Tag Archives: Michigan State Spartans

Nittany Lion Hotline recap

A special Wednesday edition of NLH tonight because the men’s basketball team is on the road and plays tomorrow at 4pm, so the game would bleed into the usual time.

THE HOST WITH THE MOST: Steve “Snapper” Jones

PLAYER GUEST: Because it was a split show with football and basketball tonight, “Snapper” got men’s assistant basketball coach Kurt Kanaskie on to talk PSU hoops. No football player guest. I do not cover PSU hoops, therefore there will be no recap of what KK said, because I have no idea what he is talking about and outside of Jermaine Marshall and Talor Battle, I know nothing about PSU hoops. I will readily admit that. Yes, I suck.

JOE ARRIVES: At 6:30 tonight, he’s on the phone.

THE BIG NEWS: Joe is on a CLEAR connection, much different from the 1890’s rotary phone he was using last year when he was bunkered up in the Paterno Compound on McKee Street with the bum hip and short temper.

THE BIG NEWS II: Joe says Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins is like Mike Kafka from Northwestern. My boy Neil Geoghegan from Journal Register in Philly would say he’s a lot like C.J. Bacher.

HUH? Joe says that people “underestimate what this team has accomplished this season.”….Uhhhhh, Joe, what HAS this team accomplished? I mean honestly? With a win you are going to backdoor and luck into a BCS bowl, the marquee win is Temple, and you’ve been outclassed by the two superior Big Ten teams, AT HOME. The only other highlight this season was the demolishing of Michigan from about the 7-minute mark of the first quarter-on. That’s it.

THENOTSOBIGBUTWORTHMENTIONINGNEWS: For those of you who have Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown on your fantasy football team, I hope your No. 2 back and a backup are both good because Ronnie is done for the year. No this wasn’t mentioned by either Steve, Kanaskie or Joe, but I have Ronnie on my fantasy team, I am in first place, and now I’m pissed and had to use this space to vent.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM JOE:

  • Joe says MSU is up and down, “but when they put their ears back and come,” they are tough. “This is a good football team. Their 6-5 but if you look at them they look like they should have one 2-3 more football games.”
  • Caller asks about freshman offensive tackle Eric Shrive. Joe says he’s going to be a good football player someday, he’s redshirting, and the hardest position to break into early in a career is the OL per Joe. He is currently running scout team.
  • Any thought of moving Chaz Powell back to safety with Brown and others at the WR spot. Joe says they will look at tape when the season is over, says Powell is bugging him to be the wildcat in the offense, but Joe says its a possibility….but Powell will be at WR for the remainder of the season and in the bowl.
  • Joe laments on the Beachum injury, says it’s a bigger loss than people think.
  • Team worked really hard on covering MSU’s spectacular kick return unit. Joe says if they give up a big play in the kicking game they will lose.
  • Joe thinks that Matt Stankiewitch has to get a little more aggressive.
  • He isn’t sure if they will play ND again, he hints they’d like to. But says the schedules are made so far in advance that the next possible time might be 2020 and he won’t be around then.
  • Troutman won’t start, but can play this weekend.
  • Behind Beachum is Brent Carter. But it’s harder to replace Beachum on special teams. Joe says Jerome Hayes will play more on special teams this week.
  • Joe says they need a win this weekend…ya think?

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Joe Paterno transcript

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

Q. Your team has had slow starts in its three road games. Is there any explanation for that and is it at all a concern?
COACH PATERNO: Well, yeah, I have a little concern obviously. Do I have an explanation? No. I really don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine.
Obviously I’m just glad we were able to learn from the slow starts and go on from there. But other than that, I don’t have anything. We had a slow start last weekend at home.

Q. Joe, what is Chaz Powell’s status for Saturday? What is your impression of Greg Jones as a Michigan State linebacker?
COACH PATERNO: I think Jones is a really good football player. In fact, we talked about him this morning. What has he got, a hundred some tackles, a couple other things? We were talking about him. I think it’s 53, isn’t it, his number? I don’t talk names, I talk numbers when I talk with the staff. Basically that’s where I come from with the numbers because I look at people, I don’t look at reputations, I look at the way they play.
He’s a heck of a football player. Powell I doubt will make it. In fact, we’re not really counting on him for this week.

Q. How do you think DeOn’tae Pannell was at guard last week and will he stay there the rest of the season?
COACH PATERNO: We only have one game left. He’ll stay at guard. I thought the he did a pretty good job really, not a great job, particularly if you figure he’s coming off an injury and a new position. I thought overall he did a good job.

