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Joe Paterno transcript

Apologies for no press conference update today, had get on the Big Ten call and talk to Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio.

Here’s Joe’s transcript courtesy of ASAPSports (note, as some of you have asked, this is not the “official” one PSU sends out later in the day)

THE MODERATOR: Welcome to our weekly teleconference with Coach Paterno. We’ll start today with questions.

Q. Joe, you said after Saturday’s game you would take a look at your special teams. What did you see and are you planning to make any changes?
COACH PATERNO: Spend a little more time with them. I don’t know if that’s part of the problem or not. We did, we took a good look at them Sunday and yesterday. I think we’re going to make a couple personnel changes. We went out yesterday without pads, so on Mondays it’s tough to evaluate people. But today we’ll go out there and challenge a couple guys a little bit so that we can find out whether we really have it right people in there.

Q. Joe, what is Johnny Troutman’s status for Saturday? Can you evaluate your offensive line play against Ohio State?
COACH PATERNO: Troutman probably won’t play. He didn’t practice yesterday. We didn’t do much, but he didn’t do anything.
You know, obviously we haven’t done the kind of job you got to do, particularly in the second half, against clubs. I think we’ve depended too much on the big play. The offensive line, bumps and bruises, changes people around, has not helped.
We looked as if we were making progress, but when we came against a couple really good defensive seven-up people, we haven’t done a particularly good job.

Q. Joe, would you like to be able to get Kevin Newsome a few series with the first team before the end of the season?
COACH PATERNO: I don’t know where you’re coming from on that.

Q. Just for experience.
COACH PATERNO: Hey, we got a tough football game this week. Obviously, I haven’t spent much time looking at Michigan State, but I’ve looked at Indiana. We got a tough ballgame this week. Indiana has had some awfully tough luck, some of which was based on bad officiating. They had a chance to beat a couple good football teams, and got some bad calls.
I think we got to concentrate on Indiana.

Q. In the losses to Iowa and Ohio State, why do you think your team was handled physically by those two front seven, as you said?
COACH PATERNO: I think both Iowa and Ohio State played better than we did in the second half. Ohio State didn’t turn the ball over. Obviously, we did a poor job covering some punts, turned the game around. Iowa blocked a punt, turned the game around, intercepted a pass.
I think we played hard, but the other guys played pretty darn good.

Q. You talked a little bit about your offensive line. What can you do at this point in the season to help that along for the last couple of weeks and what is the situation at right tackle with who’s going to be playing there?
COACH PATERNO: We got to get better. We just got to keep working at the things that we’ve always done, try to overcome some deficiencies that maybe people have as far as technique or awareness of assignments, those kinds of things.
The right tackle, Poti really has played fairly well. I think he’s had one particularly bad play in the last two weeks where we got sacked. But other than that, I think he’s done fairly well.
Troutman being banged up, in all fairness, Troutman was not playing that well, we’ll probably have to sit around and figure out what we want to do with the left guard spot.

Q. Joe, I was wondering after you watched the film, what was your overall evaluation of Daryll Clark’s performance?
COACH PATERNO: I think Daryll was okay. We’ve gone from one extreme to the other. We started out the season with everybody wanting to take the run away from us, giving us a lot of opportunities in the pass game, because they didn’t think we had the kind of wideouts or quarterback that could scare them. Now we’re in a little different ballgame. People, they’re fighting like the dickens to take the pass game away from us and challenging us to run the football. We haven’t done a particularly good job, I think that’s obvious, running the football.
I think Daryll is doing all right. You know, I’m sure we could have done this, could have done that. You can always figure out something else you could have done. But I think he’s done fine.

Q. Sean Lee had a big game on Saturday. Is he as close as he’s been now to a hundred percent? Is he as close as he’s been since he got hurt?
COACH PATERNO: I think so. You’d probably have to ask him that. But just watching him play Saturday, I would agree with you. He played a good football game. If not as good as he can play, it’s very close. I think he and Bowman both have played really well. And Hull, we take him out on certain situations, but I think those three kids have done a good job.
I think we’ve played fairly well defensively. The big pass hurt us. You know, don’t ask me why it happened. One of the kids decided to guess on something, thought something else was going to happen, so he tried to make a play, left the guy wide open. Obviously that and the punt returns killed us.

Q. Joe, Evan Royster wasn’t on the injury report this week. Is he feeling a lot better now at this point?
COACH PATERNO: Actually, he played the ballgame. It was kind of a funny situation. Before the game, I guess he ran into a couple of people, couple of the kids that were dressed but they’re not going to play, so they don’t really get involved in the warmup. We dressed 112 kids last week. That’s probably as many as we ever dressed. I figured, big game, the kids had done a good job getting us ready. But he played the whole football game.
I didn’t see anything there where he was limping or anything like that. There was no problem with the medical people. He practiced yesterday. As I said earlier, we didn’t practice very hard yesterday, which is typical of a Monday. But he seems fine.

