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Minnesota v Penn State Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

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BSD Mailbag 10.21.22

Our answers to your questions on this beautiful fall afternoon!

Will this White Out be a lesser stage being the opponent and last week’s massacre?—bva-psu

Lol no. If we could make a big stage and spectacle of the white out in 2015, when we were 7-3 and had LOST to TEMPLE and had a sack with two rushing dlinemen, we can have a decent stage in 2022, when we are 5-1 and ranked in the top 20.

I really feel like the Penn State fanbase is so indicative of our wider culture right now, very short memories and reactionary to everything, good or bad. Preseason, this team was widely expected to go 9-3 (as an average) and many, MANY folks were predicting losses to Purdue and Auburn. What’s changed? Obviously, no one came out of the game last week feeling good - far from it. The game sucked, and there’s no sugar coating that. But as I write this, it is October 21 and Minnesota is coming to town for a beautiful Saturday of tailgating culminating in the greatest show in college football. If you can’t get up for that, then I don’t know what to tell you.

Sports breaks your heart over and over again, laughing in your face and giving you just enough of those happy-sob moments to keep you coming back for more. And we’re all gluttons for punishment - but not sure I’d have it any other way, because it makes those phenomenal moments (the block six or the Saquon wheel route, and for my fellow Nats fans, the grand slam in extra innings in the 2019 NLDS game five) mean even more. And even my go-to sports pickmeup in Cael Sanderson’s PSU wrestling squad isn’t immune!

And sometimes, those sports-adjacent moments mean even more when your team isn’t performing how we all want. Back before that aforementioned 2015 season opener, the 2014 season saw one of the worst home stands in PSU football since the dark years - we went 3-4 at home, with our only home wins the OOC games not in Ireland. That’s a gigantic woof for a team that had a decided lack of scholarship offensive linemen - but the tailgating, the friendships, and the off-field but sports adjacent moments were amazing that year.

I’m ever an optimist, sometimes to my detriment - and of course I want us to go undefeated every year and win a national title (which fan doesn’t??). But, especially after being cooped up for over a year pretty recently, just pulling into the lots at Beaver Stadium, let alone walking through those gates and seeing the team run out of the tunnel, is my happy place, and nothing that happens on field will make me feel less joyful about fall football Saturdays in State College.

Why does this Michigan loss hurt more than even worse blowouts in 2016 and 2018? 2018 we were stacked with future NFL talent. 2016 and 2018 we were shut out into the second half when Mich put in their backups. Yet something about this loss is alarming. Not sure why. Michigan is on pace for another potential playoff berth.—PSU1979dude

It doesn’t hurt more for me, though I appreciate that it does for others. I think we are who a lot of us thought we were before the season, and many folks got their hopes WAY up after we went down south and delivered nothing short of a second half beatdown of an SEC team, and Michigan’s schedule was touted (rightfully) as charmin soft.

I also don’t find it “alarming” and that term is in itself alarmist - why is this more alarming than 2016? In 2016, we’d gone 7-6 in CJF’s first two seasons and there was nothing to indicate that they would do any better that year. The boos rang down at halftime in the Minnesota game, when PSU trailed double digits at the half. Fresh off a bowl loss and after a 2-1 start to the season (that included a no-defense one score loss against a former huge rival), the loss to Michigan in 2016 saw no lead changes and no sparks of any life from PSU, offense or defense, and nothing indicated we were going to do any better any time soon.

And while folks argue the same of this year’s Michigan game, we actually led multiple times (a factual statement) and our game at Auburn is still impressive - far different than what we showed at any point pre-homecoming in 2016. If anything’s alarming to me, it’s the fact that folks use the word alarming in describing a college football game.

Apologies in advance for the very long “question”, which will also have some statements mixed in, but where do you stand on the mentality that PSU seems to look “flat” in a lot of big games? I ask that while acknowledging a few things:

1) it’s impossible to know the mindset of one guy, let alone 60-65 when you’re just some schlub like me sitting on your couch watching the game

2) As an Eagles fan, after ten years of debates over the “body language” of one Donovan McNabb after throwing an INT or something I swore I’d never get into something like this again

3) I’m not implying that someone has to be a “rah rah sis boom bah” kind of guy to be very intense, focused and competitive. Using an obscure PA high school wrestling reference/comparison as there are a lot of wrestling fans on this site, there was a guy back in the late 80s named Chris Kwortnik that won three state titles, only lost one match in four years, and he was pretty much a freakin machine, but if you saw him two minutes before his match started, he looked like he was bored out of his mind and ready to go take a nap, but then he’d get on the mat and just annihilate people (all while still looking kind of bored).

