Like Mike Lieberthal sitting out a day game, blogging the morning after a 1:05 p.m. business person’s special is bad for my health. I'm sitting this one out, stretching my brain in a different direction, and turning my attention toward football at my dear Alma Mater, Penn State. At the very least, use it as an opportunity to get to know me better.
Penn State football is less than a month away. As a fan, I’ve been largely MIA since graduating State in 2000, making the Eagles my team du jour since walking away with my degree.
Other than the Phillies and Eagles, I’m pretty fairweather with my teams. Penn State was pathetic last year (4-7) and I didn’t watch a single down. I’ve also had limited chances to watch games because my previous residence, a cabin outside Kutztown, didn’t have cable. It barely had anything. Now I have high-definition cable and I'm living large (up 15 pounds from last year).
I must admit I’m a little tired of the Eagles and the whole Chickie’s and Pete’s scene. Call me a snob, but it’s tacky, and the T.O. situation is blown way out of proportion. I can feel my tastes shifting back toward those no-nonsense white helmets, JoePa's hemmed pants and good, clean breakfasts at the Waffle Shop, That's like heaven, and sparkling green jerseys, Dhani Jones' bow tie and Pat's cheese steaks are like hell.
College football’s great downfall, in terms of "sport," is sticking fans and teams with a buzz-killing postseason structured around sponsorships and dollars.
However, the practical way to view the situation is those dollars translate into more resources for the academic institution. After all, it’s football, and in a university setting, football is a marketing tool and a cash cow, in addition to a fan institution and tradition.
The rabid sports fan doesn’t see it that way. Football, business and education collide just when they’d like to see helmets collide in a bracketed, unhindered playoff system. Fans often blame a system based on "rankings" for bringing down the sport, but that’s a byproduct of the beast.
In that respect, the pro game is better because the frenzy continues unhindered until the Super Bowl.
For me, Penn State has always been about the six games or so one can attend in Happy Valley every season and absorb that electric atmosphere, playing familiar division rivals. Besides the ’94 Rose Bowl against Oregon, I could barely pay attention to any bowl game I’ve seen since then.
There’s nothing as mind-numbing as a game played a month and a half after the season featuring Penn State against some random team like Texas A&M. I’d rather see Penn State play another game against a division rival, like Purdue, if they finish with similar records.
Rankings, wins and BCS numbers are debated indicators, but they’re everything in college football. In an 11-game season, who you play and when is vital, and PSU has a relatively easy docket this season, aside from an unwinnable game on the road at Michigan.
Here's the schedule:
|Saturday, Sept. 3||South Florida||Home||3:30 PM|
|Saturday, Sept. 10||Cincinnati||Home||12:00 PM|
|Saturday, Sept. 17||Central Michigan||Home||1:30 PM|
|Saturday, Sept. 24||Northwestern||Away||More|
|Saturday, October 1||Minnesota||Home||More|
|Saturday, October 8||Ohio State||Home||7:00 PM|
|Saturday, October 15||Michigan||Away||More|
|Saturday, October 22||Illinois||Away||7:00 PM|
|Saturday, October 29||Purdue||Home||More|
|Saturday, November 5||Wisconsin||Home||More|
|Saturday, November 19||Michigan State||Away||More|
They enter 2005 with a solid team defense that didn't allow more than 21 points a game last year. That's incredible for the college game.
It’s a favorable schedule overall and very easy early, but tough in the middle. They have a very good chance to go 4-0 including a win at Northwestern before facing Minnesota at home, then Ohio State at home. At worst they’ll be 4-2 after those two games. I'd say State has a chance to upset OSU more than Minnesota, a team that always seems to play well in Happy Valley.
Then they hit the road for two games, first against Michigan for their annual pummeling (4-3), followed by a winnable game at Illinois (5-3), but watch out for those back-to-back road games.
Even if they split the next two at home against Purdue and Wisconsin, they're still 6-4. Michigan State never impressed me, so I call that a win away from State College. That puts them at a very good 7-4.
The Big Ten will beat each other up again this season. State has a legitimate chance to finish second or third in the conference, maybe with as many as eight wins. I see nothing worse than a 6-5 finish.