As we get down to it for the Syracuse-Penn State game, Penn State blog Happy Hour Valley and I traded questions about each others' team to try and crack the secret and get the upper hand. Read on to find out more about the team SU will be matching up against tomorrow. My answers to his questions can be found here.
JoePa. Seriously, enough already. What's he got, like 2-3 more years? And do Penn State fans secretly want a new guy in there?
I don't know...Seriously, I have no effing clue whatsoever. I remember in 2002 when JoePa suggested he would be done in four years. Towards the end of the 2004 season when we were still winless in Big Ten play and on our way to a fourth losing season in five years (and when the "JOE MUST GO" calls were at their loudest) we all thought "this is it." We then went on to win back-to-back games against Indiana and Michigan State to close out the season and landed the Derrick Williams/Justin King recruiting class that turned the program around.
Some people thought that if PSU had won the national title last year, JoePa would've retired given his ailing hip. Nothing a little surgery couldn't fix though, and JoePa is back on the sidelines again. I quit speculating on his retirement YEARS ago. Football is JoePa's lifeblood, he has no side hobbies so this is all he has going for him in life (aside from his family), which means the only way he leaves is if he’s far too physically disabled or if he croaks. Call me morbid, but I envision him passing away while he’s still in charge.
Let's just say JoePa calls it quits after this season, who are your top three candidates to take over?
Brian Kelly (Cincinnati head coach) – Love what he’s done at every stop he’s made, won back-to-back national titles at D2 Grand Valley State, turned Central Michigan into a winner, and got Cincy to their first BCS bowl in school history. A job in a more respectable BCS conference like the Big Ten is the next logical step, why not Penn State?
Tom Bradley (PSU defensive coordinator) – He was the de-facto head coach on the field last year when JoePa was stuck in the booth and played the same role in 2006 when JoePa had his knee messed up at Wisconsin. His bend-but-don’t-suck defensive style has given the fan base fits at times but you can’t argue with the fact that PSU has routinely produced kickass defenses under his watch. If PSU is going to hire within (which I suspect they will), Bradley will be the man.
Chris Petersen (Boise St. head coach) – This is an absolute longshot, but it’d be fun to see Petersen and his playbook full of "Jap Plays" being unleashed. Imagine Evan Royster completing a flea-flicker TD pass or taking a Statue-of-Liberty play into the end zone untouched.
The fear of God is already in me but give me some names to attach to that fear. Which Penn State players will most likely give me the day terrors on Saturday?
Derek Moye – Had his coming-out party against Akron last weekend with 6 catches for 138 yards and a TD. He’s 6’3" and speedy. Think of him as a white Mike Williams.
Nate Stupar – He filled in for the injured Navorro Bowman last week and make a case for himself to be included as a permanent starter. He’s very quick at getting to the ball, which means if Greg Paulus is hoping for his wideouts to get some quality YAC after catching short passes, he’s in for a disappointment.
Evan Royster – I've already thrown out two lesser known names, so I’ll use a more well-known one. If the run-blocking for PSU improves vastly from last week (which I think they can), it will be another field day for him. But you guys already knew that.
For those of us who haven't been, what's a gameday at Happy Valley like and what can Syracuse fans on hand expect?
Imagine fans coming not just from all over Pennsylvania but from all of its neighboring states and beyond to watch PSU play, that’s a typical fall Saturday in State College for you. It’s like having 7 or 8 Woodstock festivals every year (sans Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner") and finding a quality tailgate to attend is never a difficult task.
As far as what Syracuse fans should expect: I wouldn’t worry too much about abuse from PSU fans, most of them either don’t know or have long since forgotten about the bitter PSU-Cuse rivalry that was. Ohio State, Michigan, and Notre Dame fans have taken over the "most verbally heckled by drunks" list. Also, make sure you leave your homes as early as possible, lest you get buried in traffic. As far as the game itself, Syracuse fans will probably be overwhelmed by how massive Beaver Stadium is (108,000+ seats) and the fact that this week’s crowd will be full of damn, dirty, hippies.
Penn State is looking like a decent bet to win the Big Ten right now. How you feel about it and how do you feel about national title hopes?
One game at a time…No, really, there’s always at least one game a year (usually on the road) where the team doesn’t bother to show up against an opponent everyone expects them to beat. Last year, it was Iowa. The year before that, it was Illinois, Michigan, and Michigan State. For 2009, I’m very much worried about our game at Northwestern, it’s sandwiched right in between showdowns with Michigan and Ohio State, not to mention Northwestern usually plays us tough in Evanston. Did I also mention the game’s being played on Halloween? Not a good omen, if you ask me.
Now, with that being said: I think we’ve looked like the best team out there in the Big Ten so far. Yes, better than OSU and the greatest QB to ever play college football. You wouldn’t be wasting your money if you put it down on us winning the conference.
Prediction time. Obviously, you think Penn State will win...but by how much?
I love how Vegas is attempting to sucker in casual sports fans who don’t follow college football very closely by making PSU a 28-point favorite. They’re banking on the fact that most people don’t realize how much improved the ‘Cuse are compared to a year ago and will assume that since the game is at PSU, the 'Cuse won't even put any type of a fight. I know better of course, which is why I’m picking the ‘Cuse to beat the spread but still lose, 38-17.