As part of our Penn State week preview, I got my Carl Monday on and asked the tough questions to PSU blogger extraordinaire Black Shoe Diaries. If you want some indication of what an actual sports blogger does (and what actual sports journalists did as late as 5 years ago), then check out Part I; he asked great, substantive questions. So that made one of us.
I've read some silliness from your camp that the only game you expect PSU to win from here on out is against Temple. Given that Illinois is who Phil Steele thought they were (TheZookHook: CROWN MY A$$ BRO!!! WOOOO!!!!!), is anything about this season really all that surprising? Eight or nine wins is still reasonable, right?
Before the season most PSU fans expected us to lose to Michigan. Afterall, we haven't beaten them since 1996. And a large portion of fans expected us to lose to Illinois. Last year we needed a defensive and special teams touchdown to beat them in Happy Valley. But there is always a dormant group of fans want to jump off a ledge when Penn State loses two in a row. The Joe Must Go websites are starting to warm up. It's getting ugly.
Our cause for concern is that the entire offense is in disarray right now. There are rumors of bickering going on between the offensive coaches and defensive coaches who are getting tired of holding opposing offenses to 14 points and losing the game. Anthony Morelli is a complete disaster that is capable of throwing away a win with three picks and a fumble. There is no leadership on the offensive side of the ball and Joe Paterno doesn't seem to have any answers or control of this team. At this point, I would be happy with eight or nine wins and a trip back to the Outback Bowl. But until we win a game or two I'm not optimistic at all.
From an outsider's perspective, it seems as if Joe Paterno is under a Sisyphean curse to continue coaching in Happy Valley for the rest of eternity, never again reaching the pinnacle of success. If he'd retired a full decade ago, people would have lauded him as one of the great elder statesmen of college football. And the fucker's still here! Will PSU turn into the Cuba of the Great Lakes, making us rely on Happy Valley's ministry of information to tell us Paterno is alive and well despite not being seen in public for over a year? Or will the regime end gracefully?
Man, if I knew what went on in the head of Joe Paterno I could write a book. Every year he gets a physical and proudly says the doctors tell him he could coach another ten years. But I think in recent years it's becoming evident he's hurting the program more and more. He doesn't have the firm grasp on the program like he used to. His age is becoming a distraction to the team as was evident when he got injured in Wisconsin last year. Each game after that was a total circus as the media flocked to get pictures of him in wheelchairs and crutches. His age has to be hurting us in recruiting. If I were recruiting against Penn State I would ask every kid how sure he was that Paterno will be there his entire four or five years.
I think 2008 will be his last year. That's when his contract runs out, and I think the university wants to go in a different direction. And I think Joe realizes that too. When the time comes I think it will be handled very gracefully. I hope they do something similar to what Barry Alvarez did with Brett Bielema. Announce at the beginning of the year that this will be his last season and name his successor immediately. But in order to do that you need the successor to be a current member of the staff. This would mean defensive coordinator Tom Bradley would be the most likely candidate. If they choose to go outside of the program it's a little bit harder to name a successor. Ultimately I think Paterno will still be affiliated with the university and football team in some capacity after he relinquishes the head coaching job. He could still be an effective tool in recruiting. Imagine the awe in a high school kid's face when they show him around campus and introduce him to Joe Paterno's mummified body.
Back to Morelli, then-- is his era at an end, or what's the deal? It's entirely possible that he'll struggle against Iowa's defense, so if the game goes to the half at 6-2 (uh, again), do we see a new QB? Will Paterno get irritated enough to send Mike McQueary back out there? Have the Lions even got a capable QB in the wings, or is it just one big horror show behind center?
If I'm Anthony Morelli, I'm looking left and right, left and right, and left and right again before I cross the street in State College. [He'll be sacked well before then. --ed] I think the fans have had enough. Remember he was getting death threats last year in the middle of a 9-4 season. He's so frustrating because he'll look brilliant for 90% of the game, and then he'll throw it away with a boneheaded interception. Or he'll try to scramble and fumble the ball. Or he'll just miss a wide open receiver, hold the ball too long and take a sack he shouldn't.
Unfortunately, I think for now Paterno is committed to dancing with the girl he brought to the prom. Right now it doesn't look like there is a viable option in the wings. Daryll Clark is too erratic and freshman Pat Devlin has spent all his time on the scout team instead of taking first team snaps in practice. But I think Morelli is on a short leash this week. If he struggles early we may see Clark play a series or two. And if he plays well he'll certainly see the number of first team snaps in practice increase and Devlin may start seeing a few himself.
I think McQueary still has a year of eligibility left, but Joe needs him on the sideline. Joe doesn't wear a headset. He can't be bothered with these hi tech gadgets like microphones and ear muffs. So he screams at Mike when the guys in the booth screw up and then it's Mike's job to relay the message. It's pretty comical to watch.
So McQueary's a JoePanese translator?
As you know, Iowa plays a pretty basic defense that's predicated on keeping receivers in front of the coverage, limiting their gains, and using the front four to apply pressure. Is that going to play to Morelli's strengths or weaknesses? Can PSU's line hold Iowa's down linemen?
Honestly, I'm more worried about the Penn State offense than I am about the Iowa defense. Our offensive line can't dominate anyone right now. Hell, Florida International and Buffalo gave them fits. The running backs can't find running lanes to move through, and they turn the ball over when they do. Morelli makes mistakes when he's rushed so you can bet that Iowa's defensive line scares me. If you can force Penn State to move down the field in eight or nine plays instead of four or five you're increasing the chances they will shoot themselves in the foot. This should be Iowa's strategy.
If that played any more into Iowa's hands, Norm Parker would be going into diabetic shock right now. How's 6-4 redux sounding to you?
Highly possible. I'll be happy with that as long as we have the six this year.
Again, Part I is here, with questions and answers about the Hawkeyes. Most of it is stuff you already know, but give it a read.