Q. Joe, Indiana’s running this pistol offense. I was wondering how different it is from what they’ve tried to do in the past?
COACH PATERNO: Oh, boy. What they’ve tried to do in the past? Well, what they’re doing is what we’ve seen a lot of people do now with the really good running quarterback. It’s a version of the old triple option from the shotgun.
They’re doing a good job with their offense. As I started out the conversation, they’ve had some tough, tough breaks. They have really moved the football most of the time against some pretty good football teams. They can move the football. Quarterback is tough. He may not have quite the speed Pryor has, but he’s very clever.
Honest to goodness, I can’t remember just how much I’ve seen them do with what they’re doing right now. But right now they’re running what you call a triple option, whatever you want to call it, and they’re doing it very well.

Q. Joe, I know every year the goal is to try to go undefeated, win the conference, BCS Bowl game, win the national championship. You get a chance to go 10-2, go to a decent New Year’s Bowl in Florida. If somebody said before the season with this bunch, with as many questions as there were, 10-2, a New Year’s Day Bowl game, would you have considered that a successful season?
COACH PATERNO: Right now we’re only 8-2. We got a tough game this week. I’ll think about it at the end if that happens.
I think maybe we’ve got to be a little bit more realistic each year when you look at a lot of things that go into it, our graduation rate, the type of kids we’re recruiting, the type of effort we’ve got out of kids, the great job that the staff does. I think maybe if we end up 10-2, that’s a pretty darn good year – if we end up 10-2.

Q. At one point you had one guy, seemed like you had the responsibility of special teams as one coach.
COACH PATERNO: That’s not true. We haven’t had that years and years and years, if ever. I can’t remember. We’ve always had one guy coaches this, one guy coaches that. Everybody helps out. But we never had where we had a specialty teams coach. Now, your memory plays tricks on you after you’ve been around as long as I have, but I don’t believe that.

Q. Do you think the process that you’re using now is working?
COACH PATERNO: I know where you’re coming from. No, it’s working. We just got to do a little better job, get some better people in there. That’s my problem, all right? I’ve got to make sure we get guys in there that can get the job done.
It’s not the scheme, it’s not the coaching, it’s a question of whether I’m giving them enough time or I’ve emphasized it enough and the whole bit.

Q. When you come out of a game like that, big picture, more cause for reflection going forward with personnel the rest of this year and beyond?
COACH PATERNO: Well, I don’t know ‘beyond’. I think you always evaluate personnel, even when you win. I think the first question I do every Sunday when we meet after a football game, win or lose, is say, Okay, let’s go down personnel. Anything we should change? Anybody we got out of place? Is there a better kid that we have overlooked? We do that every week, regardless. Obviously it becomes more dramatic when you lose because there’s always things such as questions you’re asking.
But, no, you know, Ohio State played a good football game. We lot licked by them. You hate to lose at home. But they played well. Didn’t put the ball on the ground. You know, we kicked the ball 10 times. We punted 10 times. We didn’t do a good job. We didn’t make a couple first downs so we wouldn’t have to kick.
You know, you just got to make sure you don’t overreact, that’s all, as a staff. I don’t think we’re gonna overreact.

Q. Senior Day. Can you talk about Sean Lee and then talk about what you tell your team, kind of reflect on this senior class, the contributions they brought to the table for you?
COACH PATERNO: Haven’t done it yet. I think a little later in the week as I watch practice, you know, we’ll sit around and talk a little bit about some of those intangible things that you’re talking about.
Right now I think we’ve got to focus on getting to be a little better football team, regardless of whether it involves seniors or involves kids. If I had to second guess myself a little bit on personnel, it might be that we decided to redshirt some kids who are pretty darn good athletes early because we didn’t think — because I didn’t want to play them 18, 20, 30 plays, tie up a year. So I have not really thought much about it, what I want to tell the seniors, because we got another game after this one.
I know where you’re coming from. I think it’s a good point. But I really can’t honestly tell you I’ve thought about it. I haven’t. Not yet. I will later in the week.

Q. Can you just explain the philosophy behind splitting up the special teams coaching? What are some of the benefits to that?
COACH PATERNO: Because that’s the way I like to do it. We’ve always done that. I grew up with that when I played in college. I grew up with it when I came here as an assistant coach.
I think if a guy is a linebacker coach, he’s got responsibilities there. You know, I think when they limit you to nine full-time coaches, you got to be careful you don’t take one out of the mix and doing nothing but working with specialty teams. You try to coordinate it so that you do have it.
You know, we haven’t been bad on special teams through the years. Let’s don’t get carried away, guys. I’m not about to change. I think we’re doing fine. I think the coaches are doing fine. As I mentioned earlier, if there’s anything that I would question, it’s whether we may not have the best people in there. That partly is because I decided that I didn’t want to use some young, good athletes early in the year because I didn’t want to just put them on a couple special teams. It had to be my decision, and that’s the one I made, and it may not be right.

