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BSD Mailbag 11.4.16

Iowa’s coming to town, and we’ve got answers to your questions!

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to flip the script a little bit this week, and talk about my in-bar game-watching experience first. As you all know, I’ve been touting the virtues of Exiles in DC, on U Street, all season.

Also as you all know, last week was Halloween—which means that one of the Penn Staters who showed up at Exiles was dressed as the Nittany Lion. Me being me, of course, the first thing I do is (as the game starts) ask if he’ll be doing pushups for our points scored. The Lion was medically unable to, but volunteered his friend (dressed up in NWO gear) to do the pushups in his stead. As you all know, Penn State scored 62 points on the day.

Poor, poor Jeremy. He was a great sport, and we fellow Penn Staters at Exiles (and BSD) salute him (and my friend bought him an extra drink).

Ok, now that the 1st CFP rankings are out and #WeAre at #12, what percentage chance do you give PSU making a New Year's Six Bowl?...I know a B1G title is a longshot, but if Wisky and NEB each slip up one more time, I think a 10 win PSU team on an 8 game winning streak would look mighty enticing.—PSUBeatle

If Penn State wins out, I think a New Year’s Six bowl is pretty likely. I’m not banking on the Rose, but the Orange or Citrus wouldn’t be too shabby for a team that was, preseason betting-wise, predicted to go 7-5. Even the Cotton would be a pretty darn big step up.

But we have to win out first, and that starts this week against Iowa.

does the riffraff on the schedule the rest of the season hurt our rankings each week?—JayMPSU

Riffraff is pretty rough - Iowa will go bowling, and Indiana has a shot. Which means that likely 8 of the twelve teams we’ve played or will play will have winning records headed into the postseason - that’s not a bad schedule at all (especially if we win out, which would mean 6 wins against teams with winning records), and a step up from last year when PSU played 7 bowl-bound teams (and lost to five of them).

But to your point - this is yet to be seen. The ranking has been called overinflated by some, and we’ll know more after this week how seriously the committee takes this PSU team - and the Big Ten.

If we win out, do we finish in the top 10? Last week I didn’t think so, but we saw a lot of top teams lose this week. If this trend continues, it’s looking more likely that this can actually happen.—PSUfan93

Absolutely. Last year, the only teams with 2 or fewer losses that were outside the top ten were Navy and Western Kentucky - non-Power 5 schools without impressive schedules or wins. If we win out, a Big Ten conference schedule (going 8-1 in the conference) and a bowl win on New Year’s Day (or this year’s CFB equivalent)—not to mention a 9 game winning streak to end the season—would virtually guarantee a top 10 finish.

What is wrong with DaeSean? Is the drop from the Pitt game still on his mind? He’s been having lots of drops lately.—fatmanilc

I dunno what’s wrong with any of our wideouts. They just haven’t been getting the expected separation so far this year; for a unit that most of us thought would be near the top of the nation (rivaling Michigan’s in the conference) they just haven’t proven they’re at that caliber yet. This year’s performances make me think Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton won’t think about jumping to the league early, especially with a legit shot to win the conference next season.

Is Gesicki the best TE in the B1G behind Butt? He’s been great and consistent. Hope he can shake that ankle injury.—rpm5103

Mike Gesicki actually has more receiving yards so far this season than Jake Butt (by 1)—and he missed a lot of the Ohio State game due to injury. His touchdowns are fewer, but YPR is higher—but neither he nor the Wolverine have as many yards as Wisconsin’s Troy Fumagalli. My money’s still on Mike being 2nd to Butt, who maybe isn’t as flashy this season but last year was one of the few sure things on Michigan’s offense.

This year, Gesicki has become the tight end we all knew he could be. And it has paid off for the team so far in spades.

Who do you think is happier with their new coordinator? Koa Farmer or DeAndre Thomkins? (hint: "both" is a perfectly acceptable answer)—vern05

I think it’s Koa, and I’m not sure it’s close. I really think that the only reason Thompkins has gotten as many touches as he has is because Saeed Blacknall has been injured for much of the season—so his seeming-brilliance on some of those playcalls would have been Blacknall’s had the injury not occurred.

