Your weekly look at Penn State opponents, past, present, and future. In December, who will you blame for destroying Penn State's strength of schedule? Tim Curley and Paul Pasqualoni, you say?
Yes, we took last week off for post-Ohio State decompression purposes. Now we're back, back like cooked crack. Fired up! Ready to go!
Coastal Carolina (4-5, #180 Sagarin rating) -- Lost to the Stony Brook Seawolves in their most recent effort on October 25. They close out the season this weekend at the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs. Seriously. You think I make this stuff up?
I've known bulldogs to do many things. Drool. Sleep. Occasionally skateboard. However, running is not one of them.
Oregon State (5-3, #21) -- The one team on the schedule who can make a positive impact on Penn State's resume, Oregon State controls its own destiny in the Pac-10. They came back twice to beat Arizona State last week, 27-25. Remaining games: at UCLA, California, at Arizona, Oregon. Win those games and they're in the Rose Bowl.
Syracuse (2-6, #103) -- "...they'll have two weeks to put a plan together and sneak up on Louisville." That's what I wrote two weeks ago, and that's exactly what Syracuse did in beating the Cardinals, 28-21. The Orange takes its act to Rutgers on Saturday.
Temple (3-6, #88) -- Oh, Temple. They gagged away a 20-point fourth quarter lead against Navy and lost in overtime, 33-27. They've lost three games on the final play of the game. Head coach Al Golden: "In 21 years of college football I don't think I have ever been involved in anything like this. It's heartbreaking." They're at Kent State next Wednesday.
Illinois (5-4, #44) -- Beat Iowa 27-24 on a 46-yard field goal with 24 seconds left in the game. The Illini sacked Ricky Stanzi six times, and took a Stanzi fumble to the end zone for a fourth quarter touchdown. Oh, and they picked off Stanzi twice. Did I mention this was a bad game for Ricky Stanzi? The Illini get a slight breather this week, taking on Western Michigan in Kalamazoo Detroit. Below, Illinois head coach Ron Zook delivers his final ruling on the status of Jeff Cumberland, who broke the jaw of a teammate after the Iowa win. They won! Why so angry?
Purdue (3-6, #71) -- Oatmeal jokes aside, it's been a rough final year for Joe Tiller at Purdue, but you have to think that his best on-field memory from 2008 will be a game-winning hook and lateral, thrown by his emergency quarterback, to beat the Snake Oil Salesman from Ann Arbor. They'll go for the Michigan Sweep in East Lansing on Saturday.
Wisconsin (4-5, #52) -- Bret Bielema, meet karma. Karma, Bielema. We're officially at the point in Wisconsin's crash-burn season that local writers feel compelled to state reasons why he should not be fired. The Badgers have officially set their sights on the Motor City Bowl. Tough to swallow for a former top 10 team. They'll play at Indiana this week.
Michigan (2-7, #96) -- Now legitimately staring at a possible 2-10 campaign after losing to Purdue. Their final three games are at Minnesota, Northwestern, and at Ohio State. 4-8 is somewhat possible, though it's hard to believe we're at a point where a 4-8 season is a best case scenario for the Michigan Wolverines.
Ohio State (7-2, #13) -- Like Penn State, the Buckeyes had last week off. There's no reason they shouldn't finish 10-2, with remaining contests at Northwestern, at Illinois, and home against Michigan. Could there be a Rose Bowl rematch against Southern Cal looming, as many national sportswriters suggest? Can we hide the women and children now?
Iowa (5-4, #36) -- The mysterious Iowa Hawkeyes stagger onward. They do certain things very well, mostly because of Shonn Greene and a fairly stout defense. They do other things poorly, like, everything else. They're a tricky matchup for Penn State this week, but mostly because of intangible items on the PSU side -- mostly, how will the Nittany Lions play after an emotional win and a two-week layoff? Iowa still has a decent shot at a 7-5 season, as they close with Purdue and a trip to Minnesota. Not what they wanted back in September, but it is what it is.
Indiana (3-6, #91) -- Still sucks. They faced Central Michigan last week, which isn't an easy task because Dan LeFevour is one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Problem is, LeFevour didn't play and his backup threw for a school-record 485 yards and accounted for five touchdowns (4 pass, 1 rush). CMU wins, 37-34. One year after a thrilling, emotional bowl run, Indiana has crashed back down to Earth. Fun while it lasted.
Michigan State (8-2, #18) -- Benefitted from Bret Bielema's Intergalactic Brainfart Symposium, as noted above. They'll likely beat Purdue this week, then have two weeks to get ready for the season-ending game at Penn State. Considering how the rest of the conference has limped through the year, Sparty's held it together rather well.
Not on Penn State's 2008 schedule, (7-2, #25) Minnesota, and (7-2, #22) Northwestern.