Q. Indiana has two defensive ends who have been all-conference. How concerned are you about those guys?
COACH PATERNO: Very concerned. They’re two of the best ends we’re going to play against. Big, quick kids. Obviously, with the tackle situation what it is, most of the time you have to pass protect them. We’re very, very concerned about them.
I’m concerned about the whole Indiana football team. I mean, I think their defense is playing maybe not as dramatically as well as a club like Iowa or Ohio State, but those two kids, they’re tough. I think their whole scheme is good. They’re well-coached. They hustle all the time. So we’ve got our hands full. Those two guys are obviously the guys that create most of the problems.

Q. How would you evaluate your wide receivers, with the routes they were running? Looked like they were getting jammed at the line of scrimmage Saturday. Did they do a good job getting off of their coverage?
COACH PATERNO: Again, I’d be reluctant to be critical of those guys. I think they did all right. I’m not so sure I did a great job in some areas. But, you know, they’re young. Every once in a while they get in a new situation they have to adapt to, and they learn from it.
If I were to evaluate that game, I would say Ohio State just were quicker than we were. That may have been ’cause we may have been too emotional in our practices, what have you. I don’t know. But they looked quicker than we were Saturday. Whether they’re quicker than we are, you know, I’m not sure, but they were Saturday. I think that’s part of the reason the wideouts had their problems.

Q. You have two games left. How do you deal with letdown because there was so much hype from a week ago? You have two tough games remaining. How do you deal with it?
COACH PATERNO: You go out and practice, try to get better. You know, 8-2 isn’t a disaster. That’s where we are, all right? Now, you know, obviously when you lose to a couple good football teams at home, you don’t score a point in the second half against either one of ’em, you got some concerns. I got some concerns about that.
But I still think we have a bunch of kids that want to go out there and do well. For me to go out there and do anything but encourage them, that’s just not my style. I think we’ll go out there, we’ll practice hard this week, and we’ll see how good we are. We may not be good enough for Indiana, but we’ll find out.
But I’m not going to get into anything about what expectations people have, that so-and-so thought we were going to do this or that. I think that’s up to you guys. You guys can speculate all you want.

Q. Sean Lee and some of the other seniors in this class are probably some of the last players from that ’05 freshman class. Do you have any special affinity to those guys? Can you reflect on what they’ve done for the program?
COACH PATERNO: Sure I do. But, you know, I don’t have the luxury to sit around and say, Boy, I love so-and-so. We got a tough job ahead of us this week. We’ve got to concentrate on the job we’ve got to get done.
Yeah, you know, every time some of the kids come back into the locker room, we’re out in Chicago, Northwestern, there’s good eight, nine guys on the sideline, four of five I haven’t seen in years. I mean, you know, they brought back some memories of a lot of different situations. Every time Matt Millen comes up here to do a game, we get shooting the bull a little bit, You remember when so-and-so did this, so-and-so did that, all those kind of things.
Right now I don’t got time for that. We got to get our football team ready to play a little better than we’ve played all year ’cause it’s going to take a little better performance to beat Indiana. I don’t know how to explain it any other way but that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

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Big Ten Picks: Haunted ‘House’ edition

Two huge games on tap this week. Both with conference title implications, well really any game Iowa, PSU and Ohio State play from this point on has implications.

Let’s get to it.

Last Week: 5-1

For the Season: 43-13

THE UNDERCARD

INDIANA at NORTHWESTERN, Noon Big Ten Network

Hoosiers keep climbing, and sure, they should have beaten lifeless Illinois last week…everyone should beat Illinois. But this quirky IU offense, the pistol, causes all kinds of problems for teams.

Northwestern must find an answer for the ground game. If quarterback Mike Kafka keeps having to run the ball they cannot win and he isn’t going to survive the remainder of the season.

The Pick: Indiana 30, Northwestern 20

ILLINOIS at PURDUE, Noon ESPN2

Purdue has to be riding that emotional high of the Ohio State win last week and look, they’ve been close on a lot of games this year. They play tough, they are more balanced than in past years.

Illinois can’t get out of its own way. Enough said about them.

The Pick: Purdue 27, Illinois 10

MINNESOTA at OHIO STATE, Noon, ESPN

Minnesota proved once again last week they are too one-dimensional and when you take away that dimension, they can do nothing.

Terrelle Pryor is out to prove his crying fit last week was nothing more than just frustration in the moment, and this Buckeyes team, after yet another mid-season conference setback, has a lot to prove again.