Farmer, though, stepped up in a big way for a depleted linebacker unit that really needed him, and has made some huge plays along the way. Brent Pry has put the defense in the position time and again, mixing up tradition looks with creative blitz packages, and utilizing all of the available players’ strengths. Farmer still isn’t the one we’ll see on every down, but he played a lot more the last two weeks than he would have under Bob Shoop—of that I’m certain.

Why was our pass rush so much less effective against Purdue than it had been earlier in the season? And do you expect it to be more effective against Iowa?—newenglandnittanylion

We simply weren’t as creative on defense as we had been in the past, and I think that was purposeful. David Blough is very good at getting quick balls out to his receivers, which can take blitzers out of the down in no time—and we game planned around that, especially as the game went on and we started making him more uncomfortable in the pocket. We relied on our front four to get pressure alone, and for the most part they did a decent job of it

Is this the best coaching staff we've had for halftime adjustments? Seems like completely different games most weeks in the second half.—JayMPSU

Oh, Jay.

Joe Paterno’s staff was notoriously very good at halftime adjustments for the bulk of their tenure in Happy Valley. With James Franklin and company’s seeming-ability to make excellent adjustments while in the locker room midgame may seem new and different for us, it’s more of a refreshing reversion to the mean.

Is there more to organizing a whiteout than the coach tweeting 'why not'? Because the last whiteout was awesome…—Raoul69

Yes. There is much more.

I’m a member of the Nittany Lion Club, and I got emails up and down about the white out; it’s also on every season ticket holder’s ticket. Additionally, every time you logged into or saw an ad for the game, it was touted as a primetime whiteout. It’s not something that can be easily organized, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there were quite a few fans dressed in white this week (including the student section)—but not the whole stadium, like two weeks ago.

But honestly? While the white out looks amazing on TV, it’s not just that that’s special. It’s the crowd being there the whole game, and being LOUD. That doesn’t have anything to do with what they’re wearing.

Nervous about Jaleel Johnson ? Is anyone worried about this guy feasting on the middle of our o line? Watched him against the Badgers and he is a handful.—mcbike

Johnson is definitely Iowa’s best defensive lineman (he leads their team in sacks and TFLs), and he’s helped turn around Iowa’s season. But as a tackle, he’ll lock down the middle of the line - and Penn State hasn’t been really trying to run between the tackles, or pass over the middle; rather, Joe Moorhead has been having Barkley bounce runs to the outside, or call passes on the edge of the field. That’s not to say that I don’t expect he’ll get a line on McSorley some during the day - he will - but I think our offensive line is getting better than they’re getting credit for, and Moorhead will scheme around him.

Best/Worst parts about the state of Iowa. Bonus for not including anything corn related—rpm5103

When I went to Iowa for the Penn State game in 2012, I had an absolute blast. I met awesome people, the state was lovely, and - oh yeah - there was an amazing win sandwiched in there. So I’m not vehemently anti-Iowa like so many on here, because my experiences have been so positive, and I have a lot of friends (some of which I met through this blog!) that are Iowa alums/fans, and are just flat-out awesome people. I’m even bringing one to the game with me on Saturday (he came to the Ohio State white out game at Beaver in 2012 too).

I know that’s not the popular answer, but that’s the one I have for you.

Is Iowa the only school in America where bad seasons by the football and basketball teams can be brushed away legitimately with a comment like, "Well, that’s okay; we’re a wrestling school anyway"?

If yes, do you not see why I like Iowans so much?—ReadingRambler

I feel like we’ve been doing that ourselves to some extent in recent years, except in addition to wrestling we insert “Well, that’s okay; we’re a volleyball AND wrestling school anyway”. There’s nothing wrong with that. I love all the sports.

And Cael Sanderson and Russ Rose are people anyone should try to emulate, whether sports fans or coaches or not.

Is Saquon a dark horse Heisman candidate? Unlike most years, there isn’t really a group of players or a single player that stands out above everyone else. Lamar Jackson is the best I have seen, but even he doesn’t seem consistent enough. If Saquon keeps up his current production, I think he at least deserves an invite to the ceremony.—PSUfan93

Hahahaha, no. Next year he has a good shot at being a contender, but not this one. It’s too late to mount a dark horse campaign; the big names (Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Jabrill Peppers) are already set. He’s not busting into that group.

