Blue/White Roundtable - Syracuse Orange vs. Penn State

Mike Pettigano

Adam Collyer brings back the Amateur Blog Mob to discuss all things Syracuse heading into this weekend's kickoff of the 2013 season!

Blog mob...ASSEMBLE!

Welcome back to the Blue/White Roundtable! This week, the Nittany Lions take Route 80 all the way back to New Jersey, where they'll take on the Syracuse Orange LIVE! from MetLife Stadium is East Rutherford!

A refresher on how this works - every week, yours truly will pose a variety of questions to Penn State bloggers from every corner of the Nittany Lion internet. We'll post the greatest hits here each week, but make sure to check out our blogging brethren for their full responses every week!

Our panelists this year are the names and faces of the Penn State blogosphere that you know and love - BSD editor emeritus (and my former podcast partner) Jeff Junstrom, our own Cari Greene, Matt De Bear from Victory Bell Rings Michael Sedor from PennLive's 50-Yard Lion Blog, Kevin McGuire from The Nittany Lions Den, and all of the D-O-double-G's from JoePa's Doghouse!

Welcome back from the interminable offseason?  What are you most excited about from this Penn State season?

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The Underdogs: Getting off the methadone of baseball season for the raw grade heroin of morning futbol and afternoon football.

Cari: PUNTING! Just kidding. I'm excited to see what year two of an O'Brien-coached offense looks like. Most accounts have the playbook expanded, so I can't wait to see what they throw out there, and how that might (or might not) be changed with a rookie quarterback. I'm looking forward to the 4-TE sets and to see two freshmen stand out in particular-Christian Hackenburg and Adam Breneman, who both made splashes with their commitments in the spring of 2012. They seem to have really bonded even before getting on campus, and I'm hoping that turns into real on-field results this season.

Our offense didn't score right away, but that isn't unheard of either. Even in the Iowa blowout, we went 3-and-out on our first possession (aside from, IIRC, a penalty that gave us a first down).

Jeff: How can BOB keep the momentum going? After a great 2012, given the circumstances, BOB cemented his place as a favorite among the blue and white faithful a year ago. However, we are a fickle bunch, and have been known to turn quickly once things start going wrong. The schedule should be relatively light for BOB in his second go around, but with roster issues and new faces in new places, I'm interested to see what happens in Year Two. On paper, this team *could* be really good, even with the sanctions affecting the number of scholarships. Specifically, I want to see who lines up under center and how in the hell BOB finds a way to get the ball into the hands of all the play makers on offense; there are only so many plays not everyone is going to be happy.

Kevin: The great unknown and how his team follows up the emotional ride of 2012.

I am coming off a bit pessimistic in my outlook of Penn State this season. I have concerns about the depth on the roster this year. I believe the future is bright with quarterback Christian Hackenberg's development I just cannot get on board right now and say he is going to be 1994 Kerry Collins this weekend. I think Penn State has enough talent on the first string to compete with the majority of their opponents, but how healthy will they stay and how far down the line can the "next man up" philosophy pay off?

The success of last season had many reasons for it. Bill O'Brien's new offensive philosophy and toughness certainly was a huge factor, but something has to be said of the maturity of the senior leadership and the unique bond last year's team had. Does the 2013 team have that same sort of leadership? Is that bond still strong enough to carry this year's team to a few wins? It could very well be, but this is one of those things I need to see on game day before just accepting it as fact.

I'm just holding off until I see what this team can do before going overboard one way or another with this team.

Matt: There are about a dozen things that have me excited about this season, but the biggest to me is watching PSU continue to move into the 21st century offensively. You could make an argument that this year's offense has more natural talent than the 2012 edition, although it of course lacks the experience under center. But with guys like Robinson, Zwinak, Felder, Carter, James, Belton, Lynch, and several more at his disposal, it's going to be fun to see how O'Brien involves all of his skill players.

J Schnauzer: Re-connecting with the game. As I said in a post earlier this week I took most of 2012 off for a variety of reasons. I think a little rediscovery will get me to separate the nonsense that is the NCAA from the pure joy of watching college football.

Sedor: It might be the most obvious answer I could come up with, and yet it's the most truthful: I'm excited for some real American football.  This time last year, there was so much uncertainty surrounding the very existence of the program that the on-field product was little more than an afterthought (honestly, I wasn't even fazed that we lost to Ohio, just happy our guys were out there in uniform).  However, those early-season trepidations were cast aside by the unquenchable spirit of the team throughout the season, and since I've been starved for so long, I'm craving some go-for-it-on-fourth-down-no-matter-what offense, hard-hitting defense, and of course, lots and lots of Sam Ficken field goals.

