Syracuse at Penn State

Noon ET – Western Michigan at Indiana

Noon ET – Eastern Michigan at Northwestern

* 7 PM ET – Air Force at Minnesota

* 7 PM ET – Illinois State at Illinois

Saturday, September 19

Noon ET – Eastern Michigan at Michigan

Noon ET – Temple at Penn State

Noon ET – Wofford at Wisconsin

Noon ET – Northern Illinois at Purdue

Saturday, October 3

* 7 PM ET – Ohio State at Indiana

Saturday, October 17

* 7 PM ET – Illinois at Indiana

Saturday, October 24

* 7 PM ET – Iowa at Michigan State

Saturday, October 31

* 8 PM ET – Michigan State at Minnesota

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Live Big 33 Blog

HERSHEY — We are at halftime the game is tied up 17-17. The PA MVP has been Curtis Drake.

Drake doesn’t have the best throwing motion, but he is a playmaker, and they make plays.

He’s accounted for just about every yard PA has and if he wanted to kick the field goal to tie things up, they probably would have let him do so.

PREGAME UPDATE

Live from Hersheypark Stadium, updates from the 52nd annual Big 33.

Kickoff is mercifully just right around the corner.

To be perfectly honest it’s pretty empty here. The Ohio side barely has three sections with a substantial fanbase, the PA side is all but empty except for the middle bleechers.

Things, as they are in this climate these days, are different. There was no hospitality behind the stage here, and really no direction on where to park or anything.

Game is about to kickoff.

I’ll be tweeting updates from the game as well so for running “blog” type stuff

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Hill could miss Big 33

Penn State recruit Jordan Hill (Steel-High) injured his ankle during practice today according to Bob Flounders of the Patriot-News and could miss this weekend’s Big 33. (Note: my bad for earlier saying he was out)

A clarification of his status is expected sometime tomorrow according to the story.

According to Flounders, Hill injured the same ankle he hurt during basketball season, which happened late in the year and kept him out of the district playoffs.

The Big 33 is Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium. Three other Penn State recruits will suit up for the Pennsylvania team, Curtis Drake, Garry Gilliam and Mark Arcidiacono.

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Lions pick up verbal

Rivals.com is reporting tonight that Penn State has picked up a verbal commitment from Kyle Baublitz.

Rivals reported the verbal via its text message alert.

In a story written by BWI’s Sean Fitz on Thursday, Baublitz wasn’t tipping his hand one way or another.

“Penn State, Baylor, Florida State, Virginia, Pitt, UConn, Miami, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State and Northwestern were all by,” he said. “They pretty much talk about their team and what they see me as, say a defensive end, and that they’re improving, and some have talked about their conference, and their defensive formations and how it would be good for me to fit in. Some would talk about their campus and where it’s located, things like that,” Baublitz told Fitz.

Baublitz is Penn State’s eighth verbal and first defensive lineman.

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Saturday mailbag

Every Saturday starting today I will sort out the inbox and pick some of the hot topics and respond here.

Matt in State College writes: “Why is Ohio State getting all the love in the preseason previews. What is so different about their reloading season than Penn State’s?

Matt, I think it’s pretty simple. There’s a proven track record with the Buckeyes than when told they have to reload or a given year is a rebuilding year, they respond to the challenge and compete for the Big Ten title and BCS berth.

And it’s safe to say that the two other times Penn State won the Big Ten title they took a bit of a step back the next season. Now, in 1995, I thought PSU had a pretty good run to the Outback Bowl, but in 2006 they were awful in big games, particularly on offense, with a corps of guys that were holdovers.

As I stated in a previous post, I think Penn State will win the Big Ten title again this season. The reasons are simple; they have  better quarterback, better running back, and a better front seven than any other team in the conference and that will be enough to shoot them to the top of the conference and the Rose Bowl berth again. But I wouldn’t be stunned if both PSU and OSU share the title again.

Dave from Michigan writes: “Love the blog, you give an honest opinion of Big Ten football. What are your thoughts on the Wolverines this year, specifically what are your thoughts on Penn State’s trip here in October?”

Thanks Dave, I think they will be better, but how much, ehh. Last season they

Juice Williams will try to lead Illinois back to the top of the Big Ten Confernece in 2009/USA Today Photo

Juice Williams will try to lead Illinois back to the top of the Big Ten Confernece in 2009/USA Today Photo

were picked by some to have a bounce back year but Toledo sent everything in a downward spiral.

This year I think breaking in a true freshman at QB will be OK, the receivers are solid, the defense is solid, meaning I think they can make a move toward the upper tier of the conference. They are still the fifth best team, at best, right now though.

Ryan in Philadelphia writes: “What are your early thoughts on an overrated and underrated team in the Big Ten this season?”

I’ll make this simple Ryan…

Overrated: Illinois. I’m a little unsure of what to expect from them. They could win the conferece and go back to the Rose Bowl and they could also lose seven games and sit out the bowl season. It all depends how Juice Williams is. He’s got plenty of weapons, the most lethal wide receiver in the confernece, maybe America in Regis Benn, so who knows.

Underrated: You’ll be surprised by this. Iowa. I realize they must replace Shonn Greene and there are some off-field issues that could chew at Kirk Ferentz’s ankles, but they have a veteran group on offense and a returning QB in Ricky Stanzi. The Hawkeyes biggest worry is road games at Ohio State and Penn State. And believe me, they aren’t winning at Beaver Stadium on Sept. 26.

Dale in Selinsgrove writes: Eric, I’m getting antsy for football season with all of the PSU talk and preseason magazines coming out lately. What is the toughest test for Penn State on their schedule this season?

Dale, you could point to the showdown with Ohio State, that’s a given, but I think PSU wins that game at home. The toughest game by far, is at Illinois on Oct. 3. Last time there, PSU outplayed the Illini with almost ease, especially in the first half and still couldn’t avoid mental breakdowns on special teams. I know I just said Illinois is the overrated team, but they still do have weapons and that is Penn State’s first road game of the year after what should (will) be a 4-0 start and top 10 ranking.

Matt in Waynesboro writes: “I’ve enjoyed your coverage, but I am tired of the non-conferece schedule bashing. How important really is schedule some ‘thunder’ early in the season?”

Matt, facts are facts, their schedule stinks in the non-con portion. There’s no two ways around that and there’s no way that 10 years ago or whenever they put the 2009 schedule together they could have felt that Syracuse, Temple, Akron and Eastern Illinois were going to  be quality opponents.

Joe Paterno will argue that they need the seventh or in this case, eighth home game for the revenue, and there is a point to that arguement, to a degree. That’s the only advantage this type of schedule has.

The advantage is national exposure in a primetime slot, like Ohio State has done with Texas and USC in the last few years. Arguably Ohio State got better after each of those games the years they’ve played them.

Because the Big Ten does not have a conference title game, they sometimes need these games as a benchmark. Ohio State has another one this year hosting USC, and at the end of the year you will hear everyone talk about how playing USC benefits the Buckeyes come bowl season.

Now that said, Penn State isn’t scheduling USC or Florida, but getting Alabama next year cannot hurt, and hopefully a series with Miami won’t either. You want positive attention for who you play, not what PSU is stuck with this season.

Thanks to all for writing, more mail next weekend.

E-mail reaches me at ethomas626@yahoo.com. Follow constant updates via Twitter.

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