Q. What is the status of A.J. Wallace? How does the absence of Beachum affect your team?
COACH PATERNO: Well, Beachum is obviously a big one. He was a kid that played on special teams as well as played fullback, tailback, a great kid on the practice field.
A.J. may play, so I’m not going to get into that.
But they’re different types. Beachum is all over the place for you. Anything you ask him to do, he does well. A.J. is a little different. A.J., we’ve asked him to cover kicks, he’s done a decent job on that. He’s played a decent corner. So, you know, he’s a good football player who probably could be better than he performs. But Beachum is one of those guys, he’s a coach’s player.

Q. Devon Smith, why haven’t we seen more of him lately than we have in the beginning of the year?
COACH PATERNO: Didn’t get in a couple games because he cut classes, all right? He wasn’t in a couple games. He decided he was here to get an education, so we played him a little bit last week. He’s okay. He’s got a long way to go to grow up. But he practices hard. Obviously, he’s got great speed. Compare him to a kid like Drake, which I’m assuming you’re going to ask me about next.

Q. You got it.
COACH PATERNO: Yeah, Drake has been a quarterback on a team that was one play away from winning the state championship. A little bit more versatility and can do more things than the other kid can do. He doesn’t have the speed obviously that Smith has. They both have a place in the future.
But, as I said, you know, they got to do it the way we want it done, and that means you go to class. If you don’t go to class, you’re wasting your time.

Q. Why didn’t Drake play more so far?
COACH PATERNO: Because Powell got hurt.

Q. Why didn’t he play more earlier?
COACH PATERNO: Why didn’t he play more? Because Powell was better. Don’t you go to the games?

Q. What are your thoughts about the season that Andrew Quarless has had both on and off the field? What do you think he needs to improve on to succeed if he goes on to the next level?
COACH PATERNO: I think Quarless is doing really well. I think, you know, obviously we’ve done a lot of things with him that we haven’t done with a tight end in the past. We put him in the backfield. He’s half a fullback, half a tight end sometimes.
I think he’s had a heck of a year. He’s been a leader, which has made me feel good about the fact that he took some of the things that we disagreed on, he took them to heart, he’s going to be fine, graduate and everything else.
I’m very pleased with Quarless. I think the biggest thing we have to do with him is probably get him the ball more.

Q. You used Kevin Newsome for that one play there. What was the thinking there? Did you plan to use him more before the game got tight?
COACH PATERNO: You know, I’m always trying to get Kevin a little bit. You know, Kevin Newsome has a future, but we put him in, let him get knocked around a little bit. He can run with the football, change of pace. You know, you hate to be out of style. The wildcat style… I go down every once in a while and look at new suits, stuff like that, buy a decent tie. My wife says, You’re not going to wear that tie to this press conference. I say, Some of these guys don’t even know what a tie is.
I just want to be stylish, so we stick the wildcat in there one play a game.

Q. You usually wear a jacket.
COACH PATERNO: I know I usually wear a jacket. But after watching you guys for 11 weeks, I felt I was a little overdressed.

Q. Joe, last couple weeks defenses have done a pretty good job against your wideouts, really didn’t get much from the wideouts at all last week. Is that because of execution on your part or what defenses are doing to you? What can you do to adjust to that?
COACH PATERNO: Well, I think it’s a question of what they’re doing and giving us more of an opportunity to run the football. Early in the year, they challenged our wideouts, challenged our passing game, were not going to let us run the football. I think as the season went along, they started to realize the wideouts were guys they had to worry about, and Clark was a kid they made sure they didn’t let him get a hot a hand. They started to change some coverages, do some things, which gave us an opportunity to run. I think we’ve done a little better job running the football.
We’ve had some bumps and bruises up front, different combinations. Pannell started out as a starting right tackle, now he’s a left guard. We didn’t count on (indiscernible) doing much, and he’s starting at right tackle. We’ve had to improvise a little bit up front.
But even having said that, you know, they’re giving us better opportunities to run the football, and we’re trying to take advantage of that. Maybe we should be throwing more. I don’t know. I think we’ve scored enough points. We haven’t maybe scored them exactly where everybody wants them. We didn’t do a particularly good job against two of the better defensive teams that we played against, both Iowa and Ohio State. So I think we could be criticized in those games. But other than that, I think we’ve done a pretty good job.

