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Apr 15, 2023; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Manny Diaz walks on the field during the fourth quarter of the Blue White spring game at Beaver Stadium. The Blue team defeated the White team 10-0. Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

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BSD Mailbag 10.20.23

We answer your questions on the eve of the first big test of the football season!

This is the biggest game of James Franklin’s career. Fwiw I am a staunch supporter of his but with this game I am all in, all chips are on the table. If Franklin is indeed a great coach, he will find a way to win Saturday. All the pieces he ever wanted are there, from players to coaches. There are no excuses. Even OSU is not as strong as they had been in the past. If CJF for some reason does not win then he will have to win out to earn back my faith in him. Do you feel this is CJF’s biggest game in his career?—PSU1979dude

I think this is one of the biggest games in his career, no doubt. But I would definitely not say that he’s not a great coach if we don’t win on Saturday.

The amount of talent, on the field and the sidelines, that Ohio State has stockpiled since Jim Tressel retired is, frankly, insane. And it’s not like any one else has been beating them consistently - Penn State has been favored in exactly zero matchups against Ohio State since he became coach of the Nittany Lions (even in 2017, when PSU was the higher ranked team, they were a road underdog by more than they are this year). In fact, this is the fourteenth year in a row that Ohio State is favored against Penn State, and the Nittany Lions are 2-11 in that span.

It’s hard to beat a favored team! Even harder a team as elite as Ohio State has been. And PSU has beat the spread most of those games under Franklin, if not winning outright, and that’s pretty hard to do too.

This weekend’s game won’t be the arbiter of whether CJF is a great team or not, but it may be the arbiter if he can be come an elite one.

Will Penn State win?—MainLionLovesHosss

They’ve certainly got a pretty darn good shot. I predicted preseason that they would, and I’m still pretty bullish. It’s a good matchup for PSU, and Ohio State (their fans, at least) seem very overconfident.

Frankly, the only outcome that would shock me is if Penn State loses by more than two scores. I could see us win, us blow out the Buckeyes, or them win narrowly.

Allar’s QB trainer posted this time line showing his throwing mechanics transformation throughout his HS years. I stumbled across this in an article from Mark Wogenrich talking about Allar’s transformation and his focus on his craft with insights from his trainer, Brad Maendler.

Allar has had three weeks to prepare for OSU. After seeing this video and grasping this kids sense of focus, let me ask you:

Are you still worried????

–PSUinOK

Allar’s one of the reasons I’m confident, but PSU came pretty close the last time we played in Columbus as well - a 9 point loss with Sean Clifford as the QB, amidst an otherwise mediocre season - so I’m even more bullish because this is one matchup that Franklin always does well, if not winning outright.

Is there a number on a Penn State football jersey that conveys instant credibility? For instance, number 11 has had a great heritage for the last few decades: Arrington, Bowman, Parsons, et al. Number 14 has a good track record: Blackledge, Shaffer, Fusina, Hackenberg.

Conversely, is there a jersey number that initially causes some trepidation? Number 7 does that for me, recently. No offense to Zack Mills or Scirrotto, but Koa Farmer was a bit underwhelming and Kaden Saunders as a punt returner is not inspiring confidence.—PSU_LIons_84

Honestly, I was full of trepidation when Christian Hackenberg chose to wear 14, because the most recent high profile quarterback to wear that number before him was...shall we say...less than heralded. But Hack did a good job to reclaim that number, and Sean Clifford did even more in my view.

Now that the curse of 14 is over for me, I don’t really have any other numbers that make me nervous, surprisingly!

I do think 11 is THE number that has what you’re referencing - I’m not sure there’s any other number nowadays, though it certainly seems as though the program is trying to make 0 that sort of credible number.

In college athletics what is more pretentious than the use of the stressed definite article in THE Ohio State?—Paebr332

Obviously, the The is quite pretentious - but I feel like the overarching aura of superiority from many Michigan fans, who seem to forget that Jim Harbaugh was on the hot seat two years ago and that Rich Rod and Brady Hoke were even things in this century, is far worse.

Saw the average price for Saturdays PSU vs O$U ticket is $759. What is the most you have spent for a sporting event and where do you draw the line?—bva-psu

I paid around $1,000 per seat for all-session tickets to the 2016 NCAA wrestling tournament in Madison Square Garden. Now, of course, all-session means that I paid around $167 per session - but it’s still a markup of 4x face value. Definitely the most I’ve spent.