So, having gotten all of that out of the way, I do think that they look flat sometimes in comparison to the other team. Your thoughts?—LTFT

I don’t know if “flat” is the right word to describe how in some games, we’ve come out initially. I’d actually use the term “underprepared” for a lot of the performances - even in many games we’ve won, we need a lot of adjustments during the game (most especially during halftime) to really, truly put teams away. That’s across multiple coordinators - and, yes, multiple head coaches. I really think there’s only a handful of coaches who are consistent game planners from the jump in college football, and even they’re not immune from perfect game plans from opposing coaches.

It’s disappointing, surely, especially when playing teams that on paper should be mismatches from the jump. But I don’t know the real answer to fix it.

I’ve been a staunch supporter of James Franklin over the past few years, however, my patience is shot after the utterly embarrassing showing in Ann Arbor. Even if we beat Minnesota, there’s about a 98% chance that we get blown out by Ohio State. Then, true to form, we’ll lose at least one more game that has everyone saying “how the hell did we lose to these guys?” Unfortunately for me, and everyone who thinks/knows that Franklin ain’t the guy to take us to the promised land, his buyout means we’re stuck with him for a long, long time. I’m sad. It’s been 3 days and I’m still very sad.

PS. If we win out, I retract everything.—LBU_409er

I don’t see any indication that we’ll be blown out by Ohio State; it’s very rare that Penn State gets blown out at home by Ohio State. Even in the aforementioned 2014 season, one in which OSU won the national championship, we lost by 7 in 2OT. I think they’re a very good team this year, no doubt and not sure that’s in question - but for all the faults we mostly correctly ascribe to James Franklin’s coaching at Penn State, he’s also been very, very good vs OSU at home. I think that will be a game until the fourth quarter.

And here’s the question I ask to folks who say exactly what you say about CJF in your “unfortunately” sentence - who do you know that would be better? Someone that is guaranteed to do better than he has? I’ve yet to see anyone actually give me an answer; any name that’s been bandied about is either a) completely unrealistic (ie, Nick Saban) or, b) not without their own faults so it’s by no means a slam dunk (Matt Rhule, Bill O’Brien, etc). I’ve also seen folks calling for us to hire Urban Meyer - which, besides from being gross, makes me wonder if those same people who decry that they’re all about “success with honor” are so hypocritical in non-sports arenas.

Basically, CJF is fine. He’s not horrible. He’s not the prodigal son on whom all of the program’s historical hopes and dreams are pinned, who has a badly losing record over his years (ala Scott Frost) and he’s not a one-hit wonder looking to turn the program around and failing miserably (also maybe Scott Frost?, but definitely Brian Harsin). He’s going to recruit well, graduate players, be a good model fo the community, and have a career average of around 8-4. I understand if for some folks that’s not good enough. For me, someone whose memory isn’t that short, I will gladly take that over some of the alternatives.

To piggyback off LBU_409er question...worse ROI? Texas A&M, or PSU? If we come out flat Saturday night or don’t stomp a one sided Minny team, Dennis is in for a loooooing week.—swift_retribution

It’s A&M and I’m not sure it’s close.

In addition to the fact that they hired Jimbo Fisher for millions more per year than Franklin gets, their boosters also paid unprecedented amounts to have essentially the best recruiting class of all time with 2022’s commits (almost triple the number of five star recruits compared to #2 Bama) and what do they have to show for it? Fourteen points in a loss at home to Appalachian State? Giving up 42 points to an unranked Mississippi State? Now *that’s* alarming, especially for a team that was widely expected to challenge for a playoff berth.

Do you think Penn State football will ever win another national championship and if so, what year do you predict?—Succss With Honor Always

Oh gosh. I’m sure eventually it’ll happen, but I can’t hazard a guess as to when. I don’t think Nick Saban will be a head coach anywhere when it happens, though - and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s when PSU has a home field advantage in the first round of the college football playoffs.