Q. In a nutshell, how do you feel Michigan State’s quarterback Kirk Cousins ranks among other quarterbacks in the Big Ten?
COACH PATERNO: You know, that’s an interesting question because there aren’t a lot of solid quarterbacks in this league. You know, the kid at Northwestern got hurt against us early. This kid here Cousins is a good quarterback. You know, they’ve beaten some pretty good football teams. They’ve been in games where they scored a lot of points, maybe not enough to win, but they’ve been very competitive because of their quarterback. Iowa had a fine quarterback. Kid breaks a leg, they lost the game last week that maybe they probably would have won. Not probably, but they would have had a better chance to beat Ohio State with their quarterback.
There are a lot of kids in the league that are all-around good football players, and good wideouts. I’ve been a little bit perturbed because I think the media has jumped on the Southeastern Conference bandwagon, our schedule, this schedule. When you look at it, there’s two pretty good teams in the Southeastern Conference. There’s probably one good team in the league that Texas is playing in. There’s obviously three or four teams that are comparable in the PAC-10. Who knows who’s gonna win each week out there.
You know, I don’t think some of the kids in our league have gotten the credit they should get, either the wideouts or the quarterbacks.

Q. Could you talk about Michigan State’s kicking and return game. Will that be one of the more challenging outings for your special teams?
COACH PATERNO: Every week has been challenging one way or the other. But your point is right. They have an excellent kicking, return game, and an excellent punter. This kid kicks the ball high, right down the middle of the field. They cover well. We just can’t make any mistakes. The kicking game will be a big factor in how this game goes. If we don’t cover our butts off – pardon the ‘butt’ reference – if we don’t do a good job there, we’ll have troubles. Really, that one kid can really go. 90-some yards last week. They’re good.
We spent a little time yesterday on it. We’re going to spend a lot of time on our kicking game this week.

Q. Joe, can you talk about where this rivalry with Michigan State ranks as far as in the Big Ten and why the past couple games at Michigan State have been so tough.
COACH PATERNO: Well, you know, that covers a whole lot. Got an hour and a half in this press conference for me to answer?
Michigan State plays well against us at home. We just talked about this this morning, how tough they’ve been out there in Lansing for us. That’s number one. How is the rivalry? It depends on the year.
We started out when we first got in the Big Ten, George Perles, who was coaching out at the Hula Bowl, who I think at that time was the athletic director and football coach of Michigan State, was an old friend, a guy who had been on the Pittsburgh Steelers staff for a long time, a guy I knew. I tried to recruit one of his kids who was a good football player. He called me up. He says, Why don’t we make our game, the game we’re going to play, as the last one every year? He said, We’ve had a great tradition with Michigan State, which we do. Duffy Daugherty, who was the great head coach at Michigan State when they had the great teams in the ’60s, was from Barnesville, Pennsylvania. He was a Barnesville, Pennsylvania kid. When they beat us in the ’50s with those guys, they were all Johnstown area kids, (indiscernible) township and Adams township. Nowadays, that’s all been combined. So we’ve had a long history. Even when I came here in 1950, I think the only game, I think Michigan State broke Penn State’s streak of 18, 19 wins when they had gone to the Cotton Bowl. So there was a good pattern to that. I thought that was a good idea.
I think it’s been a good series. Obviously, you know, there’s a couple series in the league, in the conference, that go back further and have a little bit more tradition. But I think, as we play our way into where we’re not the outcasts there in the hinterlands, I think it will be a very significant – I don’t know what you call it – end-of-the-season game for both teams and for the league.

Q. You talked about the importance of your punt return guys fielding the ball cleanly. After you put a couple on the turf last week, do you consider making any changes? What do you think the problem is there?
COACH PATERNO: We’re not going to let them punt (laughter).
We’re going to try to catch the ball. You’re right. We didn’t catch the football. We spent some time on it. I think Zug had a bad day. He was trying to make something happen. We were behind. He came out, I said, You got to be careful with the football. He said, Coach, I tried to make something happen. You got to appreciate that in a competitor. Astorino, the same thing. He caught the ball, was running. You got to give Indiana credit for that one because the kid saw that he had a shot at Astorino from the back, punched it out.
I think your observation is right, we didn’t handle the ball well, and we got to handle it better. Having everything in tow, those things are going to happen to you. We were sloppy everywhere. We put the ball on the ground too many times there. Obviously a couple of them came from the punt game.

Q. Do you anticipate any changes there?
COACH PATERNO: Oh, yeah. You’re talking to an old punt returner. I still got the Brown record for the yardage in one game in punt returns.
We’ll be all right. We’ll be all right.

