2012 College Football Preview: Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Virginia Cavaliers

Last week Nittany Lions Den was late to the Blue White Roundtable, so we missed out on appetizers and the main meal. But not this week. We're getting a jump on everything by ensuring we are one of the first to post our responses.

This week Penn State looks to regroup and try to find a win, but to do so they will have to pull through on the road against a decent opponent in the Virginia Cavaliers. Virginia is coming off a season opening win against Richmond.

(1) We used to be concerned with the team starting slow out of the gate. On Saturday, there was plenty of energy in the first half. The same could not be said for the third quarter. What was the reason for the change?

Simply put, Ohio was more prepared physically for the 60 minute grind. Credit the Bobcats, and also respect the fact that this Ohio team is a solid team capable of doing some good things this season. Penn State's defense just never seemed to be able to create much pressure on Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton, and when he has time to think and check down on receivers the odds are pretty good he will connect with someone. Throw in the fact that Penn State's secondary is trying to find themselves, and that just is not a good combination for the Nittany Lions right now, as seen Saturday.

Was Penn State not in shape? I'm sure that is something that will come in to question with a new coaching staff and training routine. It could just be an adjustment for everyone involved, but it was clear that Penn State needs to be more physical if they want to win some games this season. And watch out now. If the lack of physicality continues against Virginia and Temple, Penn State could easily be 1-3 heading in to Big Ten play.

(2) What kind of flaws did Saturday's loss to Ohio expose in this Penn State team? Was there anything you were surprised to see?

The biggest flaw I saw in Penn State was also one of the biggest surprises for me, and that was the tackling of the defense. Linebackers aside, Penn State just did not seem to be able to wrap up Ohio's receivers and allowed the Bobcats some extra yards at critical points. We typically expect to see solid tackling from Penn State's defense, but as was the case against Wisconsin and Houston at the end of last season (and maybe some against Nebraska in November), when Penn State can't tackle they are in trouble.

Fortunately for Penn State I feel these are two concerns that can be corrected, and perhaps quickly. At least, they better hope they fix that problem soon.

(3) With Mike London firmly entrenched at the helm, Virginia has become a team on the rise. What should we expect from London's team this weekend? What memories do you have from the 2001-2002 series with the Cavaliers?

Mike London has Virginia playing better football on both sides of the football since he has taken over, and he turned this program around in quick fashion. They are still not going to be a team that competes (seriously) for an ACC title but they have the ability to keep any game close with their defense. I would expect Virginia's defense to create some problems for Penn State but part of me thinks that Ohio may have been able to cause as many, if not more, problems for Penn State. Virginia is balanced on offense and not one that excels in any particular area. If Penn State fixes their defensive operations, they should be to keep this game within reach for a young, developing offense.

You are talking to the president of the Matt Schaub Fan Club (went to high school with him), so naturally I was very interested in those two games. Of course, the first game was rescheduled for the end of the season after having the Thursday night game postponed following the September 11 attacks. By the end of that year Schaub was not the guy under center due to some injury and inconsistent play. Penn State was close to taking full control of that 2001 game though before the killer fumble return by Virginia following a strip of Zack Mills. If the Penn State had held on to score at least a field goal, they would have gone bowling that season.

The following year I finally got to see Schaub go up against Penn State and he actually had a decent game but Virginia was not able to slow down Penn State's offense. It was a good home-and-home series and I would like to see Penn State and Virginia play more often if possible, although I'd love to see Virginia Tech get on the schedule even more.

(4) Predictions?

I think Penn State puts together a stronger performance this week after being humbled last week. I think Virginia poses another serious threat though. I think Penn State finds a way to sneak out of there with a low-scoring victory, but it certainly won't be easy as far as offense is concerned.

Penn State 17, Virginia 16

Be sure to check out our friends at Black Shoe Diaries later this week for a recap of the Penn State blogosphere.

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