In hindsight, do you think Penn State should have taken care of Larry Johnson post Paterno? He has been killing it (and us) at Ohio State.—Jiminsantafe

Taken care of, how? He interviewed for the head coaching position, and when it was clear he wasn’t going to get it - he wanted to leave. Absent giving him that role, which I’m not sure he would have excelled at (let alone as good as Franklin has been), I’m not sure how Penn State could have “taken care of” him. He didn’t want to stay here in the same role he’d been in, and while it makes me sad that he went to OSU, he by all accounts is a good person and I wish him well.

We’ve been pretty ok on the d-line since he’s left, as well.

Will Manny Diaz follow Franklin to aTm or take one of the head coaching offers he gets?—LionfanAllan

I’ve never been good at this sort of speculation, but I don’t know if Manny is cut out to be a head coach. Especially when you hear things like this:

Some people aren’t cut out to be head coaches, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Oh, and I’m not touching the bit about Franklin to TAM.

Does it piss you off when you see others using “We Are” to promote themselves?

How about other schools?

How about this school?–kingkub

I was all prepared to say I had no problem with it, but then I saw the image you linked to and my blood boiled a little bit. So I guess there are others and schools that piss me off when they use it!

More iconic duo...Lincoln Riley coached teams having no defense...or Maryland starting 5-0 only to lose every game in October.—swift_retribution

Definitely September Maryland. Having grown up in MD and not having any feelings whatsoever until they joined the Big Ten and decided that we were their most hated rival, I get joy in them losing to Illinois at home.

Do you think that the keychains have been ordered for 5b’s “whipped cream on sheet” win over previously unbeaten (and overrated) Louisville last weekend?—LarzLion

I’m not sure what the quote in your question is referring to, and I’m not sure I want to know.

But you know they only order keychains for when they beat big brother - they didn’t even order them when they beat #2 Clemson in 2017.

So now that Harbz has been outed for cheating, what punishment do you suggest. Because we all know the NCAA will shoot for the moon and then settle for a slap on the wrist.

It also puts last year’s performances against them in perspective. Especially the defense. I, mistakenly, questioned Manny after that game. Turns out, it’s quite hard to stop a team full of high level athletes that know what play you’re going to run. I’m now convinced Manny is the best coordinator, offense or defense, we have had in the last 35 years. I didn’t watch before then so I can’t speak to those teams.—swift_retribution

That seems like a stretch to me - we were lucky to even be in that game to start the second half. I’m not saying potential sign stealing wasn’t a factor, but the game plan headed into that game was absolutely horribad and I can only hope and pray that Manny Diaz and Mike Yurcich have spent the last year thinking about that.

Stadium renovations to begin after the 2024 season, what should be on the top of the list?

From StateCollege.com’s Geoff Ruston- “Following the 2024 football season, the university will begin reconstruction of the west side of the stadium. While retaining the bowl seating, the project will add club and loge seats and suites. Other expected renovations throughout the stadium include improved circulation to ease spectator congestion, renovated restrooms, upgraded concessions, Wi-Fi and cellular upgrades and additional seating options, as well as code upgrades and accessibility improvements.”—kingkub

Honestly, the thing that would make me the most happy would be replacing the benches and putting in individual seats in all but the student section. I know that would reduce capacity, but my back would love it!

Also, increasing the accessibility would be tremendous - only three elevators, with only one operating for most users before 15 minutes after the end of the game, seems suboptimal. Not to mention the escalator issues - there should be escalators and more accessible options at both ends of the stadium, not just the south endzone.

We are now about 1/2 thru the 2023 season and the first year of the new B1G media right package, so lets rate the various score bugs from our “broadcast” partners. Here’s mine, from worst to best:

4. Fox/B1G Network — Fox has tended to bounce from restrained to over-the-top score bugs, and they are now in one of their over-the-top phases. It is too damn big, and the askew graphics and squiggly lines bring back memories of ESPN2 back in the day, and not in a good way.

3. ESPN/ABC — Even thought they aren’t part of the B1G media rights package anymore (smiles), I’m including them since WHEN we make it to the CFP we’ll be appearing there. As near as I can tell this is the same “bug” (or rather banner) as the last few years. Nothing particularly good or bad about it, IMO, although it feels like it takes up more real estate than it needs to.

2. NBC/”the Cock” — Have never been a fan of any of their looks for ND over the years, so I was a bit nervous for them to take on the primetime package (TWSS), but I gotta say, I really like the re-imagined bug they debuted when ND played Navy in Ireland. Clean, not too big, and easy to glen the required info at a glance. Nice work.

