It's not easy to preview your own team. Especially as you know that they'll drive you mad until early December, not doing what you want them to do and driving you mad mistakes. Unfortunately, that's why you love them - why would you root for a team that spends season after season never losing and never driving you crazy?
Anyway, Penn State's got one thing perfect: The crowd at night games. You couldn't get a better atmosphere than at Happy Valley - SEC schools be damned!
We don't know who should be Penn State's starting quarterback - and nor does Joe Paterno. He's announced that on Saturday's clash with Indiana State that both Matt "Moxie" McGloin and Robert "I'm stopping you from transferring" Bolden will start. In truth - against ISU - it doesn't actually matter who will start, since we don't expect PSU to do anything apart from run the ball in the 4th quarter. This isn't the first time this has happened - but this year we're not expecting too much out of either.
Everyone's going to be talking about Silas Redd this season, and we expect him to rip up the division - if he stays fit. Brandon Beachum and Stephfon Green will provide quite an admirable duo to back him up, but this year, it's all about being a 'Redd Head'. Do not be surprised if you see the Penn State student section all dressed up like hippies in honour of him. I know I would....
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends
If the quarterbacks throw to him properly, I'm really, really excited about Derek Moye this season. He's a great wide receiver that would cause any secondary problems - and we'll see how good he is against Alabama, where we expect him to get 'the treatment' on Week 2. Justin Brown and Devon Smith are also going to cause some problems.
TEs-wise, the Lions are really going to miss Greg 'Amish Lightning' Zug, and will be hoping that Nate Cadogan and Kevin Haplea can fit the bill. Both ends are giants -which McGloin/Bolden will need to stop the waves and waves of 'Bama Blitzes in Week 2 and for the rest of the year.
For years we've made some horrible remarks about the Penn State offensive line, but last year the line wasn't awful - the quarterbacks did have the time, they just didn't do very well. John Urschel will be the man tasked with taking the place of star offensive linesman Stefan Wisniewski. Chima Okoli, De'Ontae Pannell, Johnnie Troutman, Mike Stankiewitch, and Quinn Barnham will also be tasked with having good years, but we'll see how good they are against Alabama. Sorry, to show too much concentration on the team, but you'll understand what I'm saying at around 10pm on Week 2, after the Tide and Lions have played their 'Brawl At the Beaver'.
As usual, we're not too worried about Tom Bradley's defense. Linebackers Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges, and Nate Stupar could potentially get Penn State to 'Linebacker U' status after a poor 2010, while defensive ends Jack Crawford and Kevion Latham and tackles Devon Still and Jordan Hill have to perform to be able to stop teams with good running games (Alabama, Ohio State, Nebraska etc).
It's funny, because the secondary's another place where we're rude about the coaching. Maybe it's because we miss Alan Zemaitis and Calvin Lowry from the 2005-6 Big Ten Championship/Orange Bowl-winning side, or maybe it's because we just don't trust them. Anyway, last year's wasn't horrible and Chaz Powell and D'Anton Lynn could be speedy returners if they manage to snag a signal-caller's wayward throw. Speedster Powell - who will also double up as a punt returner - could be a great 'Greg Reid at Florida State-type' weapon to have. Safeties Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay are good, experienced tacklers - even if they going to be Eric Berry anytime soon in the NFL.
Powell's going to be doing the returning, which means that there are going to be some fun returns - especially if the blocking game does its job. We expect some good field position for this year! Alex Butterworth will be Penn State's punter this season, while Anthony Fera will be expected to put the ball between the posts. Let's hope he succeeds.
Now that Penn State's in The Dumbest Name For A Division Of A Conference (Legends. Or is it Leaders?), the schedule gods have not looked kindly on us. Sure, Penn State could be 3-1 after its first four games (we're not predicting a win over Alabama - sorry!), but then it's games against Iowa and Purdue (both of which won't be easy), a potential banana skin against Heisman Trophy Contender Dan Persa and Northwestern, a home game against an Illinois team which is unfancied but still dangerous, and a final home game against a Big Ten favourite and a mobile quarterback, Nebraska. And then, it's lovely easy trips to Ohio State for the second time in two years, and Wisconsin, where doubtless both teams will be battling it out for a divisional title. It could get ugly.
PREDICTION: Penn State gets through some of the hurdles, but not all. A 9-3 season.
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