Your opinion. As far as brain farts go, is,

“Sean has earned the right to be on the field.”

greater than, equal to, or less than a brain fart than this,

“People ask us to blow up balloons at their kid’s birthday party in the backyard, we’ll do that.”—Smee

I don’t see either of those as brain farts - I define a brain fart as something you forget that you know you should know, and it slips your mind so you say something off or that doesn’t make sense. Both of those statements seem intentional to me, whether folks interpret them in a positive or negative light; it’s obvious what CJF was trying to say with both, and I understood his points, even if others don’t. HIs old quote about coaches’ wives from Vandy is far more of a brain fart to me, but I still wouldn’t classify it as one.

Has PSU seen a decline in ticket sales this year? I have received numerous emails/snail mail from the athletic department reminding me that there are still tickets available (even for the OSU game). This was even before last weekend’s wipeout.—LarzLion

I’m not privy to any of that information but I think it’s pretty clear historically that ticket sales have to do more with the prior season’s performance than the current season.

In 2018, the Ohio State game was sold out in the summer because folks were high off the Fiesta Bowl win capping the previous season and (rightfully!) thought the team had a shot at replicating the 2016 magic. In 2021, the Auburn game was sold out early because the way the 2020 season ended had folks excited (and it was a novelty game).

What did folks see to end 2021 that would make them think we could compete with Ohio State? I’d argue that’s similar to 2016 Ohio State, which definitely wasn’t sold out either, because going into the season (and even going into that game!) no one thought the PSU team was very good.

Why did we only run 2 plays under center against Michigan? I wish I had the stats for how often we’ve run UC vs shotgun this year, but my eyeballs and fuzzy memory says Cliff had his hands under Scrugg’s butt at least 50% of the time on “standard” downs this year (i.e. 1st and 10, 2nd & medium, 3rd and short).—vern05

We’ve been successful under center when our line can get a push and are running the ball; I haven’t noticed as much success in passing. I can’t really answer your question (I too wish we’d seen it more) but our offensive line was opening exactly zero holes for runners not named Sean Clifford on probably the best run of his 42-year Penn State career, so that probably had something to do with it.

What is the best sandwich for throwing?—Liongame

It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with the sandwich. Is it to injure, hit your intended target with a thunk and give them a reminder for days to come in the form of a bruise? Then I’d say something heavy like a moist-maker, which can drop like a stone and leave a mark. Personally, I prefer instant gratification of publicly shaming my opponent and showing everyone I got the best of them, so I’d say something that’s incredibly messy and would collapse on impact, but with a wide arc of collateral damage. Give me a meatball sub for a good combo of heaviness and thud (with the meatballs) and potential staining opportunities (with the marinara sauce).

But either way, PB&Js are dumb and that was more disappointing than the Blake Corum touchdown run.

Recognizing we’re in the it’s-way-too-early-for-polls part of the season, four games in the Penn State men’s hockey team is unbeaten and sitting at #4 in the PairWise rankings (https://www.uscho.com/rankings/pairwise-rankings/d-i-men/ - this ranking will likely be changed by the time your answer appears). Three of the top four teams are from the B1G, and four of the top ten (which is helpful in two weekends when the B1G schedule starts and the teams cannibalize one another). So... how many teams from the B1G make the tourney this season, and is Penn State one of them?—Smee

The Nittany Lions have a real shot, but unless they win the Big Ten tournament, they’ll be fighting with the entire field for the 10 at-large bids. It’s not unrealistic at all for three non-tourney winners in the conference to make it (it happened in 2021 for the Big Ten) but five total from one conference seems like a lot. I’m relying to you in the comments to tell me if it’s happened before!

at can we fans do to convince the NFL to force Daniel Snyder to sell the team?—wvlion

It’s gotta be convincing him that the end times are coming, or gettin some dirt equal to or exceeding the dirt he claims to have on owners (like Jerry Jones) and Goodell. I’m not sure it’ll happen, but it’s sure as shit closer now than it’s ever been before, and it definitely helps that the team is nowhere near as profitable as when he took it over. A shitty owner is bad for business - who knew??

Totally OT, but tell me something... ANYTHING, that goes against my forthcoming statement...