Q. Last week you said you were going to make personnel changes on your special teams. How did those changes help you?
COACH PATERNO: I thought we did a good job on coverage, both punts and on kickoffs. We changed some people. But, unfortunately, Beachum and Powell, we put Powell on the coverage team, and Powell probably won’t play this week. Beachum the same way. We’ve got to make a couple more changes this week, and hopefully they’ll work out as well as the ones last week.

Q. Do you know who you’re considering in replacing Beachum with?
COACH PATERNO: I’m not sure yet.

Q. After you lost to Ohio State, everybody figured your BCS hopes were out the window. Now they’re saying if you win on Saturday, you still have a shot at getting in the Orange Bowl. Wonder if you talked to your team about that.
COACH PATERNO: You know, you guys know more than I do. The only thing I know is we’re playing Michigan State this week. Don’t make a darn bit of difference. You guys speculate all you want. If we don’t beat Michigan State, none of that makes any — none of it’s important. So I don’t waste time with it.
I’m going to try to go out there and show those guys how I used to catch punts, ran for touchdowns every time I got my hands on the ball, see if we can beat Michigan State on a punt return so we can keep some of you guys happy.

Q. Navorro Bowman has been a big part of the defense the last couple years. There’s reports he’s considering going to the NFL.
COACH PATERNO: I don’t even know what you’re talking about.

Q. Navorro Bowman.
COACH PATERNO: I never talked to him about it.

Q. Evan Royster has 990 yards. Can you analyze some of his progress this year and throughout his career, how good of a back he’s been for you.
COACH PATERNO: In fact, I got on Royster a little bit either last week or two weeks ago. I said, Hey, you’re not playing with a lot of enthusiasm like you have. I thought he played well last week.
He’s a good, solid, all-around black. He’s not flashy. He’s consistent. He knows what’s going on. He can do everything you want him to do. He blocks well enough. He’s a really good receiver and he’s intelligent. If we put something in on a Monday, we don’t have to worry about whether he can handle it or not. You have some other players, you know, when you debate whether you want to try something different for a particular game, you always wonder whether he can handle the mental part of it.
Royster is a heck of an athlete. He was a great lacrosse player. He’s got an older brother who is a fine football player that went out to Stanford. At some point people thought that our Royster was the best lacrosse player in the state of Virginia, which is a good lacrosse state.
He’s a good player.

Q. Hoping you have your old athletic director hat around somewhere. Are you involved or been kept up to speed with the university’s new pricing plan for football season tickets that’s out there?
COACH PATERNO: Well, the only thing I know is they were debating it. They asked me what I thought. I said, Look, you guys have the responsibility for 29 sports. It’s a lot different than when I was the athletic director. Didn’t have the impact it was now. We didn’t have scholarships for all the women’s sports. We didn’t have to upgrade facilities. Right now we’re going to build another softball field, a better softball field, for the women. And I think we should. We didn’t have some of the pressure that we have as far as, you know, expenses and things of that kind. You guys were all uptight about trying to find out how much I was making. Then when you found out how much I was making, that was the end of the story because there were guys out there making three and four times what I’m making. There’s an awful lot of pressure.
I think that the university is doing the best it can. Now, what exactly the specifics of the program, I don’t know. All I’ve ever said to Tim Curley is, Tim, you’re doing one heck of a job, all right? You just look around at the facilities, you look at what they’ve done to the soccer field, you look at the baseball field that was put out there, you look at all the things that have been done. How you paying for it? He said, Well, it’s tough. I said, Well, you know, remember, whatever we do, do it well.
In fact, I’m going to be after his back to fix up the visiting team locker room. We got the worst visiting team locker room in this conference. We have to spend money to fix that up.
So I think that they’re doing a heck of a job. I’m disappointed that either the media or somebody who knew what was going on would let it go because they had told me, you know, Wait till the season’s over, we’ll make the announcement. Michigan State is on my mind, all right? That to me is the only thing we should all be thinking about, Michigan State. Now all of a sudden I got you asking me a question about something. I said, I ain’t part of it, except I know you’re going to do a good job. And I think the university has done a super job.
You take a look at what other people are doing. How much are we charging compared to other people? I think we’re probably at the bottom of the list. I saw what Michigan charges, and I saw what Ohio State charges. See what these other people are charging, what kind of money we got to raise. I don’t know whether it’s changed or not. When I was the athletic director, every time they raised tuition, the budget went up. We don’t get a nickel from the university for anything. Completely self-supporting. So they got to do something or we got to cut back sports, and we don’t want to do that.
But that’s not my bout.

