Admit it, you missed us.
It's the dog days of summer, which can only mean one thing - we're just days until kickoff! You are looking LIVE! at the Blue/White Roundtable, rolling into Beaver Stadium to the sweet sound of Neil Diamond. Here's how this goes - every week, yours truly will pose a variety of questions to the Amateur Blog Mob - Penn State bloggers from every corner of the Nittany Lion internet. We'll post the greatest hits here each Wednesday, but make sure to check out our blogging brothers for their full responses every week!
Say hello to this week's panelists - our own Cari (Carl?) Greene, Ali Soheilian, Bill Engel, Carole Kirkpatrick and Luke Fleisch from PennLive's 50-Yard Lion Blog, and all of the D-O-double-G's from JoePa's Doghouse!
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?
Cari: My enthusiasm hasn't waxed or waned, but it most definitely has changed. For the most part, in past years, I was excited to see the product on the field; I wanted us to do well, to win out, to kick some ass. While of course I still wantthose things, this year I find myself more excited about the people. The people I'll see before and after the game, and the men I'll see leaving their hearts and souls out on the field of Beaver stadium during it. I'm not as concerned with wins or losses or the final score this year, but rather what happens before and after that clock ticks down to zero.
J Schnauzer: No, it's just like I imagined it--only with free transfers gutting key components of this team, scholarship reductions, no bowl games and one official win since the Clinton administration. Honestly, I've felt like this team has been playing with one arm tied behind its back since 2006--the last nine months have only extended the feeling that we are watching a team that can't meet its potential due to self-imposed roadblocks.
Luke: When I arrived on campus at PSU, the yearly Paterno retirement watch had already begun. Accusations of a figurehead regime were rampant, and it seemed that the end of each season the rumors only intensified. I was always in the school of thought that he, given his service to the university, should have free reign to dictate the terms of his retirement. Along with dictating his retirement, I believed that Joe would also take it upon himself to tab a successor internally. Not to be an indictment to the prior staff, but no one jumped out at me as completely befitting of carrying the torch. For that reason his succession always worried me.
In the past 9 months, though, the thought of Paterno choosing his replacement went from understood to blasphemous in the blink of an eye. Strangely enough, from a football standpoint, this has worked favorably. The Lions have found a charismatic coach with no relationship to the program who has injected a vitality and youthful spirit unseen around State College since before I arrived.
I have never been more excited for a Penn State football game than I am for Sept. 1st. Galvanized by adversity, O'Brien and this team are moving forward with boundless enthusiasm that I can't help but be drawn to. I love the adherence to academic standards and the selfless mantra that Joe brought to the team. I have no doubt that the current staff will further that while at the same time carry the program into a new era of competition. Had Paterno had his hands on his succession, the team would not have progressed with the same vigor. It was a transition wrapped in tragedy, but it will not end that way.
Bill: The last thing Joe would want is for us to make a fuss about him so we should honor that. The last nine months have increased my enthusiasm for those players who stayed loyal to their teammates and their University.
Rowlff Dogg: I have been anxiously awaiting the post-Paterno era ever since the clock struck 00:00 in Ann Arbor on September 22, 2007. As I walked through the golf course back to our tailgate, my mind had changed on JoePa forever. From that moment forward, I have been salivating over the thought of a new coach. One that would bring intensity and effort to a position that lacked such attributes for so long. Obviously, things did not go down as I had envisioned they would, but my excitement for new blood has never wavered.
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?
(ed. note - this is the most correct answer ever)
Carole: What game in 2002? We didn't win any games that year according to the NCAA. Seriously, that was the magic year of LJ and MRob. It was one of the first night games where I really felt the history between these two teams having grown up in GA & TN. The Beav was rocking. It was electric.
The Underdogs: A bottle of whiskey (ed. note - God bless America). Tailgating under the shadow of the Beav. Talking with lots of Nebraska fans and arguing over 1994, amicably of course. The only point they seemed to buy (which played right into their confidence? arrogance? going into a game between national title runner-up and a 3-8 PSU team) was that in 1994 our team had peaked and that Nebraska didn't peak until a year later in 1995. Then I remember falling down whilst walking twice through the tailgates and waking up the next day with bloody knees, torn jeans, and some vague recollection of a Richie Gardner Pick 6 and that we just might've possibly, just maybe might've won. Roll Tide.
Cari: I don't have much memory of it. This was my senior year, and amidst the time I worked at Waffle Shop most Saturday mornings. I had season tickets to the games, but going into the season (having been dejected over the previous two down years) I wasn't expecting big things, and I ended up selling a lot of the tickets before the season began so that I could work til past noon. One I didn't sell, of course, was the Nebraska game, as it was a night game and I could work that morning before.