The Pick: Ohio State 37, Minnesota 7

THE MAIN EVENTS

IOWA at MICHIGAN STATE, 7pm, Big Ten Network

Can the Hawkeyes survive another road test in conference? And if they can’t how does that bode for the future date with Ohio State? I believe in Iowa right now, you have to. They are solid, they play relatively mistake free football and they are, still, as I’ve been saying, headstrong.

Michigan State has the quarterback situation figured out finally…they are at home and playing well. Close. Very close game.

The Pick: Iowa 21, Michigan State 17

PENN STATE at MICHIGAN, 3:30 ABC/ESPN

Here we go again. Another road game for Penn State. But anyone who’s followed this series knows this is no ordinary road game for the Nittany Lions.

The Big House in Ann Arbor messes with them mentally. It really didn’t used to be that way until things went haywire in 2002. The ’05 happened, then ’07.

If you want to debate which team was better in 2002, go ahead. I’m all ears and I could go either way. In 2005 same deal. If Michigan was fully healthy in 2007, it might have been much worse than it was, however they weren’t and Penn State still looked like they had no clue what was going on.

Remember what that 2007 Michigan team ended up doing to Florida, by the way.

So here we are this year, Penn State, to me, is better, they should be favored and  they should be favored the remainder of the season. I believe they are better than any team remaining on their schedule.

In this instance, I can see where Joe Paterno believes he can win this game rushing the football and playing defense. I wouldn’t be stunned to see Chaz Powell in the backfield and I think the offensive line is playing well enough to at least slow down Brandon Graham.

If Tate Forcier scrambles, does he make enough plays vs. the No. 5 ranked defense in the country?

The first series is key on both sides of the ball for both teams. Happy paint swapping gentlemen.

The Pick: Penn State 27, Michigan 13

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Who’s alive, who’s hanging on

Five games remain in the Big Ten season. After yesterday’s action, here’s a quick look at how the race shakes down through seven weeks.

ALIVE AND WELL

Iowa: The Hawkeyes control their own destiny. Win out they win the crown, go BCS’ing in Pasadena, or maybe better, depending on how the rest of the country goes. It’s quite possible they could run the table but a one-loss team beats them out for a title game slot and it’s possible they may be the only unbeaten left when all is said and done.

What’s left: Road dates at both Michigan State this coming week, which will not be easy, and one at Columbus in four weeks. Though with wins already in Happy Valley and now Madison (both after being down 10), why can’t they win at these two places?

Penn State: They need to win out and have Ohio State (or someone) trip up Iowa, twice to win this thing outright and once to force a split and decision by the BCS on where they go bowling.

What’s left: Two tricky road games against Michigan and Northwestern in the next two weeks, that looming home date with Ohio State and a roadie at Michigan State. Iowa’s a little safer in my book, but Penn State should be favored in all these games and really the only team that can beat Penn State is Penn State.

Ohio State: Yeah, yesterday hurt, but beat Iowa and Penn State, and win out, The Vest and his boys can sashay their pretty little selves back to a BCS game. Even though they struggle they are still a draw.

What’s Left: Everything. They get Penn State and Iowa back to back. Can Terrelle Pryor rally the troops after crying on the sideline yesterday? We find out.

Michigan State: They are the super sleeper in the mix. They host PSU to close things out, and they get Iowa next week to make noise. And it looks like they have the quarterback problem finally figured out. They also avoid Ohio State.

What’s Left: They are eliminated with a loss vs. Iowa this week, so it’s make or break. After that it’s PSU in East Lansing to close things out…we’ve seen that story before.

HANGING ON

Wisconsin: They needed to win yesterday bad, they didn’t, this was after getting de-pantsed by Ohio State. So yeah, things are now bleak, but this is a tough football team who can run the ball, so you never want to count them out until they are really out.

What’s Left: They really have an easy road, unless you consider Purdue tough since they shocked Ohio State. But they host Purdue, and travel to Indiana and Northwestern. IU could clip them.

Michigan: They need a win over PSU to get the wheels running again. And you just never know with the Nits in Ann Arbor. Michigan is in better shape than the other 1-2 (in-conference record) conference teams.

What’s Left: Host PSU, at Wisconsin, host Ohio State. Not impossible, but not friendly either.

WHO’S ELIMINATED, BUT NOT REALLY ELIMINATED

IU, Northwestern, Purdue and Minnesota all need some help. I can’t buy into any of these teams even though Purdue did Ohio State yesterday. All these teams can bounce back into the middle of the pack and the race with wins.

WHO’S REALLY ELIMINATED

Illinois. They are a total train wreck.

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Big Ten Week 2 Review

What did we learn through the completion of the second week of Big Ten play? Plenty.

A quick review of the Saturday that was.

Let’s get to the big games first.