Q. Might have been a pre-season magazine where you talked about eight home games, the challenge it is for the fans.
COACH PATERNO: I haven’t got the slightest idea what you do with it. It’s not my decision to make. I got Michigan State to play this week.

Q. Can you talk about why Mark Dantonio looks to be a good fit at Michigan State. Last week you talked about Indiana playing in hard luck. Michigan State has been in every game and also has had hard luck. Might be better than their 6-5 record would indicate.
COACH PATERNO: Absolutely. I think Michigan State is a fine football team. I thought Indiana was a good football team. I told you that.
No, I think Michigan State and Mark Dantonio is a fine coach. I said to Bill Lynch before the game, The one thing about this league right now is we got more good, young coaches than I’ve seen since I’ve been in the league. I said, I just hope that everybody understands it’s going to take a while for some of the programs to get going. You got to have a little luck. Michigan State has had some bad luck. Indiana has had some bad luck. Put the ball on the ground at the wrong time, get a lousy officials call, which you’ll get from time to time. I said, You know, just hang in there.
Michigan State is obviously a little further along than Indiana. They’re on the verge of being a really good football team. I hope they’re at least 10 days away. But they’re good. Mark is a good coach. They’re doing a heck of a job. It will be a good football game.

Q. Joe, could you talk about what Ed Czekaj meant to Penn State.
COACH PATERNO: Ed is one of the great Penn Staters. When I came here, Ed was an associate or assistant. I forget. Ike Gilbert was the business manager. We didn’t have an athletic director in those days. We had a dean in phys ed and an athletics guy by the name of Carl Shott. Ed worked for Ike Gilbert as kind of a bookkeeper kind of thing, and then Ed moved up. Ed was so loyal to Penn State. He was as fine a Penn Stater and did a good job.
I got a little annoyed at one time, went in to see Ed. I said, Ed, where is the money? I want to build some facilities. We had been to four straight New Year’s Day Bowl games. There wasn’t any money to build a couple facilities which I thought we needed. Ed said, We got to do some things, we built the research lab, did this and that, so it’s been used. Ed said, It wasn’t really my decision, but it was the university’s decision to do it.
I said, Well, why don’t you and I go down there and make a fuss. He said, I don’t want to do anything that’s going to embarrass Penn State. He said, I can sit and take a backseat.
That’s the way he was. He was just a wonderful, wonderful man. In a way, all those guys are gone. McCoy and Gilbert, Ed, Jim. Don’t see much of Jim anymore. Long tradition of great Penn Staters.

Q. Has your team been as consistent as you might have hoped for at this point in the season, late in the season?
COACH PATERNO: Well, I think we played well. Obviously we would liked to have won another game or two. But I think for a young team, some key positions, people were young, I thought overall we did all right.
You know, as I said, I would have loved to have won another game or two, and probably could have had a shot at it. But we didn’t do it. So, I mean, again, hopefully we’ve learned from some mistakes we made and we won’t make them again this week when we’re, again, going out to Michigan and playing a tough Michigan State football team.
You guys are the guys that are disappointed, I think.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, coach.
COACH PATERNO: Thank you.

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Tuesday Cup of Joe: The Finale

Joe Paterno has wrapped up his weekly teleconfernece for the final time in 2009. Here’s the news you need to know headed into the finale against Michigan State where the Nittany Lions could cap a 10-2 season and possibly wrap up a BCS at-large berth.

THE BIG NEWS: Wide receiver Chaz Powell is unlikely to play this weekend with his sprained AC joint suffered against Indiana.

THE BIG NEWS II: DeOn’Tae Pannell will remain at guard for the finale and also the bowl game.

THE BIG NEWS III: Freshman wide receiver Devon Smith hasn’t been seen much because he’s been cutting classes. Paterno said “He’s decided he’s here to get an education,” and added that “He’s OK, he’s got a long way to go to grow up.”