Also, I went to a Phillies game last Sunday, and let me tell you, all the stars came out to play in this one-John MacDonald, Cody Asche, even Roger Bernadina (wait what)!  On top of that, the guy sitting behind us must have seen (consumed) so many exciting (poorly made) plays (liquor drinks) during the previous night's 18-inning barnburner (abomination of a professional sporting event) that he vomited all over our section in the 2nd inning, forcing us all too become stadium refugees and fill some of the 20,000 available seats in other sections. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that IT'S FOOTBALL SEASON YOU GUYS!

Rowlff Dogg: I'm really excited to see what Bill O'Brien brings to the table after a year of learning on the job under unprecedented circumstances. After a decade-plus of knowing exactly who we were going to beat and who we were going to lose to, it's extremely refreshing going into a season feeling like the coaches are actually going to put forth the effort to try to win them all.

Player-wise, newcomers Hackenberg and Breneman get all the attention, but I'm anxious to see what Eugene Lewis can do.

Syracuse has a quarterback battle of their own.  Who starts for the Orange - Terrel Hunt or Drew Allen?

Rowlff Dogg: Admittedly, I don't know much about either Syracuse quarterback. That said; allow me to boil this question down to its simplest form. Terrel Hunt was recruited by Syracuse. Drew Allen transferred from Oklahoma. This is football, not basketball. Allen gets the start.

Kevin: As I suspect we might see with Penn State, I would not be surprised if Syracuse goes with two quarterbacks as well. At least that is what Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer is teasing. I think we will see Shafer go with the fifth year senior, Drew Allen, as the starter but expect to see Terelle Hunt as well.

Whatever the case, Syracuse does not have a Ryan Nassib or a Donovan McNabb on their roster this year.

Cari: Who? I know next to nothing about these guys, but Dan seemed to think Hunt had the edge, so we'll go with him. He's the one who scares me more and I'd prefer to be pessimistic rather than optimistic-with a pocket passer, our good secondary should be able to be a force. A running quarterback has to beat our front seven, and while they're good, I'm not sure if they'll be great-especially in the first game of the season.

Matt: I have no inside info, other than an older brother who graduated from Syracuse, but I'm going with Allen. While it's very minimal, he has taken some snaps at the college level, and he's also been around a successful program with Oklahoma. He just feels like the safer pick.

The Underdogs: Syracuse's new football coach, Germ Bayheim (who looks suspiciously like their basketball coach in a Groucho Marx mask as if Syracuse is looking for some cost-cutting measures) has a few tricks up his sleeve and starts Rony Seikaly.

Sedor: Prevailing wisdom here would be that Drew Allen should start on Saturday.  He spent a few years with a relatively successful college program (Oklahoma), has a laser-rocket arm, and landed at a school with a major leadership and talent void at the position.  However, since he's never seen much live action, there isn't much for a fan to differentiate him from his competitor-not to mention he's been a career backup for a reason.  For a school with lukewarm season expectations, a new head coach and offensive system, and no real predisposition towards either player, why not give them both some run until one of them can separate himself?

With Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges in Minnesota, who do you expect to lead the defense this year? Who is the impact player for this weekend's game against the Orange?

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J. Schnauzer: ***crickets***

Sedor: I don't think anyone on the roster now, or anyone on any roster around the country, is as outspoken as Mike Mauti was last year.  Then again, I'm not sure anyone needs to be.  From watching the ESPN special, I feel like there's a real sense of brotherhood amongst the team, and none of these guys are going to take plays off.  Any on-field leading that's done is going to be by example, so I'd look at our biggest playmakers to lead that charge-Mike Hull and Nyeem Wartman.  They'll be flying around the field and involved in every play, the same way Mauti and Hodges were last year.  Deion Barnes should be a force as well, but so much of the line's dirty work often goes unnoticed and underappreciated, especially with as much rotation as Larry Johnson does.  I guess my point here would be show #18 some love.

Matt: From all indications, Mike Hull has become the vocal leader of the defense, and if he plays like he did a year ago, he will also become a leader by example. Someone I expect to have a big year, Anthony Zettel, also has that "rah rah" kind of personality. As for this weekend, I'll go with a guy who seems poised for a huge year, Nyeem Wartman. The Orange are going to rely on their strong running game, regardless of who gets the start at QB, and that plays right into the talented linebackers hands.