MICHIGAN 38, NOTRE DAME 34

What we learned: Tate Forcier is the real deal. Charlie Weis can’t call plays to run the clock out and may be on his way out before the season even gets to the midway point. Notre Dame’s offense is legit, its defense..uhhh.

The Verdict: Michigan, in year two under RichRod, is further developed and ahead of Notre Dame in year five of the Charlie Weis era. Who would have said that two months ago?

USC 18, OHIO STATE 15

What we learned: Matt Barkley has a short memory, after suffering through a brutal first three quarters, he makes the throws and reads when it matters most. That’s how you win games…Ohio State’s defense, wow, especially Thad Gibson who could be on his way to defensive POY in the Big Ten…”Tressel ball” doesn’t work when Terrelle Pryor is your quarterback.

The Verdict: USC is a BCS National Title contender because they have proven in just two weeks they can win games in several different ways. That”s how you become great. Ohio State is a not-ready-for-primetime player right now. As is Penn State or any other team in the conference.

CENTRAL MICHIGAN 29, MICHIGAN STATE 27

What we learned: Schools should give pay raises and security to coaches in the OFFSEASON….and that you can never overvalue the importance of working on special teams everyday in practice…oh and Dan LeFevour, in case you haven’t been watching, is legit.

The Verdict: You really have to question Michgian State because if they aren’t prepared in all areas of the game, this will keep happening.

INDIANA 23, WESTERN MICHIGAN 19

What we learned: Indiana is still very young and very undisciplined as shown by the penalties late in the game that nearly allowed WMU to win it…Hoosiers can run the ball and this new system works, it’s not pretty through two games, but it works…would not schedule WMU if I am a Big Ten team.

The verdict: Indiana still has a long way to go and it would be nice to see a complete game for the Hoosiers to really judge any improvements.

IOWA 35, IOWA STATE 3

What we learned: A week after nearly opening with a dud, Iowa regroups with a nice performance, albeit against a sub par opponent, but good improvement…Ricky Stanzi can throw against the non-con, but can he do enough to win in the conference?

The Verdict: I’m still in favor of saying this Iowa team is a sleeper and because Penn State has shown no offensive consistency, Iowa’s chances to be that sleeper and open conference play in two weeks with a win rise this week after PSU’s sub par performance.

MINNESOTA 20, AIR FORCE 13

What we learned: Minnesota’s offense can rally…yellow uniforms are awful…Air Force, like Navy, is a team that should never be scheduled if you are looking for non-conference wins.

The Verdict: Hard to really get behind these guys if they need a 17-point rally to win a home-opener, I’ve said all preseason and summer that I thought the Gophers would be a major surprise or had potential to be, now I am not so sure. Inconclusive verdict.

NORTHWESTERN 27, EASTERN MICHIGAN 24

What we learned: Nothing is easy for Northwestern…they have a kicker in Stefan Demos….but the Wildcats defense is awful.

The Verdict: Again, inconclusive.

WISCONSIN 34, FRESNO STATE 31

What we learned: Honestly, a lot here. I think Wisconsin showed they can handle adversity, toughness and a team that no one ever wants to play. Fresno State is as tough of a non-con team as you could want to play, but a rebuilding Badgers team did itself a favor with this one.

The Verdict: Maybe Wisconsin has more resolve and mental toughness than first thought? It’s possible.

ILLINOIS 45, ILLINOIS STATE 17

What we learned: Illinois has the best backup quarterback in the conference in Eddie McGee, who filled in for Juice Williams (injured quad), and did nicely. Granted it was against Illinois State. But still….

The Verdict: Considering opponent, this gave proved McGee might be the answer if Juice shows any inconsistency the rest of the way, assuming his leg is OK.

OREGON 38, PURDUE 36

What we learned: Like I said before, anyone can step into this system Purdue runs and be successful. But seriously, Purdue showed it can convert on fourth down (3-for-3) and that it has more balance, at least last night they did, than maybe before.

The Verdict: Purdue will hang around and hang around, and that will be trouble for someone at some point.

PENN STATE 28, SYRACUSE 7

What we learned: Penn State’s rush offense is nothing to write home about now and there are major lingering issues on the offensive line (guard spots), Daryll Clark keeps proving he is a darkhorse for Heisman and will be if he has to keep carrying this team himself and putting up these numbers.

The Verdict: Penn State is not the fifth best team in the country as they are now in the Coaches’ poll and likely will close in on in the AP Poll with Oklahoma State and Ohio State losing. They have a long way to go yet.

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What we learned week one

Thoughts on Penn State’s 31-7 win over Akron in a few. First what did we learn from the Big Ten in the opening week of the season. I’ll admit, I tanked on picks, but honestly, who expected Illinois to flatline (outside of Missouri), who expected Michigan to be as focused as they were (besides Michigan)…who figured that Iowa would sweat against UNI (outside of UNI fans).

