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BSD Mailbag 11.12.21

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It’s a mostly football-cetric mailbag, with few tangents!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 02 Indiana at Penn State Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

First, who do you think Desmond Howard will pick in this game?—BMAN13

Is this even a question? It’s obviously going to be Michigan. Has he ever picked against them?

Imagine you didn’t know the Maryland score. You’re told Jahan Dotson broke the single game receiving yards record and had 3tds. Also that the defense had 2 takeaways, 1 for a score. Also that we would have the OPOW and DPOW. What’s your guess on the score?—InflammableDumpster

It depends. In this scenario, was I aware that Penn State was on a three-game losing streak including an inexplicable, low-scoring, 9OT loss to Illinois? If so, it probably wouldn’t be far off of what it was (in which we still beat the spread). If I had no idea about that, I’d definitely think it was more in line with the 59-0 beatdown from 2019, and that Maryland fans would’ve left even earlier than they did. As it was, they started trickling out after the made field goal had the Lions up by ten in the fourth, but the mass exodus was in full force after the pick six.

On Fall Saturdays when you’re watching college football on the TV, and Penn State is not playing (yet), do you seek out B1G games to see our opposition or watch the best matchup regardless of conference affiliation?—Tmbgiants_3

I generally gravitate more towards Big Ten games, because they have direct implications on Penn State’s schedule and how it is perceived (same with non-conference foes that PSU has or will face, like in this season, Auburn). If those games are unexciting, I’ll switch over to the most exciting game in which I have a rooting interest – whether it’s a positive or negative rooting interest (for example, whoever is playing Clemson I will root for).

OL and Blocking Schemes, for those of you that played or coached those positions

Either I read an article or dreamed it, but it was a discussion about how Yurcich completely overhauled blocking schemes, and that this learning curve is what is affecting our running game. I (and allegedly CJF) know nothing about the Xs and Os of the game.

So for those of you in-the-know, riddle me this: how complex are an individual lineman’s responsibilities, and secondly, how difficult is it to learn and implement?

Thirdly, do you buy this explanation? If so, then the line should be improving as the year progresses. Are you seeing progress?—48-14

I’m not “in the know” but it’s my understanding that the base of your premise is true – that Yurcich overhauled the blocking schemes (not that Franklin knows nothing about the Xs and Os, which as a former offensive coordinator, is just casting ridiculous stones). The line has improved over the year, but not fast enough and I wouldn’t be surprised if Trautwein is allowed to graciously bow out and return to his alma mater, Florida, now that they’ve fired essentially their entire offensive coaching staff. They’d do well to bring in someone who’s more familiar with Yurcich’s blocking scheme and philosophy, and hopefully the coffers will open up even more.

Enough already. Sell alcoholic beverages to anyone in Beaver Stadium. WTH is the hold-up? Why can’t we have nice things?—Smee

It’s likely a liability thing, having to do with increased insurance premiums and the possibility of being sued and found liable if someone (or, more likely, someones) bought beer at the Beav and then got injured or injured someone else. Penn State does nothing quickly, as you all know, and I truly do believe this is the way things are trending because leaving the millions of dollars associated with alcohol sales (not just in Beaver Stadium, but in Rec Hall, the BJC, and the Peg) on the table just isn’t fiscally smart long term; the increased premiums would more than likely be more than offset. So is it the potential PR nightmare of another lawsuit? That’s probably part of it, too, with all University leadership (somewhat understandably) very, very nervous about any even remotely potentially negative press and lawsuits.

Where is the line for TV commentators?

During yesterday’s Michigan-Indiana game, the talking heads seemed blatantly pro-Michigan. At one point, a Michigan receiver was awarded a catch on a ball that was clearly trapped against the ground. Instant replay revealed the missed call, but one of the heads said, “Aw, they ought to give him the catch – it’s his first as a college receiver.” Hmmmm. Far too many of them seem to announce with a bias – can we get back to where the talking heads simply report the action, explain the nuances of a formation, etc. instead of telling us what Team A needs to do to win, while not sharing similar wisdom for Team B? (Obviously Team A is not listening to these knuckleheads, but as a fan of Team B the homerism is annoying.)—PSU_Lions_84

It’s increasingly difficult to find even potentially unbiased commentators – it seems as a society we’ve rewarded homerism and the sort of divisiveness that comes along with it, rather than prizing true neutrality (as opposed to the performative neutrality that happens during some games, which is what I would argue occurred in our game vs Maryland this past week).

I know that college radio networks are allowed to be more biased, but I still can’t get over a call that I was listening to on the way to a friend’s to watch our Ohio State game. There weren’t many “good” games going on at the time, and I found myself listening to FSU vs Clemson which is close to my own personal hell but is indicative of my love for college football uber alles.