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Joe is pleased with tight end Andrew Quarless and they should get him the ball more.
  • The staff has been trying to get Kevin Newsome in more during the season, but it just hasn’t worked out much. “You hate to get out of style, and the Wildcat is the style now,” per Joe. “I just want to be stylish and we stick the Wildcat in there once in a while.”
  • Opposing defenses vs. the PSU wideouts has been good, “it’s a question of what they’re doing and giving us more of a chance to run the football.”
  • Joe likes Cousins running the offense at Michigan State. Said he’s a good quarterback and it’s an interesting question stacking him up against the other QBs.
  • Joe thinks the kicking game will determine how this game shakes out. Says that Michigan State has “excellent” special teams.
  • Rivalry with MSU: “We got an hour and a half of this press conference to answer that,” Joe remarks. Joe says it depends on the year how the rivalry between the two of them is. Joe says that there are other rivalries in the Big Ten that are better, but he thinks this could turn into a good one in due time. He kind of hints here that PSU still isn’t welcome in the Big Ten
  • No changes to punt return team.
  • Joe isn’t sure who will replace Beachum on special teams.
  • Joe did not talk to the team about a possible BCS bowl berth.
  • There have been no discussions between Paterno and linebacker Navorro Bowman about Bowman possibly leaving for the NFL.
  • Royster is a good all around back according to Joe…says he was on Royster for not playing with as much fire as he had before earlier in the season.
  • Joe says now there are more responsibilities for the admin to consider, namely 29 teams they have to find money to take care of expenses for.  “I think the University is doing the best it can. What exactly are specifics, I don’t know. All I’ve ever said to Curley is  “you’re doing one heck of a job.”  Joe says compared to other schools PSU is probably charging less than some of the Big Ten schools ticket wise. He said: “They’ve got to do something, or we’ve got to cut back sports, and we don’t want to do that.”
  • Michigan State is better than its 6-5 record indicates according to Joe and they are on the verge of being a really good football team but he hopes they are 10 days away from becoming such.
  • Joe things the team is playing consistent football but adds he wishes they would have won another game or two.

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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 Buy or Sell Week 3; Notebook

Conference play begins this week, so here’s a quick edition of Buy or Sell.

BUY, BUY, BUY

1. Penn State: The Nittany Lions need a signature performance to show they are worthy of the top five ranking, and to calm some of the fears that this team is incomplete. This team, right now, has no identity and is a complete mystery. That usually isn’t a case for buying under this idea, but I say take a chance because they have as good as a shot as any other conference team to prove they belong this weekend. Don’t buy into the injury problem right now, Graham Zug is OK, even though Sean Lee sounds very questionable, Navorro Bowman will be there.

2. Iowa: Because you will come away from Saturday’s game thinking they are scrappy, will cause problems for other conference teams, will win a game they shouldn’t, will hang around until the end of the season, are well coached and disciplined (on the field) and play smart football.

3. Michigan: The return this weekend won’t be as big even though Indiana is 3-0, but this is a team to keep an eye on the entire season. Realize already they are halfway to being bowl eligible and it’s very possible they beat Michigan State and Iowa after this weekend before they get Delaware State meaning they could be 7-0 when Penn State comes calling on Oct. 24.

4. Minnesota: Northwestern lost to Syracuse, they are rip for the picking this weekend no matter how upbeat head coach Pat Fitzgerald is. And yes I know Minny barely beat Syracuse and came back vs. Air Force, but in losing to California and hanging in there the way they did, I learned more about them than in the two wins. To put this in perspective, that loss to Cal, I learned more about the Gophers than I have about PSU in three wins.

SELL, SELL, SELL

1. Purdue: You can’t lose to Northern Illinois at home then attempt to beat a very potent Notre Dame offense at home. That equation doesn’t work right now.

2. Michigan State: I know they lost to Notre Dame, who is really good and will win 10 games, but they are going to Wisconsin, which has played well despite being in total rebuild mode offensively. This is a brutal stretch for the Spartans with the Badgers, Michigan, and Illinois all up next. They can’t be trusted right now.

BIG TEN BARGAIN BUY

Illinois: They are healthy and don’t forget that Juice Williams has a win in the Horseshoe already and that Ron Zook is only the 13th Big Ten coach to win at both Michigan and Ohio State. Sure he does some quirky things in his play call, but this could be a huge return if you choose the Illini and minimal loss, if you catch my drift.

NATIONAL BUY

Virginia Tech: They are the perfect spoiler for Miami’s red hot start, plus Karma may be on their side after that nutty touchdown against Nebraska last week.

Notre Dame Bandwagon update

I’m still on it, still driving the wagon, still believe they are going to win 10 games and I think the schedule just got easier with USC stubbing its toe. Call it bandwagon at 98% right now. But the way to beat them is to win it in the final two minutes because the Irish defense is so fundamentally undisciplined now.

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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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