This may sound odd, but...Am I the only that envisions a Saquon pregame speech in a Conan the Barbarian situation. Everyone surrounds his locker and a young Miles Sanders speaks up and asks "Saquon what is best in life?" A stone faced Saquon Barkley responds “CRUSH YOUR ENEMIES, SEE THEM DRIVEN BEFORE YOU, AND HEAR THE LAMENTATIONS OF THE CHEERLEADERS!” Then they all storm the field. —adamp1984

I have no comment to add to this, I just wanted to make sure it got into the mailbag.

does anyone transfer after the season is over? QB’s? RB’s? I could see a RB transfer out esp with Say-Say coming back….—rph75

I wouldn’t be totally surprised if Tommy Stevens or Jake Zembiec transfers - depending on how it looks post-season, and who is closer to overtaking Trace. With Sean Clifford coming in as well, we’ll have an abundance of options at quarterback, so even though we’d be one injury away from them seeing significant time, for many young players they want to start immediately.

I doubt any RBs transfer, because most of them have seen time at various places on the field. Even though Miles Sanders appears to have surpassed Andre Robinson on the depth chart, it was Robinson who scored two touchdowns against Purdue, so there’s room for them all.

I know this will be a sore topic to most but do you really believe that McSorley is the best QB for next year? While I was definitely pulling for him to win the starting job the more the season progresses I can’t help but feel that we need a more talented QB running the offense. Yes, he’s won some big games and he has improved but I keep getting this nagging feeling that the team would be better off with a better QB.—psualum9931

I think that our coaching staff will make sure that the quarterback that puts the team in the best position to win will be the one that starts for Penn State. McSorley has proven to be a winner (and isn’t that what Franklin has said all along?) so if it’s him, so be it. Franklin has loyalty, but he also has shown that he’s not above playing players that deserve to play, even to the detriment of the incumbent starters (a la Barkley and Akeel Lynch in 2015).

I’m not armchair quarterbacking this one. I trust the staff (I’m one that generally has almost the entire time), and I’m not going to stop now.

After we go 11-2 with a win in a major bowl, will James Franklin be able to keep his staff together or will other teams poach our offensive and defensive coordinators?—wvlion

I think the staff stays together through 2017. After we contend for the Big Ten Championship and the playoffs, that’s when others might be poached - but not this year.

Will PSU fans still view the season as a success if we lose 2 of the next 4? This is, of course, assuming one isn’t to buttgers. I say yes, FWIW. But I suspect many would be dissatisfied.—06Lion

Have you met our fanbase? Of course a lot of fans would be disappointed and won’t view the season as a success, despite the fact that many predicted 7-5 (or worse) after the loss to Michigan. Going 2-2 to end the season would mean an 8-4 regular season, which is above that and right around where people were predicting preseason. But since we’ve been ranked, and are as high as #12 now, that means that everyone’s expectations are super high (it’s a roller coaster of emotion, this Penn State fandom) and being favored to win out is scary as all get out. I expect the #fiurFranklin crowd will be out en force if we drop 2, let’s say, to Iowa and Indiana (the most likely, if we were, imho).

What is the chance we see the football team, women’s volleyball team, hockey team and wrestling team all end (post tournaments) in the top 10 this year? I got:

football at 40%

volleyball at 90%

hockey at 30%

wrestling at 100%

for about a 10% chance….still nice to talk about.—spigmana

Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight has Penn State with a 34% chance to win out, and if the Lions win out, they’ll be in the top ten. Wrestling I agree is at 100% - the better question for Sanderson’s team is what the odds are that they finish with another NCAA title - and despite not starting the year in the top slot, with the bonus point capabilities of Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf (not to mention Bo Nickal, and the host of talented newcomers that have bought into Cael’s score fast, score often style) PSU could have it locked up before the finals again.

Hockey, your prediction seems about right - Guy Gadowski has really turned up the Penn State program in a short time, and that’s amazing to see.

Volleyball, on the other hand, I’m a little nervous about. The team had a good, strong run before hitting a wall in the form of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota—two of whom the Nittany Lions had beat earlier in the year (how the Badgers continually get such a favorable volleyball schedule, I’ll never know). I know Rose always gets his teams ready for December, but top ten odds I’d put below 50% this season. Next year, though? Look out.