If one week painted a portrait of a conference, then the Big Ten is a blueprint that is being ripped up and redesigned at the moment.

A very unimpressive weekend all around.

Indiana 19, EKU 13, (Thursday)

What we learned: IU is serious about making offensive changes with that pistol attack, and while it will take some time to work out the kinks, it looks like it will be successful behind QB Ben Chappel.

Verdict: Is EKU good, or is IU just so far down that the rebuilding took a bit of a detour this week? Call it inconclusive, but I think IU will have some success in due time.

Iowa 17, Northern Iowa 16

What we learned: If your opponent is kicking a field goal on first down late in the game and you are on defense, and you block it, it doesn’t matter how much time is on the clock, fall on the ball, OK? Should be common sense.

Verdict: No way Iowa should have struggled, so I think that talk they can compete for the Big Ten title is a little premature right now. This was the son of most unimpressive showing from a conference team of the weekend, which leads me to….

Missouri 37, Illinois 9

What we learned: Ron Zook can recruit, but coach in big spots right now? No. and Juice Williams, though he may have taken two steps forward in the

Juice Williams, shown here against Ohio State in 2007, was not loose against Missouri yesterday as Illinois was blown out 37-9/SI Photo

Juice Williams, shown here against Ohio State in 2007, was not loose against Missouri yesterday as Illinois was blown out 37-9/SI Photo

preseason, he just took five backward. Still a work in progress. A big one.

Verdict: Total flatline. And now that Rejus Benn is down with an ankle injury, which may or may not linger, this offense is taking a major hit. If they don’t rebound next week with a huge performance, questions will hang over this team all year.

Purdue 52, Toledo 31

What we learned: Whoever steps into Purdue’s offense can seemingly take the offense that is already in place and pick up right where the previous team left off. Might be the only team in the country you can say that about.

Verdict: Purdue still doesn’t have a defense (31 points to Toledo? Even if they turn out to be good, still…), so if they are content to win games like this all season then it will be a success.

Ohio State 31, Navy 27

What we learned: You never, ever, EVER, schedule Navy for a season opener if you are a top notch team. Ever. Especially when USC is game number two.

Verdict: I am not on the side thinking that this was bad for Ohio State because Navy is a very tricky opponent, always, with that nasty option game. Was Ohio State lucky? Yep. Did this prepare them for USC? Mentally, it might have.

Northwestern 47, Towson 14

What we learned: If you don’t care about RPI and SOS rankings and want an easy win while paying an opponent to take a beatdown, then this was perfect for Northwestern. How much it helps long term, well it doesn’t.

Verdict: Very inconclusive. It’s not even worth trying to gauge how the ‘Cats are after this game.

Wisconsin 28, Northern Illinois 20

What we learned: Wisconsin can’t take anything lightly these days, up 28-6 at one point they nearly lost that lead. Memo to the Badgers, you aren’t Ohio State, or Penn State or maybe even Wisconsin yet.

Verdict: When you have to rebuild it’s never good to let teams like NIU hang around like that. Mentally, where are the Badgers right now? This is a sign that they may let things snowball like they did last year if they get down in a game.

Michigan 31, Western Michigan 7

What we learned: Michigan, finally, was able to avoid distractions, win a home opener and look impressive in doing so. This was supposed to be a test for them with all of the off-field issues, and plus WMU has a good offense. Michigan put that to rest early.

Verdict: If the Wolverines can play as focused every week as they did this one, they will be back near the top of the Big 12. This was valuable as they prepare for rival Notre Dame next week.

Minnesota 23, Syracuse 20, OT

What we learned: Minnesota still has the best QB-WR combo in the conference right now and that they probably underestimated Greg Paulus and a retooled ‘Cuse offense but they rallied.

Verdict: I think the game said more about Syracuse’s improvement (and believe me, any sign of improvement for that team is a major one right now), than it did where Minnesota is at. But the Gophers took some body blows and responded in the later rounds and that is all that matters in the end. Decent, not great comeback.

Michigan State 44, Montana State 3

What we learned: This was as expected and where some conference teams stubbed their toe against similar teams like Montana State this week, Michigan State didn’t mess around and did what it needed to do to win.

Verdict: Inconclusive. Talk to me in three weeks after they play (BCS bound) Notre Dame.

Penn State 31, Akron 7

What we learned: The talk about PSU’s new receivers was bunk as Daryll Clark didn’t miss a beat. But you can still throw on PSU and the offensive line isn’t where it needs to be right now. Younger players need to learn how to play a full game. There is a lot of depth at receiver and PSU played a lot of young guys who showed promise.

Verdict: They didn’t put together a complete performance, at all, but sometimes when a team doesn’t play its best and they can still win with ease, that’s important.

