My apologies to the members of the Blue White Roundtable for the lack of responses from Nittany Lions Den. I fully admit to a failure of leadership and a lack of institutional control and have commissioned a report to investigate why I failed. Upon its completion I will willingly and unquestionably accept any penalties that may be deemed appropriate for our tardiness.
The good folks at Black Shoe Diaries have once again taken the responsibility of organizing a weekly round table discussion for the Penn State blogosphere to partake in, and Nittany Lions Den is proud to be included in this mix despite our late and absent responses for week one. Talk about getting off on the wrong foot. Yikes. But it is good to be getting back to talking football, without feeling bad about doing so, and to do so with this group of Penn State sites really is a lot of fun.
As mentioned, this week's roundtable was already assembled so you will not find Nittany Lions Den mentioned over on Black Shoe Diaries this week, but we will make every attempt to not miss out again for the remainder of the season. We start with week one's opponent, the Ohio Bobcats. Ohio, as you hopefully have learned by now after reading our Q&A with MACSportsOnline.com and listening to our podcast with Jason Arkley, is a legitimate threat to open the season and should not be taken lightly.
Let's get to the questions this week. The responses are mine, of course, but feel free to add a comment with your takes on any question presented.
(1) We've been waiting for years to find out what the first season would be like without Joe Paterno roaming the sidelines. Now that the day is finally here, what are your thoughts? Have the last nine months caused your enthusiasm to change?
It is a breath of fresh air for so many reasons. I was never on the Joe Must Go bandwagon when it came to football, despite knowing that things would have a better chance to improve if he were removed from the program. I always felt that he had earned a right to go on his own terms (this opinion being formed before November). Now that he is gone we all know that things are going to be different under Bill O'Brien, and that can be a very good thing.
To the second part of the question, the last nine months have been emotionally draining and there still seems to be plenty more long days ahead of all of us. But as I have been saying this week, don't we all deserve to be able to have a release from real life issues for three and a half hours this weekend? I think everybody deserves that at this point, and I don't think anyone should feel bad about cheering on their favorite team, regardless of the school colors. I still love the sport of college football and nothing will change that. Sure, it has some flaws, some big ones in fact, but I cannot help but get a kick out of watching it.
(2) Ohio head coach Frank Solich has visited Beaver Stadium once before and came away with a lopsided loss. What are your memories of the 2002 game versus Nebraska?
Before I get to the Nebraska game, I would like to remind you what happened the week before. To me, it made the rout of the Huskers even more of a shock. To open the 2002 season Penn State had to hang on for a victory against an average Central Florida team, 27-24. The Golden Knights trailed 10-9 at the half and scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, controlled the football for 33 minutes and passed for 345 yards. Penn State also lost a pair of fumbles from the four times they dropped the football. It was not pretty.
But against Nebraska everything just seemed to click. Maybe Penn State was holding back against Central Florida, which was a common coaching move made by Joe Paterno throughout his career (not showing off too much against inferior opponents). Hey, you could get away with that at the time, most of the time. I did not attend this Nebraska game, but some people still tell me to this day that was the most electric crowd Beaver Stadium has ever had. To me nothing tops the 2005 Ohio State game, but a few stand by that night in 2002.
(3) This Ohio University team is favored to win the Mid-American Conference. How big of an upset threat is this team? How concerned should Penn Staters be?
I think Ohio is very capable of leaving State College with a win, especially if Penn State's offense is slow out of the gate. The big key for me this week is the passing game. I give Ohio a slight edge right now because they have a quarterback capable of throwing for 3,000 yards in a season in Tyler Tettleton who can also pick up some yards running with the football. Against a Penn State secondary that is bringing in new faces at each starting spot, and with a potential go-to receiver in Donte Foster, Ohio has some serious potential to do some damage. And I have not even mentioned the Ohio offensive line, which can hold strong and provide some very good protection for Tettleton. Penn State's defensive line should be able to lead the way over 60 minutes, but it will not be easy.
Conversely, Penn State's passing game is a complete mystery to me. Without Justin Brown and Devon Smith it remains unknown just how effective these receivers will be. As I mentioned before, they could be very good or they could struggle. Considering one of the strengths of Ohio's defense may be their secondary, it could be a tough game for Penn State's pass attack. How quickly can the tight ends become a factor?
Absolutely Ohio is a serious threat this weekend.
Now, as much as I believe Ohio is going to be making this an interesting game, I still have to believe that Penn State's physical advantage on defense is going to shine brightest in the clutch. I think the key all seaosn long will be the Penn State defense keeping games manageable and allowing this developing offense to come through. Week one will be tight, and it certainly will not be pretty, but I have Penn State coming out on top for their first official victory since 1997.
Penn State 24, Ohio 23