So I figured I'd post my thoughts on the upcoming season. I hope to be a more frequent poster here...really like the format. Been lurking more often than posting for the past couple years. Anyhoo...down to bizness.
I think we are looking at a 9 win season, perhaps more. We are flying under the radar, which is great...not many folks are expecting much from PSU. I like it that way.
Here's how I see the season shaking out:
Indiana State - W
Alabama - L -- Happy jack caveat: Bama's breaking in a new QB, early in the season, @ Beaver Stadium. If we can contain or at the least slow down Richardson, I say we notch the upset. Winnable game for sure (sorry, SEC fans). Too bad we don't play them in November...
Temple - W -- This won't be a typical 40-0 slaughterfest. The Owls gave PSU all they could handle last year AT Happy Valley. Golden built this program up to a competitive level...even with a new coach they have some very talented and hungry players. 2 TD win at most....and expect a close 1st half.
Eastern Michigan - W
@ Indiana - W -- Even though this is the lowly Hoosiers, this game kinda worries me. They have given us fits in recent years, and this year will be no different. Comfortable win margin, but they'll stay with us for a little while.
Iowa - W -- Ok. This team has beaten us 3 straight years. And frankly, outplayed us in all those games. If that reason alone isn't motivation enough for PSU to kick the snot out of them, I don't know what is. We finally end that streak...this one could be a blowout (yes, I'm crazy).
Purdue - W
@NW - L -- This will be a close, hard fought game. Anything but a gimme. And when you factor in that the team may be looking ahead to Illinois/Nebraska....I'd peg this as a classic trap game.
Illinois - W -- Can you say, revenge? This isn't the 2005 Illinois team...as we saw last year their offense is extremely potent, but I think our D will contain them much better than last year (wow was that pathetic).
Nebraska - W -- This is a tough one to predict...could be a very low scoring affair. I'd be less likely to pick PSU if this was @ Nebraska.
@ OSU - W -- Another very close game. We had the bucknuts beat last year...problem was we only showed up for 1 half.
@ Wisky - L -- I just think it'll be too much to ask for the Lions to win the final 3 games. 2008 was an anomaly...winning at Camp Randall is very hard. And assuming we win the previous 2 games against Nebraska/OSU...the team will be on a huge emotional high, which can work for or against them.
Keys to this season:
-Veteran leadership: Mauti, Green, Still, Lynn, Astorino, Moye
-Talented WR corps: Brown, Moye, Smurf (I mean Smith), Drake (please stay healthy), Kersey
-Defense is healthy, more experienced. And they will be a hungry unit after last year's terrible performance. Devon Still should draw double teams, allowing Crawford to return to 2009 form. Mauti and Hodges will be a SCARY duo, and our secondary should be the best unit PSU has fielded since maybe 2005 (hope to see Morris and Willis get more playing time). I say we will be creating LOTS more turnovers. Should be a top 15, if not top 10 unit again.
-RB depth, attitude: Green and Redd both are team players, and versatile backs that will keep defenses honest. I expect carries to be split, but not 50/50. I think Redd can still get 1200 yards despite splitting carries. We also have great 3rd down back options in Beachum/Dukes. Awesome unit.
-O-line: like every year, this is a question mark. But with good senior leadership in Troutman/Barham, hopefully this unit gels much earlier in season compared to last year. Should be an adequate (nothing great) unit.
-QB: Whether it is Bolden or McFavre (I think it'll be Bolden), all the QB will need to do is manage the game, not be Joe Montana. That's why, while most view this position as a weakness/big question mark, it doesn't concern me as much as the o-line...which ultimately makes or breaks an offense. If we can establish a consistent, potent running game, life will be much easier for the QB. That being said, #1 and #11 both had their growing pains last year, and hopefully whoever gets the starting nod has more maturity.
ST: Solid unit last year, and I expect no different this season. Smith was oh so close to breaking off a few TD returns last year...expect more big things from him.