The NY Football Giants higher ups paid the Kaminoans to produce a perfect clone of Eli Manning and they named him Daniel Jones. They are I-freaking-dentical, right down to the constant look of nauseousness, even when “smiling”.

Follow-up question: If they had contacts on Kamino and the means to clone an NFL QB, why the HELL did they pick Eli Manning?!?—LocalYocal

I don’t know anything about the Giants so not sure I can speak to this. All I know about them is Saquon is finally healthy again and showing flashes, and also played at wildcat qb earlier in the season due to injuries. That’s funny and also poor Daniel Jones if he’s being compared to Eli.

Any comment on the University of Wisconsin women’s volleyball team having leaked photos of them celebrating their championship topless?

My advice would be when having your pic taken would be “would I be embarrassed to see this in a newspaper or on the internet.”—LarzLion

My only comment is that they are national champs and deserve to celebrate however they see fit. Also if photos like that were leaked without their consent then that smells like a lawsuit waiting to happen to me.

Are HOKA’s the new Boomer shoe to replace New Balance?—Smee

Oh gosh, I don’t even know what HOKAs are. And based on your one-question summation, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know.

Favorite and least favorite fall activities?

For me, the National Apple Harvest Festival in Biglerville encapsulates all the best things (except football) about the best season. Highly recommend checking it out on way home from State College next year.

Ironically, actually going apple picking just sucks. Dressing up to pay money to pick mediocre apples, all for an instagram picture. the boomers would never understand!—18novalion

My favorite fall activity is tailgating, as I”m sure no one is surprised. I’m not much of “an outdoor girl”, as Leo called it, but I do like going to farmer’s markets in the fall as well.

My least favorite is probably haunted houses, I don’t really get them. I’ve jumped, for sure, but what is really the point?

My response to Larz below brought another question to mind and it could be one a wordsmith such as yourself can answer. What do the Brits have against the letter Z?—LocalYocal

Do you mean the letter zed?

I hate to break it to you, but some British folks have been speaking English longer than we have, so if one spelling of words is correct, it’s most likely going to be the British version (I will go to my death defending the american spelling of aluminum, though). I looked into this to answer your question and it certainly sounds like American dictionary makers tried to distinguish themselves from their British counterparts and changed Ss to Zs, because the pronunciation sounds the same but the spelling makes it unique, and that sounds really plausible and like our brand of American exceptionalism so let’s go with that.

What’s your typical pho selection? I’ll take all the sirloin, brisket and flank they have and I like the texture of tripe and tendon, but the meatballs just gross me out.—Succss With Honor Always

I’ve actually never had pho! I KNOW

Are cars too smart for your own good?—Smee

My biggest issue with smart cars is that when the computer system in your car goes down, so does basically everything. In my car right now (a 2013 ford), the rear camera has been iffy for like five years but it impacts nothing and I know how to parallel park and back into spaces without it. I’d prefer not to rely too much on “smart” aspects of cars, but they’re nice to have for safety and convenience reasons.

Why do people always refer to “assless chaps” when chaps are by definition assless?—MJBPSU

Redundancy is a huge part of our language, and reiterating the “assless” part of the clothing choice makes it abundantly clear what you are (and are not) getting?

I recently came into a not insignificant amount of money. The plan post-retirement has always been to move to Southern PA. I already have a post-retirement job lined up in the DC area, and want to be someplace somewhat equidistant between State College and DC. That way, during football season, I can make the trip up for games and during the other times I can commute by train to DC for my “job” (it’s in the tourism industry so it is somewhat seasonal). I am looking to buy a rental/income property that I can eventually move into when I retire. What are some of the nicer places to live in Southern PA? I’d prefer not too rural, as I’ve spent my entire life living in the suburbs. Also, though it’s not really “Southern”, how is the area surrounding Harrisburg?—Tmbgiants_3

I think the Hagerstown, MD/Franklin Co, PA area should suit your needs pretty well, especially if you’re only going down to DC every few weeks. It’s about an hour to ninety minute drive to DC (or a ~20 minute one to the commuter trains that go into the city every weekday) and it’s a little over two hours to State College.

And while Hagerstown doesn’t have the population it did 30 or 40 years ago, it’s not bad (just hasn’t kept up with the booms of the Baltimore and DC suburbs).

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