Nebraska (7-2 Overall, 3-2 Corn Division) at Penn State (8-1 Overall, 5-0 Pig Division)
Kickoff: Noon, Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
Line: Nebraska favored by three points
TV: ESPN. Dave Pasch (play-by-play), Urban Meyer (analyst), Chris Spielman (analyst), Tom Rinaldi (sad, dramatic piano music)
Weather: Mostly Sunny, 56 degrees, light west wind
And Here We Are. We're all drained at this point. There will be a game at Beaver Stadium on Saturday afternoon, despite rumors and attention-seeking wails that it should be cancelled for the good of...well, we never got to that part. Such calls remain strictly punitive, and as the great American philosopher Ricky Watters once posed, "For Who, For What?" To punish the players, the fans, Nebraska? ESPN? It's in that vein that, by the time you read this, I will be the 938th person to demand you read Paterno biographer Joe Posnanski's latest update from State College. He says a fourth person will be charged soon, incidentally.
Before wading into the game itself, a few other editorial notes.
First, Give. Listening and watching the media coverage of the scandal, one constant (though tertiary) question keeps being asked: can anything good come of this? Well, the Proud To Be A Penn Stater drive is up to $40,000 as of about 9 p.m. Thursday night, and will almost certainly be over $55,000 by the time you read this on Friday. Proceeds benefit RAINN (The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). It won't change what happened in the past, but it most certainly will help future victims and hopefully prevent future sexual crimes. Keep giving. Spread the word on Facebook and Twitter. Make something good come of this.
Hire Ben Jones. Addressed to the people around the country who are only visiting Black Shoe Diaries for updates and reaction on the Sandusky investigation. Most of the writers have full-time careers, and they have nothing to do with sports. We're lawyers, bean counters, and engineers, among other things. However, you know that charming and thoughtful kid you rushed to follow on Twitter this week for timely updates from Happy Valley? The one who, despite never really having done this sort of thing before, was cool and eloquent on ESPN Radio, SportsCenter, and seemingly every radio show imaginable this week? Give him a job. He's earned it. And not one of those jobs where he's forced to cover junior high field hockey and NAIA Hacky Sack, either. His email link is at the bottom of the page. Help a brother out.
For The National Media Still In Town. Don't give up just because you got Paterno and Spanier's scalp. Doing so will only prove to the skeptical that you were there to sensationalize, not to investigate. If there's more work to be done, more victims to be discovered, and more conspiracy to unearth, please do it. I don't care if that means Penn State will be relegated to the MAC -- no, this one -- it's okay with me. Might actually bring ticket prices down a few bucks. And we're totally going to stomp Lebanon Valley College at Homecoming 2013. Eat it, Dutchmen.
What The Hell? Fix This, Karma. I'm sure the only reasons that Tim Curley remains employed and paid by Penn State are liability-based. What else could it be? It still looks awful and unfair.
We've Been Through Enough. Look, I'm struggling to keep the editorializing to a minimum here because you know my stance on any party who knew sexual abuse was happening and didn't do enough to prevent it. And for the 735th time, we're not talking legal responsibility. Joe Paterno never taught anybody that the bare minimum was enough. If you're still arguing that he did his job simply by sending Mike McQueary to Curley and Gary Schultz, you are brainwashed. All of them had to GTFO immediately. Their ghastly sins of omission combined with damage to the institution had been too great.
Argh. Most of the reaction to this entire scandal has actually been quite nuanced and thoughtful, but we all tend to focus on the most extreme. Extreme gets attention. Thursday afternoon, this email to ESPN's Jemele Hill got my attention.
If you're a student or fan thinking about doing something irrational, racist, or violent: yeah, please don't. The media will focus on the 1%. Don't be the 1%. #OccupySanity.
I Don't Even Remember Football Anymore. For real. I want it on my television, preferably on mute, just to associate Penn State with something other than child rape for a few hours. The magnificent trainwreck of the Illinois game seems like elevendy years ago. The last time we saw Penn State on a football field, this was the scene:
Final Moments: Penn State vs. Illinois (via gopennstatefootball)
We were drunk on luck and a suffocating defense, improbably sitting at 8-1 despite having a punchless offense. Joe Paterno was celebrated after the game for passing Eddie Robinson. Nobody knew who Gary Schultz was, and the singular, vital question in everyone's mind was "why the hell were they playing Rob Bolden, anyway?"
Now? Who the hell knows anymore. Paterno is gone. McQueary has officially been shuffled into the dark background. Sponsors are dropping Penn State. Hell, sponsors are dropping us. The football program, long held up as an example of one of the few redeeming things about college athletics, is now beyond toxic. The game? Penn State's players will most certainly be carried by raw emotion for the first ten minutes of the game. How much is that worth? Can it make up for a week filled with the most unimaginable distractions? The players have had their lives emptied and scattered about the national landscape. They're pledging unity. It's all they have left.
Let's Get Those Nerds! Nebraska learned a very important lesson about Big Ten football last week. When you're not careful and prepared, Northwestern will torpedo your season at the worst possible juncture. Were they looking ahead to Penn State? Possibly, and what's their mindset for this week's game? You have to imagine they're wondering, what the hell are we they walking into? It's okay, Huskers. We don't know, either. It's going to be equal parts funeral and Burning Man. Doesn't lead itself to reasoned analysis.
Logistics. Just as important, how does this machine even function from a practical standpoint? With Mike McQueary kept out of the stadium, who is left to send in personnel groupings, nevermind Joe Paterno's carrier pigeon messages from McKee Street. Really, who can't see Paterno writing FB DIVE on 100 scraps of paper with a menagerie of pigeons waiting for release). Serious question, though. Who is the traffic cop on the sideline? Bill Kenney? A graduate assistant? This is senseless. I'm wasting my time here.
Tom Bradley. Congratulations? There will soon be a lot of unemployed people who had nothing to do with Jerry Sandusky's perversions. At worst, this is a three-game audition for Bradley, a chance to pilot a crippled program through the roughest seas imaginable. There are absolutely no expectations. He'll be great, and I hope he's given a serious look for head coaching jobs in the off-season. The man deserves it. I hope this scandal doesn't make him radioactive. Same goes for the other coaches, provided they weren't in on any cover-up.
Prediction In GIF Form?
Look, it's going to be weird. Exciting, mysterious, sad, infuriating -- pretty much everything rolled into one ball of emotion with a giant question mark nail-gunned to it in thirty spots. Go enjoy a game of football. Allow it to be cathartic. It won't be easy, but it also won't be easy waiting nine months for Penn State to take the field in a real game at Beaver Stadium.
I hope Penn State wins, and had this penciled in as a win since August. However, I believe PSU's disorganization and lack of focus will be too much to overcome.
Nebraska 20, Penn State 10.