clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Penn State Roundtable

This week is the first of a weekly roundtable to be held among three of the best Penn State bloggers on the web. Your humble host will be teaming up with Run Up The Score and The Nittany Line to discuss all things Penn State as well as other topics relevant in the world of college sports. RUTS came up with the questions this week and we'll be rotating hosts between the three of us going forward. So make sure you check out RUTS and TNL to get their take on Penn State. Here are my answers. Feel free to add your own take.

1. Okay, Penn State shut out Purdue 12-0 on Saturday.  Did the game change your opinion of the team and your outlook for the rest of the season?

Well, the offense is still bad. In our last three games our offensive output has gone 10, 10, and 12 points. Most teams have been lighting up Purdue on the scoreboard and we didn't. Fortunately, the defense has really come together after some shaky games against Notre Dame and Minnesota. Going into the Purdue game I was really worried about playing them as well as Wisconsin and Michigan State. Now I feel slightly better because I have more confidence the defense is going to keep most games pretty close.

2.  What is to blame for the offensive struggles -- the coaching staff, offensive line, quarterback, wide receivers?  And yes, one of the choices is "all of the above".

I know it sounds like a broken record coming from Paterno, but inexperience is a big part of it. They move the ball well but they always find a way to kill themselves with a penalty, a missed block, a bad throw or a dropped pass. They are just playing sloppy and you have to blame that on the players. But the coaches aren't exactly saints either. Play calling has been suspect this season. It seems they have dumbed down the play book to a dozen plays they run over and over. I hate to say it, but maybe the Pitt fans were right and Anthony Morelli can't run the offense.

3. It's been seven weeks since a PSU wide receiver caught a touchdown pass, and a WR hasn't caught a touchdown pass against a D-1 team since Morelli threw to Deon Butler to make the score Notre Dame 41, Penn State 17.  What gives?

The Penn State wide receivers aren't big enough or physical enough to make touchdown catches in goal line situations. Think back to last year for a minute. Most of their touchdown catches came on 30 or 40 yard passing plays. They don't seem to be taking those chances when they get around the 30 or 40 yardline this year. In the Northwestern game Butler made a few of those catches but he was downed at the five yard line. Last year those were going for touchdowns. I think part of it is the coaches not taking the chances, but you have to give some credit to the opposing defenses. Last year we took a lot of people by surprise with Butler going deep. This year they have made the adjustments to take that away.

4. Following the 2005 season, Penn State fans everywhere boldly and proudly proclaimed that the program was back to its glory days of, well, about 1959 to 1999.  Now that the recent "up" years of 2002 and 2005 are sandwiched by seasons that vary between "average at best" to "completely demoralizing", what do you think we'll say five years from now about the 11-1, Orange Bowl winning season of 2005?

Oh woe is us. After going 11-1 last year we are going to go 8-4 or 9-3 this year and have to settle for at worst the Outback Bowl. Is that considered "average at best" or "completely demoralizing"? I can't tell.

Seriously though, I think Penn State fans need a dose of perspective. In 1982 the Lions went 11-1. In 1983 they went 8-4. In 1986 the Lions went undefeated. The next year they went 8-4. After going undefeated in 1994, the Lions went 9-3 in 1995. In 1984 we lost 5 games. In 1988 we lost 6. This is the way things work in college football. Contrary to popular belief, we didn't go undefeated forty years in a row prior to 2000.

All that said, the program is on the right track. We've had back-to-back good recruiting classes. We're back to winning and rebuilding while still going to New Years Day bowl games. I think in ten years fans will look back on the 2000-2004 stretch as a stagnant program that needed to make some changes and did so.

5. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ray Fittipaldo recently wrote in his weekly chat regarding Joe Paterno's coaching future, "It looks like they're going to make him hang it up after next year, the final year of his contract, whether he wants to go or not. At least that's the word from people around the program. I'll believe it when I see it. I still think he coaches until he's 100."  Do you think there's any truth to Fittipaldo's assertion, and what is your ideal "exit strategy" for Paterno and Penn State?

I think there is always talk about Joe retiring. The guy is 80 years old. How can there not be talk about it? There may be some people in the administration that want to see him go, but Joe has done so much for the University that he has earned the right to go on his terms. How do you tell a guy that has donated $5 Million of his own money to the school to take a hike? So if Joe wants to retire he will. If he wants to coach he will.

My ideal situation for Joe to retire would be similar to what Barry Alvarez did. Announce it at the beginning of the year so as not to upset recruiting. Give the guy a victory lap. 2007 would be nice but 2008 would be better as it appears the Lions will be poised for a run at a MNC then. I suspect Tom Bradley is in line for the HC job. I bet Galen Hall will retire in a few years. I hope Bradley brings in an offensive coordinator who can revamp this offense and make Jay Paterno look like a genius so he goes and coaches someplace else.

Lightning Round (keep it short!):

Most disappointing team in college football?

Iowa. Many people picked them as a dark horse to win the Big Ten including myself. Drew Tate is asking, "Why didn't I go pro again?"

Biggest surprise?

Boston College. Who would have thought they would be leading their division in the ACC with Florida State at the bottom?

Any chance a one-loss team makes it into the BCS Championship Game?

With USC's loss last weekend, absolutely. I think a one loss Texas, Michigan, Ohio State, or Auburn gets the nod over an undefeated West Virginia, Louisville, Boise State or Rutgers.