Well, there was a call that the FSU radio announcers thought should have been reviewed but wasn’t – I don’t remember the call, if it was what they thought was a turnover that was deemed not, and incomplete catch that wasn’t reviewed, or something of the sort. But Clemson’s drive stalled, and they lined up to kick a field goal – and missed. The FSU color commentator kept yelling “poetic justice! Poetic justice!” after the missed field goal, which just sticks in my craw. I get that, as stated above, radio broadcasts are a different animal – but that felt like a bridge too far.

They won’t get any repercussions, of course, and neither will the commentators that you mentioned, 84 – because nowadays, they’re hired in part because of some of those boneheaded comments. If folks are trending on social media, with fans debating the #taeks, then they’re talking about the game and more likely to tune in, and up advertising revenue.

Your list of the top three worst referees in the B1G and why, and your top pick for best.—RWReese

It’s no surprised that John O’Neill is far and away the worst head ref in the Big Ten, a sentiment shared by multiple schools (not just PSU, who in my Nittany Lion-centric world, has been screwed by his inexplicable calls more than anyone else). Since Witvoet retired, I don’t know the names of any other head refs, which may be a good thing? But I can’t point out any others beyond the top one worst, and also don’t know enough to pick the best. I can say, though, that there is at least one crew with a Lady Ref and that crew has been the best I’ve seen, most willing to overturn their original decisions on the field if it was a wrong one.

I think the fact that we know O’Neill’s name is the biggest indictment of his ineptitude, because refs should be really part of the background noise of a game – not part of the game’s narrative. But many don’t see themselves that way, so they insert themselves and their POV into the game to be the topic of conversation – not necessarily dissimilar to the answer to this previous question. It’s not always about the actual game and what happens on the field anymore – but the overall spectacle.

The Battle of Former PSU Offensive Coordinators, I mean the Washington/Oregon Border War, has concluded in the PacNW. JoeMo has caused John Donovan not only to lose, but to be fired...again.

Was there an over/under anywhere for how long he would last in his second stint as a P5 OC, and if not, is this about as long as you’d think he’d last, or not? I will note that the Huskies only had to go through 1 year of the John Donovan Experience, so I guess that puts them up on us.NittanyPUMA

First of all, this was actually the second year of Donovan at the helm of the Huskies offense – so I wouldn’t give them too much credit. He only lasted two seasons at PSU, after all, though it was two full seasons (as opposed to the shortened COVID 2020 season, plus the 2/3 of a season before his firing).

I’d argue, as well, that we didn’t realize how much of a detriment to our offense Donovan would be as the playcaller – he was with CJF at Vandy, after all, and his offenses didn’t appear to be that inept there. But Washington hired him with wide open eyes, and he clearly hadn’t overhauled his coaching philosophy in the five years between those two stints – so that feels worse to me. Any PSUer knew exactly what was going to happen to the Huskies under him, and it’s unfortunate that it did (because I don’t dislike UW).

We’re taking the whole family to the Rutgers game. What is going to be the best strategy for keeping my thin-blooded Sakerlina-raised children in their seats the whole game? We will have them dressed in basically every piece of clothing they own, and I plan on keeping hot chocolate pumped into them like a saline drip. Should I pack some hand-warmers too?—vern05

Pack multiple packs of hand warmers, and toe warmers. I also recommend Thermacare heat wraps (disposable heating pads) which also help keep you warm, plus blankets (both to put on the metal bleacher seats before you sit on them, since they suck the warmth out of your bum, and on top of your legs).

If James Franklin does decide to move on to different pastures (I don’t think he will.), who would you most like to see as his replacement?

He’d be crazy to leave. I really believe he has this program on the brink of the playoffs and we’d be looking at a number 2 Nittany Lions team had Clifford not gotten hurt at Iowa.—Gerry Dincher

I agree that he’s unlikely to leave (and agree with your assessment), but if he does go, it’s gotta be Matt Rhule or bust. And try their darnedest to make sure Mike Yurcich stays.

In 2024, there will be a Las Vegas Kickoff Classic football game at Allegiant Stadium. The scheduled teams are USC (University of Spoiled Children) and LSU (like LSD, but somewhat different). Which sideline do you predict will CJF be standing on during this game?—LarzLion

I predict he’ll be on the sideline in Morgantown.

What is your most prized piece of memorabilia? Or experience if you don’t collect things—kingkub

I have a ton of Star Wars memorabilia, probably unsurprisingly, including a whole slew (not quite full set) of unopened 1997 original trilogy rereleased action figures. I don’t college a huge ton of stuff, but that’s in storage for me right now.

What’s your go-to replacement cussword? Not that I was ever really that colorful in my language but certainly having kids parrot you when you least want them to has mainly cured me from letting out a blue streak when something has gone amiss..

A few of mine are “Snickerdoodles” (i stole this from my oldest daughter who said I sound nerdier than usual saying “shoot”) and “For the love of sandwiches”— mbailey71

Replacement cussword? What’s that? Is there some sort of instance in which the f-word is not socially acceptable?

I’ve been known to drop a “fudge” in its place, though. And occasionally “shoot” comes out myself, nothing too creative I know. But I love your “for the love of sandwiches” – if I remember, I might try to steal that one!