Jeff: The easy answer is Glenn Carson, given his seniority. The correct answer is Mike Hull, who appears to be Mike Mauti, Part Two. He has been a vocal leader, has done tremendous things on special teams, and is the next big thing from LBU. And he played at Canon-Mac, which school district now collects taxes from my parents. So there's that.

I also like Adrian Amos as a defensive playmaker, for obvious reasons. And this will be the chance for Deion Barnes to show that 2012 wasn't a fluke year, and continue his dominance. Getting pressure on Hunt and Allen will be imperative.

Rowlff Dogg: Adrian Amos has the best chance of being the most visible leader on the field. He will be asked to do a lot and he will be all over the field in doing so.

With that in mind, I think DaQuan Jones is the most important player on defense. The linebacker depth and the green corners put the onus on what could be a strong defensive line. Jones has the ability to not only eat space and take on multiple linemen, but to make plays too. Any disruptiveness from him will go a long in getting the defense playing up to its potential.

Predictions?

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Cari: Hack and us. Around 24-17.  (EDITORIAL NOTE: Cari made her prediction on the Black Shoe Podcast)

Jeff: I'm not going there re: the QB. I'll be happy with whomever takes the first snap, since both Ferguson and Hack have tremendous upsides. Like Syracuse, I expect to see both QBs on the field at some point. Good guys take the opener in New York, 24-7.

Kevin: I have long been saying if I had to take a guess then I would say Tyler Ferguson will get the start for Penn State against Syracuse. At the same time, I also want to make note I fully believe we see both quarterback options throughout the game, with Christian Hackenberg getting his fair share of snaps against the Orange while Bill O'Brien continues to evaluate. Does that mean switching quarterbacks each possession or every quarter as we have seen before? That I am uncertain of, but I would be surprised if we do not see both players get some action this weekend.

As for the game itself, I have been struggling to say Penn State confidently. I think the Nittany Lions have the talent edge on offense and defense on the first team, but there is just something funny about this game that I think is unsettling. I saw Syracuse play in MetLife Stadium last year and hold their own against an overrated USC team until late in the game, and I feel we could witness a similar result play out. I certainly don't expect Penn State to suffer the same kind of sluggish season opening performance we saw last year against Ohio, but I can't say it would stun me either. This year I am taking more of a wait-and-see approach on Penn State (some would say I'm being pessimistic), and this is a game I could see getting away from them. To me, it all depends on how much Penn State gets out of the QB position, and while the potential may be there I am reluctant to put so much faith in it right off the bat.

The Underdogs: Despite a year of BOB, we don't have a grasp on his tendencies except for hints of a meritocracy missing for the previous decade. Assuming the best man for the job today wins the job, I don't know if we know that answer. Nor do we have enough information on who is the best guy for the job long-term. So at this point we're flipping a coin or going by recruiting stars which may in fact be the same thing. I'll say Tyler Ferguson strictly for the extra few months on campus.

Rowlff Dogg: Christian Hackenberg will take the first snap on Saturday. Tyler Ferguson will play, but Hackenberg will have at least one moment that shows off his amazing potential. Penn State will win a sloppy game that they could have made more lopsided. Final score: Penn State 27, Syracuse 14.

J. Schnauzer: The coach announced yesterday that Jake Waters will be starting. Oh wait, that may have rubbed some people the wrong way. I think Christian Hackenburg will be the guy announced later this week.

Matt: Hackenberg gets the start, and while I doubt it's the most well played game you'll ever see, Penn State is solid in the running game and on defense, with a 21-14 win.

Sedor: Play them both and see who can prove himself in live game action.  I find it funny that the media's been trying to hype up our competition, but this time, the fans just don't care.  With McGloin, O'Brien proved that he can turn any signal-caller he touches into gold, and the dependencies that we had on God-given talent in the later JayPa years are a thing of the past.  Now, O'Brien has two talented guys, and I think both can thrive in the system.  It's just a matter of who can thrive with the din of a hundred thousand rabid fans and Division 1-level defenses crashing down on them.

As for the game, I'm feeling better about it with each passing day.  Syracuse didn't fill their graduation holes very well, and the new coach is going to encounter the same growing pains we dealt with last year as he puts his own system in place.  Penn State, extremely talented at the top of the depth chart, doesn't need to worry about those injury and depth concerns we keep hearing about just yet.  After last year's opening-game letdown, O'Brien's going to have his guys ready to play four quarters on Saturday.  With that said, I don't think they'll have to-it'll be out of reach midway through the 3rd.  PSU 38, Syracuse 17.

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