Joe Pasquali, our resident college football analyst, is back with some more of Big Ten team previews. We are about halfway through the conference and the best is yet to come. Can Penn State move past the scandal and bring the attention back towards football?
By now we all know about the off season drama at Happy Valley. We know more gruesome, disturbing, and troubling details then we probably ever wanted to. With all of that said, football is played on the field. Eleven men still have to line up against eleven men and beat the hell out of each other. Coaches, athletic directors and lawyers don’t run, they don’t block, and they don’t tackle. This is still a football team with some very talented young men, a rabid fan base behind them, and a pretty kind 2012 schedule. The Nittany Lions get Ohio State and Wisconsin at home, their two biggest conference/divisional games of the year. They’ll win one of those in ugly, 10-7 Penn State fashion.
The Penn State offense in 2011 was boring, predictable, and ineffective in 2011. Their lack of a passing attack mixed with inability to get a big play from anywhere led to their 110th ranked 19 points per game. The departure of running back Silas Redd to USC isn’t going to help matters. Pair that with the fact that Penn State still has no quarterback and you are going to see low scoring games again this year. Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden are still the two quarterbacks to choose from, with neither being anything close to impressive last season. Matt Stankiewitch is the lone returning starter to the offensive line, a unit which lost four of six players with any experience. Justin Brown is the lone weapon on the outside with 35 career catches and will be relied on to be a downfield threat.
Penn State’s defense was the strength of the team last year and this season should be no different. Linebacker U will be stacked at just that in 2012, with seniors Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti as well as juniors Glenn Carson and Khairi Fortt leading the way. The loss of Devon Still to the defensive line will hurt, but Jordan Hill and Pete Massaro should lessen the growing pains of a relatively young front four. The weakness of the defense will be in the secondary where Penn State replaces all four starters from a year ago. First year defensive coordinator Ted Roof will have his work cut out for him shaping this back four into a working unit.
Special Teams (C-)
With last year’s kicker/punter Anthony Fera transferring to Texas, Penn State has a huge gap to fill on special teams. Senior Evan Lewis saw some time kicking last season and could win the role in 2012. The loss of Fera will definitely be felt and it’ll be interesting to see if anyone steps up into the open roles he leaves behind.
Bill O’Brien has an impressive resume including five years under Bill Belichick in New England at a variety of offensive coaching positions. His offensive mind should help a Penn State team in desperate need of putting points on the board. Some thought the hire of Ted Roof at defensive coordinator was a bit of a questionable one, but lucky for him he inherits a pretty talented bunch.
2012 Win/Loss Prediction: 7-5 (3rd in Leaders)