RISE AND FALL

+  Michigan: I can’t stress how important I think it was that this team dusted aside all of the problems off the field and made short work of a team that should have caused them problems. This was Michgian’s best performance under Rich Rodriguez.

– Illinois: Wow. All that talk and hype about the offense (and I believed it too) was for not. And with Rejus Benn hurt, and Juice Williams back to being Juice Williams circa two years ago, it’s not good right now.

BEST PERFORMANCE NATIONALLY

Alabama, easily. Overrated, no way. Underrated maybe. ‘Bama’s defense is lightning fast, strong, they hawk to the ball, the offense has a game manager at quarterback and depth in the backfield. Plus the receivers are tight. This team is going to stay in the top five as long as it wants to this season.

MORE PSU THOUGHTS

  • If the offensive line believes it’s one or two “small things” away from being really good, then they have to show that next week against Syracuse.
  • Kevin Newsome should have been in the game sooner. They need to understand that he must get snaps these next two weeks just in case.
  • Was anyone really surprised that Devon Smith saw the field? Nope. My question is at 5’7, he will not be that over the middle guy, he’s going to be more gimmick than anything this year, so how do they develop  him. I wonder outloud how he’d look in the Wildcat?
  • I think that the secondary got the message it can’t take anyone lightly and they better learn quickly that desptie 31-0 leads, you can’t let up.
  • I also think that Paulus and Williams will challenge them next week more so than Akron did.
  • How different will the receiving corps be if Clark gets into a flow with one guy (Derek Moye?)…as opposed to spreading the wealth among the Big Three like last year.
  • That said….I also liked how they got several different players the ball.
  • If Daryll Clark keeps playing like this, he will no longer be a Darkhorse with the Heisman talk. ESPN is already pimping him a little bit this morning.
  • Clark just looked more at ease in his second season opening start, he has so much command, pocket presence, he needs to adjust to throwing to taller receivers, but man he just looked poised and ready to be the man from the start. Did you notice how he looked off two-three receivers just about every time yesterday?

SUNDAY LINKS

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Week 1 Big Ten Picks

Tonight is the official kickoff to the 2009 college football season, thankfully. With that here are the Week 1 picks for this weeks Big Ten games.

TONIGHT

EASTERN KENTUCKY at INDIANA, 8 pm, BTN

Hoosiers are going to the ‘pistol’ offense and they are hoping that can jumpstart a unit that was pretty awful last season. My question is when does Darius Willis touch the ball and how many times. Memorial Stadium is remolded, it’s IU’s first Thursday night game, it is nationally televised and I think that does the trick.

Prediction: IU 27, EKU 13

SATURDAY

ILLINOIS vs. MISSOURI, 3:30, ESPN

Last year was an absolute shootout with 94 points put up between the two. I see a lot of points again, but it’s more one-sided. Illinois has one of the most potent offenses in the conference if not the country and they may be ready to showcase all of that speed and talent in this one. Missouri rebuilding has strength in defense, but not enough to slow the Illini in this one.

Prediction: Illinois 38, Missouri 16

NORTHERN IOWA at 21/22 IOWA, noon, BTN

Iowa is a sure fire sleeper in the Big Ten but I am not sure how much we’re going to learn in this contest. Biggest question the Hawkeyes have to answer is who will become the primary ball carrier for the injured Jewel Hampton. Paki O’Meara sounds like the guy right now. Iowa can do without Hampton this week.

Prediction: Iowa 31, No. Iowa 16

MONTANA STATE at MICHIGAN STATE, Noon, BTN

Some sportsbook outlets are calling for Michigan State to actually run the table this season. Really. This is another game where we aren’t going to learn much from the Spartans just yet, but we know enough right now that they are rolling toward 1-0 overall. I think we see both Keith Nichol and Kirk Cousins and both do nothing to silence the QB controversey through one week.

Prediction: Michigan State 49, Montana State 9

MINNESOTA at SYRACUSE, Noon, ESPN2

Interesting matchup because Minnesota has no film on new ‘Cuse QB Greg Paulus, and Paulus has Mike Williams as a target which could mean there are plenty of points in this one. The over might not be a bad play if you are into that stuff. Syracuse also gets back Delone Carter who has major speed if his hip is heeled. The Gophers have one of the best offenses in the conference when healthy and I think Adam Weber’s experience gives him more of an edge of Paulus right now.

Prediction: Minnesota 31, Syracuse 17

TOWSON AT NORTHWESTERN, noon BTN

Two questions Northwestern has to answer. 1. Can Mike Kafka throw the football with consistency and 2. who is the replacement for Tyrell Sutton? In this one does it really matter?

Prediction: Northwestern 38, Towson 3

NAVY at 6/6 OHIO STATE, noon, ESPN

Terrelle Pryor gets the keys to the whole deal, what does he do with them. This is the toughest opener for any Big Ten team and I wouldn’t be stunned if Navy makes Ohio State sweat for two, maybe two and a half quarters, leading people to still question Pryor’s ability to play the QB spot. Navy is going to move the ball on the ground, but is that enough? Not here.

