Thanks to Run Up The Score for hosting last week and posting an excellent roundup that did not include your humble blogger. Not that I'm bitter or anything. But this week our attention turns to The Hoosier Report who provides the questions.
Call your shot. We are halfway through the Big Ten season (or, at least, most of us are). What will be your team's final record? Where, if anywhere, will your team be spending late December/early January? Who will win the Big Ten?
God I wish I knew. We could go out and put 500 yards on Indiana this week and lose because Morelli throws four picks and two fumbles. But I'm feeling better after the last two weeks with impressive wins over Iowa and Wisconsin. The coaches seem to have figured out they have some pretty good wide receivers if they just throw them the damn ball. We should win our remaining games against Indiana, Purdue, Temple, and Michigan State. The one that scares me is Ohio State on October 27. The game is in Happy Valley and we seem to be hitting our stide so anything can happen there. I'm hoping the Buckeyes have peaked too early this year. I'll say Penn State wins the rest of their games and finishes 10-2 tied for second in the conference. I'll pick Michigan to win with a 7-1 conference record.
How is your team's coaching situation? Clearly, this varies from school to school, with some coaches approaching retirement (Carr/Paterno), some who are just starting out (Brewster/Fitzgerald), the unique case of Bill Lynch, and others who seem to be in their primes. If your coach is on the tail end of his career, where do you see things going from here? If he's still early in his tenure, any buyer's remorse? If he's in he's somewhere in the middle, are you happy or wishing things would go a different direction? How does your view correspond to the "majority" view among your school's fans?
I can't see Paterno coaching past 2008 when his contract runs out. It's obvious he doesn't enjoy it as much as he used to. His health and age are a major distraction to the team. He despises media events. His players can't stay out of trouble. The program is set up to make a run at the conference title in 2008. I don't think he's going to want to stick around for another three year rebuilding project after that.
The big question on everyone's mind is who will replace him. Greg Schiano is wildly popular among Penn State fans. Al Golden is showing signs of turning Temple around. He has been recruiting well and has the Owls at 2-2 in the MAC this year. He's a former PSU assistant coach that Paterno is very fond of. If he has a good year next year he may get some consideration. But I think the leading candidate is defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. He's been on the staff for over 20 years. He's a fantastic recruiter and an excellent defensive coach. Secretly the coaches are telling recruits the next head coach will come from the current staff so this is my guess.
BONUS BASKETBALL QUESTION: If you plan to cover basketball, give us a brief outlook for your team. Who is your best player? What do you expect from the team?
Our motto this year is "Noplace else to go but up!" Last year was a complete disaster. After an NIT bid in 2005 and almost the entire team returning we had planned on going to the NCAA tournament in 2006. But instead we finished tied for last in the conference with a 2-14 record that featured a disasterous 13 game conference losing skid.
The good news is that nearly everyone is back this year including Geary Claxton, the leading rebounder (8 rpg) and second leading scorer (16.3 ppg) returning to the conference this year. So why should we expect different results? Penn State is getting an infusion of talent from four freshmen and two junior college transfers that will greatly upgrade the depth and athleticism. I'm not expecting a conference title, but a 0.500 conference record and a trip to the NCAA or NIT would be a great improvement. And it may be necessary to save Ed DeChellis' job.