1. CBS — Unlike the others here, they use the same bug for both college football and the NFL, and why not. It is clean, appropriately sized, and doesn’t try to do anything more than it needs too. Chef’s kiss.

So those are the definitive rankings, but what say you?—MJBPSU

Your rankings seem pretty fair to me. I don’t really have much of an opinion one way or the other, except for the fact that Fox’s new scorebugs are awful and whomever designed them should be fired into the sun. Their bugs last year were fine - why mess with it, especially in such a dramatic way?

The worst part of it is the fact that some team nicknames are on one line, and others are on two. But there’s no rhyme or reason for why they break them out, as it’s clearly not character based - Nittany Lions was on two lines, while Fighting Illini was on one. How does that make sense?

Official wrestling practice has started. It’s obviously still early and we don’t even know who might be wearing PSU singlets in March, but if you had to just spitball, which Penn State wrestlers will win individual national titles this season at March Matness in Kansas City?—Smee

I assume you mean besides Carter Starocci and Aaron Brooks?

Greg Kerkvliet is the best bet to me but Levi Haines has gotta be up there. And how Shayne Van Ness came on at the NCAAs after being down and securing a pin in his opening bout, can anyone count him out? Plus, does Bernie Truax pull a Max Dean and get over the hump at Penn State?

Basically, we are spoiled as PSU wrestling fans and have a plethora of options to choose from.

I am reasonably capable in the kitchen, and the rest of the kavija household generally approves of my cooking. However, this weekend I scored a big hit with a Greek leg of lamb recipe. What’s the dish you’re most proud of perfecting at home?—kavija66

There’s a few things I’m known for in my family, mashed potatoes and any kind of pie. But honestly the thing I was the most proud of ever making was angel food cake. It always seemed so difficult, and when I did make it - it turned out beautifully and tasted perfect.

Which regional/cultural food from outside your region/culture do you like best?

Which regional/cultural food from outside your region/culture that you have tried makes you wonder how in the world people eat this stuff?

My favorite is chicken bog. It’s a very regional food in Robeson County, North Carolina and Dillon County, South Carolina. It’s essentially chicken and rice, but made outside, in the fall, in a giant cast iron pot over a roaring fire. Best served in the fall at a hunting camp or football game.

What makes me wonder most is sushi. I tried it a few weeks ago and hated it!—Gerry Dincher

My favorite style of food outside my culture is probably Indian food. I didn’t even try it until I hit college, and I absolutely love it. Greek food is a close second to me.

If you’re talking specific foods, not just styles, I’m not sure that I could pick one I like the best or dislike the most; I can tell you, though, that rotten shark from Iceland smells absolutely horrible and even when all your friends (and sibling) are trying to convince you to try it, it’s worth it to stick to your guns and say no.

Is there a popular restaurant, tourist attraction, etc where you’re from or where you live now that “locals” go out of their way to say how much they hate or how overrated it is? I ask this because I’m on a few Philly related pages and any mention of Pat’s, Geno’s, or both causes people to lose their freakin minds and comment on how awful they are. I mean, in my opinion as someone that hasn’t had a cheesesteak in Philly for over 15 years, there are better cheesesteaks out there, (I think the best cheesesteak I have ever had was from a place with a name that I probably can’t say because the name was the same as a slur for Chinese people and I think the name got changed a few years back), but I think Pat’s and Geno’s are fine, they’re not awful, and you don’t stay in business in the middle of South Philly for 50+ years by being an awful “tourist trap”.—LTFT

I grew up in Maryland, and I don’t know if you know this, but most Marylanders are so fiercely proud of their home state that I don’t know that they’d ever say anything from there is overrated. See: the addition of the ugly-as-hell flag onto every uniform and every sign everywhere.

Crabs are pretty damn awesome, too, I can’t say anything bad about Maryland cuisine myself.

What name has the most nicknames? Elizabeth (my Mom’s middle name) comes to mind: Lizzie/Liz/Beth/Betty/Lizabeth/Betsy/Bess/etc.

Anyone got other candidates?—PSU_Lions_84

You picked a good one for women’s names! For men, it’s likely Richard.

Aren’t old dances weird? Like when there are two rows of five people each and they do all this walking and intertwining. And who knows about dances from even earlier time periods. Imagine the chemistry building with the right person you’re dancing with.—PSU1979dude

It’s all because older dances were in times where people in good standing in society couldn’t actually touch each other outside of the occasional hand holding while dancing. I’m sure there’s a lot of historical analysis on this out there, but to me it seems like a classic version of peacocking - over the top, choreographed moves meant to show off. It certainly seems like it would’ve been fun, though!

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