Prediction: Ohio State 33, Navy 16

TOLEDO at PURDUE, Noon, BTN

Easy to say the Boilermakers are ripe for the picking here because they are on the rebuild. Joey Elliott was the better Purdue QB last season, he is back and that is enough for them to get a W this week. Really as long as Purdue has a quarterback any running back and any wide receiver can fit into that system.

Prediction: Purdue 30, Toledo 12

NORTHERN ILLINOIS at WISCONSIN, 7 p.m., BTN

NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish will cause problems for the Badgers defense, he led them in rushing and passing last season, but he was inconsistent which means he could play into the strengths of the Badger defense (secondary)…Badgers use this one to work out issues at quarterback and running back.

Prediction: Wisconsin 24, NIU 13

AKRON at 9/8 PENN STATE, Noon, BTN

Akron is going to move the ball through the air and score a couple of touchdowns too, but balance is their biggest issue. Penn State’s front seven is awesome, face it, they are and Daryll Clark, Evan Royster and company will name their price. But again, I stress, Akron will score a couple of TDs and move the ball in the air.

Prediction: Penn State 41, Akron 13

UPSET SPECIAL: I debated this one all day, but here goes. I’m going to take Western Michigan over Michigan. Why? Well it begins and ends with WMU QB Tim Hiller…and remember what Oregon, App State and Utah quarterbacks have done to the Wolverines in recent years. The Big House hasn’t been the same since Henne, Hart and Manningham left. If this happens, I cannot imagine the firestorm around Rich Rodriguez. I think he’s vunerable but a little more bulletproof than some think he is. Still, this one will not be good for the resume, or his 2009 season, or long term.

Prediction: Western Michigan 27, Michigan 25

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Mr. Paterno goes to Washington

Talk about a cheap way to promote a football game and a conference.

This morning word comes out that Indiana is getting a $3 million payday to move its 2010 home game with Penn State to FedEx Field in Washington D.C.

If college football was never thought of as a business by some of you before, today it should be.

The move, honestly, stinks.

Why Washington D.C., you ask? Well it’s simple. Redskins owner Dan Snyder knows who the opponent is, he knows he can pack the place with Northern Virginia Penn State fans, and likely a handful from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland too.

In short, it’s not going to be an IU home game at all. It suddenly turns into a Penn State home game at a neutral field.

If I was any other school in the Big Ten, but Penn State, I’d be outraged and how this flips that good old competitive balance thing we often hear about.

What the move amounts to is a cheap way to promote a product. If the Big Ten is thinking about expanding and asking either a Big East or ACC team to swap conferences, maybe long term the move pays off, but that’s not the MO here.

Tim Cary over at First and Big Ten hits the nail squarely on the head with his blog this morning.

This is nothing more than IU needing money in a rough economic time. They will try to pass this game off as saying there are plenty of alumni from both schools that will attend the game. So when you watch this game either on the Big Ten Network or ESPN2, note exactly how many of those fans are wearing Blue and White or Crimson and White. Then get back to me.

If this game was moved to Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, I’d have no

Indiana is getting $3 million to move its 2010 home game with Penn State to Fed-Ex Field, home of the NFL's Washington Redskins/Wire Images

Indiana is getting $3 million to move its 2010 home game with Penn State to Fed-Ex Field, home of the NFL's Washington Redskins/Wire Images

problem with it. I’d prefer they move a non-conference game, like Ohio State is doing with Toledo this season (to be played at Cleveland Browns Stadium), but IU doesn’t have the drawing power in football like it does basketball to do that. So instead they have to sell out to Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins.

Nice.

And before you write in and tell me that Notre Dame is doing this, yeah they are, and Notre Dame is an independent, with a national (if not world wide) following and a flagship radio station in New York City. They can do that because they have no one to look out for but Notre Dame and that is why they will likely never jump into a conference for football.

The bottom line here, as it always is with sports, money talks. IU is not going to pass up money for nothing, so to speak, and Penn State surely won’t pass up an opportunity to give fans in other strong alumni regions a chance to drive 30 minutes for a game.

It’s a win-win for Penn State, but a shady, cheap way for the Big Ten to push product. I can’t agree with it. Not when there’s a NFL field in a nice city about an hour from Bloomington, if they really wanted to move the game to some place bigger.

If the Big Ten wants to expose it’s football in a better light or bigger light, there are other ways of going about it. Such as scheduling some A-list quality non-conference opponents in some of those made-for-TV matchups, like Ohio State realizes is important and will be doing the rest of this decade and the next.

Guess that would make too much sense and we wouldn’t want the product to get exposed in that way, would we?

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