Sports Outside the Beltway

Revenge of the Nittany Lions?

Note: this preview is being done without the benefit of seeing any highlights from the Minnesota game, solely relying on my pessimistic Dad’s assessment of what happened during that scare. I had quite a busy weekend and had to miss the game (and if I had stayed in Maryland, I probably wouldn’t have seen it anyway.) So it is possible that I am missing something here.

Penn State’s biggest game left in the season is coming up this week. Michigan comes to Happy Valley Saturday to play in the second largest stadium in the country (second, of course, to Michigan Stadium).

Last year at this time, Penn State was unexpectedly doing well. They were unbeaten. They had beaten Ohio State. The hardest game left was Michigan, which was struggling that year with questions at quarterback. Penn State had a senior QB who was phenomenal. They went into the Big House and played a battle for the ages. After the last Penn State touchdown, I called a fellow Penn State fan in this area who had to miss the game to tell him that we were up, and that with one minute left, I figured they had won. We were both very excited, as the prospect of an unbeaten season was going to be much easier with Michigan out of the way.

Then Chad Henne came on the field and lead the game winning drive (with the help of seconds added onto the clock by the refs, which I still disagree with). Henne did an excellent job, and forced me to make a second, much more depressing phone call.

Anyway, this year, the situation looks reversed. Penn State has the questionable quarterback that could be a year away from greatness (although that is far from assured). Michigan has the senior who looks phenomenal. Michigan is coming into Beaver Stadium. They have defeated Notre Dame, a game they were expected to lose. The only big difference is that this isn’t the biggest game left for them, as Michigan was for Penn State last year – Michigan has yet to face Ohio State. I foresee a good game. Penn State will want revenge. They would love to take Michigan out of the national title picture by giving them a loss. Can it happen? I think it can, although I think it is going to be hard. Here’s what is going for Penn State.

1. Lack of Mario Manningham on Michigan. The Manningham/Henne pairing has been quite productive. Taking Manningham away because of injury is going to hurt Henne and the offenses ability to make plays.
2. Defense. Other than the Notre Dame game, Penn State’s defense has done an excellent job keeping the team in the game. Paul Posluszny finally seems to be back in form.
3. Tony Hunt. This running back seems to be the real deal.
4. Wideouts. Penn State has good ones. If they get the ball, watch out.

The main concern is opening up the passing game. Anthony Morelli has not been doing a great job with that so far. He has struggled all season. Penn State fans certainly hope that he can have a game like Chad Henne had last year (without the added second, of course). I can’t remember if Henne was particularly good the whole game, but he did do well when it counted, and that’s what Penn State is going to need. They are playing in Beaver Stadium (a stadium I finally got to see last weekend, although it was empty. From the outside, it is an ugly stadium). This is going to help tremendously – Penn State has great fans. This should be a fun game to watch, unless Michigan opens it up early and takes the crowd out.

Finally, if Penn State wins, and then Michigan beats Ohio State at the end of the season, and all three teams win out, we face the nightmare scenario for the Big Ten Championship. Each team will have beat one of the three top teams, and each team will have lost to the other. I’m not sure what tie breakers apply after that, but since the Big Ten doesn’t have a championship game, it will be fun to watch if that does happen. So Fight On State!

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