He's ragged on West Virginia enough, at his peril, so SMQ will look at Penn State, which comes in at No. 19. Why? What makes anyone think this team is going to look remotely like last season?
PSU's last two winning seasons have been followed by immediate reversions to ninth-place wannabe status. The drop off here, due to the killer linebackers at least, may not be that severe, but it will be sufficient to keep the Lions out of the top 25. SMQ said Purdue will beat Penn State for fourth place in the Big Ten, and he's pretty confident about that pick.
If Penn State auccessfully replaces its fifth-place Heisman Trophy-finishing quarterback and four suddenly solid senior offensive linemen and a first-round draft pick and two other very productive starters on the dominant defensive line and three veteran secondary starters, maybe it can compete for a New Year's Day game. Otherwise, SMQ is thinking Alamo. Think of 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004 as the mean, to which they shall return.
I must say this bothers me. If it were some college kid Notre Dame hack spouting off from his dorm room I could write this off. But SMQ is one of the bloggers everyone respects. Those guys at SMQ seemingly know everything about every team. I swear they must go back and watch tape of every game from every season.
We must admit they has some valid points. But they are also a little short sighted in my opinion. While Anthony Morelli is no Michael Robinson, everyone has to admit Morelli is a better passer than MRob which will make our big play wide receivers more potent. And while Morelli has little experience on the field, he is a junior. By this point he has undoubtedly watched thousands of hours of film. He knows the offense and he should have a pretty good idea of how to read a defense.
While the defensive line lost three starters including first round pick Tamba Hali, Penn State rotates their defensive lineman like most schools. Five of the top 8 linemen from last year return and we are adding freshmen sensations Jared Odrick and Maurice Evans to the group. I also have a hunch Tom McEowen is going to work his way into the rotation based on his performance at the Big 33 game this year.
The corners are young and inexperieced and that is a concern. But they have great talent and they practice against the best wide receivers the Big Ten has to offer. Safeties Donnie Johnson and Nolan McCready are both seniors and know the defense, so they should be able to coach the younger players on the field. I don't suspect the secondary will get torched as bad as everyone anticipates. Look for Bradley to blitz the linebackers early in the season to get pressure on the QB to take some pressure off the secondary.
The offensive line is my biggest concern. While there are four new starters, Levi Brown is back to protect Morelli's backside. A.Q Shipley played eight games at center last season. John Shaw at RT is a redshirt junior and Robert Price is a reshirt senior. You would expect these guys would be ready to start after three or four years in the system. The coaches say they all have great athletic ability. So I would expect after a few games this group will come together and be just fine. But as a safety net, the coaches are utilizing the shotgun formation a lot in practice to give Morelli more time.
So while I respect SMQ's analysis greatly, I must humbly disagree with their opinion Penn State does not belong in the top 25.