College football, like any sport, is all about making the most of your opportunities. No one has done that better the last two weeks than Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin. The third-string QB proved all the doubters wrong, including myself, and should be starting under center this weekend against Northwestern.
McGloin is the first former walk-on to start at quarterback in the Joe Paterno era. He picked up right where he left off in Minnesota and delivered another win, this time on national television, against the Michigan Wolverines, 41-31 on Saturday night. It was the most points the Nittany Lions have scored against an FBS team this season and another step closer to becoming bowl eligible.
JoePa has an interesting decision to make this weekend. His true freshman starting quarterback Rob Bolden is back to full strength after missing most of last week with a concussion. Does he go back to Bolden, who has led a stagnant Penn State offense for most of the season, or ride the momentum that McGloin has built?
If Penn State (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten) is playing to win this season then you have to go with McGloin. If they are building for the future, then it’s going to be Bolden. There is no debating the numbers. The Nittany Lions offense works better with McGloin at quarterback.
McGloin has thrown for 326 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in his last two games. Penn State is averaging 37 points a game with him under center and is finishing off more drives. The Nittany Lions were 10-for-16 on third down conversions Saturday night and scored five touchdowns on seven trips to the red zone.
Penn State is averaging just 18 points a game with Bolden under center and has struggled mightily in the red zone. Bolden has zero touchdown passes inside the 20-yard line in Big Ten play and has just five TDs on the year, compared to seven interceptions.
For whatever reason, McGloin seems to provide a spark to the Nittany Lions offense that just doesn’t seem to be there with Bolden. In saying that, McGloin has only played in two games and benefited greatly from an outstanding running game against Michigan. His numbers have also come against two of the worst defenses in the Big Ten. Bolden has had little help from the running game all year and has faced tougher defenses at Alabama and Iowa.
Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said after the Michigan game that Bolden will be back under center against Northwestern. His father wasn’t as quick to make that statement, and wouldn’t discuss the issue over the weekend.
JoePa will be peppered with tons of quarterback questions during his Tuesday press conference and should consider his options. He now knows that he can win with both quarterbacks, but should give McGloin the edge this weekend. He’s earned that right on the field, and that’s all that should matter.