I remember waiting on a table full of Nebraska fans that Saturday morning. I don't remember the line of the game, but I do remember being fully confident that we wouldn't win-and so were they, that they would. We even joked about it. I think back to that conversation, and allow myself the silliest of cheesy grins.
My best friend and I didn't go to any tailgate before the game. We pregamed it the entire way to the stadium-my friend ended up chugging really bad, sour red wine right outside of the stadium, then leaving the bottle by the mounds of beer cans by one of the trash cans.
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?
Bill: I am very concerned. If this was our third or fourth game, I would feel better. But Ohio is a well coached team and the Nittany Lion are rolling out a new system with few returning starters. That being said, I like the match-ups. Our linemen are bigger and stronger than the somewhat more experienced Ohio linemen. Our secondary is more athletic than we have been in years and Ohio lost their best WR's to graduation. Coach Roof will have our LBers especially Hodges in Tettleton's face as their line will have to double Hill. If McGloin's confidence is anywhere close to reality, we should win by more than one score.
Rowlff Dogg: From a national perspective, the most overlooked aspect of Penn State's coaching turnover is the automatic upgrades to many on-field components. There will be schematic implementations/updates/modernizations, and a general sense of "not-being-as-dumb-as-the-previous-staff-was" with so many personnel and strategic decisions. Combine these instant improvements with a ferociously hungry us-against-the-world roster and the Bobcats are walking into a buzzsaw.
Ali: Penn Staters should not be concerned about this game one bit. Just based on talent alone, we should be able to walk all over this team on any given Saturday. In addition to that, emotions are going to be running high, these guys are in the best shape of their careers (Thanks Fitz), and this is the first opportunity for this team to physically punch back.
The Underdogs: We can't possibly go into any game with expectations of a certain victory. Not when one injury here or there can drive a chasm through the depth chart. I still think there is a lot of talent on this team and they can do some damage in this schedule. Much moreso than anybody gives them credit.
Cari: This is a pretty big barometer for this team, and how well we could do this year. I don't expect Ohio to come out flat, so we have to make sure we don't either-which seemed a problem some weeks last year. Hopefully, with the new staff and the new slogan, the team will be ready to go from the first snap, and we don't let Ohio rest. As I've stated in the past, I really don't have a read for how good this Penn State team will be this year; that being said, I think they'll be too psyched to lose this one. I'm thinking 24-10, good guys.
The Underdogs: 27-13 good guys. Or are we the bad guys now?
Rowlff Dogg: It will be a 33-13 victory for the guys with the blue ribbons on their helmets. Pellagate will pledge the consumption of 1 Pabst Blue Ribbon for every point scored by the Nittany Lions.
J Schnauzer: Penn State 45, Ohio 17. Bobcats will keep it close in the first half, but Bob's Cats will roll in the third.
Carole: Closer than you'd think while we pull it together. 24-21 Penn State
Ali: Penn State's going to bring the intensity from the coin flip to the final whistle. I would expect a game with high intensity, hard hits, and a gameplan that allows us to work out some wrinkles along the way. In the end, Penn State steam rolls this team and opens up the season with a win. PSU-38, Ohio-17
Bill: 27-17 good guys.
Luke: If you are like me, you halfway spit out your coffee when you read in Sports Illustrated that Ohio could contend for a BCS berth. However, after tempering expectations a bit, I still do think this is a very tough matchup for Penn State. Tettleton looks to be one of the better passers that PSU faces this season. If last year is any indication, the Lions struggle a bit when faced with a top notch signal caller (see Wilson, Russell and Keenum, Case). Of course Ohio is not Houston, and certainly isn't Wisconsin. Still, I think PSU fans should expect a close game up to and possibly through half time. The Bobcats won't match Penn State's talent position for position, but regardless will make this one interesting. If it weren't for the massive advantage given by a football deprived Beaver Stadium crowd, I would say that the 6 point spread was spot on.
When Penn State runs out of the tunnel on Saturday there will be two different states of mind: the offense will be focused on execution, and the defense will be focused on annihilation. It may sound trite, but the offense's biggest opponent will be itself. I envision more thinking than doing. What I mean is that McGloin and his comrades will be so focused on proper execution that they will forget they are there just to play football. This will cause them to sputter initially, but turn up the heat as the comfort level rises.
The defense was never in question, but if there is one thing to watch for it would be too much aggression. It is easy to tell that a lot of players, especially Mauti, want to go out and tear a Bobcat player limb from limb. Believe me, I want this to happen, but that side of the ball cannot lose its discipline.
In a matchup of conversing themes, I still expect the Nits to come out on top. Look for a close half time score due to pre game jitters; but expect the squad to pull away in the second half. A lot will be made of the hole Redd and Brown left, but if PSU can overcome the one made by Anthony Fera they will win this game.
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