For the past week or so I have been experiencing issues loading BSD, using safari 10.0.1 on a MacBook Pro 15 running 10.10.5. Have there been changes to the architecture of sbnation? Should I switch to a different browser?—psualum9931

They’re doing some back end stuff that has messed a lot of the load times and time outs up. Hopefully this will be resolved soon - I’m sorry you’re having issues as well (I am too). If you continue to have issues, please let know - they can do more for you than I can.

All of the threads lately have 300 comments. I can’t keep up. Did something awesome happen recently or something?—bearwithscarf

Which fast food restaurant is best? Which is worst? How essential was fast food to your survival in college?—Gerry Dincher

My favorite fast food (when I eat it, which isn’t often) is Roy Rogers. Yes, there are still some around! I just like their seemingly-more-real ingredients. Worst for me is Long John Silvers. I feel like I have to take a shower whenever I walk in the vicinity of one, because the grease just emanates.

I actually didn’t eat a lot of fast food while at Penn State; I stuck with Chinese food, and cooked for myself. And drank my dinner sometimes.

Which is worse, walking into a bathroom just as someone is leaving, then sitting on the toilet and the seat is warm, or walking into a bathroom and seeing no one, then sitting on a toilet seat that’s warm?—skarocksoi

I think the latter, because you never know what gross person was just in there. In the former case, at least you can steel yourself on the person who was sitting there before you.

What are Cari's guidelines of being a good home-crowd fan?

In other words, what are the things a Penn State fan should do on game day to best represent our university and impact the game? Here are my general rules that I encourage others to do as well (feel free to agree or disagree with any or all of what I have):

Before/after the game:

  • Be nice to the opposing fans; better yet, welcome opposing fans to happy valley with a friendly hello or greeting. I personally hate how PSU has a bad reputation among ohio state fans because of the whole piss bottles thing back in 2005. We should do better.
  • Be early to your seats; Ideally, seated ~30 minutes before kickoff. Support the team as they run out of the tunnel and enjoy the band.
  • Stay sober enough to remember the entirety of your day. If you don’t, you are missing some of the best things in life (PSU football).

During the game:

  • If the offense makes a good play that does not result in a touchdown, set your timer to 10 seconds, and conclude your celebration before that timer runs out. We run an up tempo offense and I think we are collectively too loud for too long to allow our offense to get up to the line and run another play while the defense is still on their heals.
  • If you are on defense, make some noise by any means that is comfortable. Yell, clap, stomp… up to you. On third downs, stand up and make even more noise. It is not a home field advantage unless we make an impact!
  • If the refs make a call for PSU, cheer. If they make a call against PSU, boo. It doesn’t matter if they are right, it is about making a impact and getting in their head and helping the team.
  • Never, ever, boo our team or our coaches. Even if you are displeased with the results, I would bet the team and coaches are even more pissed than we are. It is not a good look, and especially if it is directed towards a particular player. They are kids. As for the coaches, there is a 8 month offseason to voice your displeasure. Enjoy the games while they are here.

My hypocritical guideline:

  • Buy your seats from the university. I dont do this, because I am cheap, young, and use that as an excuse to buy tickets off of other fans at a discounted price. However, I encourage others to buy tickets from the university to support our athletic department.—PSU_Rocket_Scientist

There’s no hard and fast rule for me, though I do always buy my tickets from the University (and get my friends tickets from them, too). I don’t like supporting scalpers. I don’t care if you get inebriated, as long as you’re not an asshole about it; you can miss parts of the game (Lord knows I have) from not being sober enough to remember, but that’s what replays on BTN are for. And being early to your seats is nice, but not required and sometimes not feasible—just don’t be that jerk that goes in front of everyone in your row during actual game play. We’re there to watch the game, after all.

I also am firmly on board the “be nice” train. Don’t boo other fans or yell at them (unless they scream at you first—I’m also firmly in the “defend yourself” camp, especially when they’re coming into our house). And this goes, too, for our team and coaches; I hate, above all else, the ignorant fans who blame every little thing (like an interception, or an incomplete pass) on Franklin. Which happens around me quite a bit.

Also, your point about noise is spot on—I’m super loud, to the point of possible annoyance to others around me. IDGAF. But I don’t care about celebrating offensive plays; I’ll talk about them for a while, after your ten second window. Whatever makes you happy, man.