The Rivalry, Esq.'s 2009 Closing Argument - Penn State Nittany Lions

But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal – there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court. 

-Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird

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We, The Rivalry, Esq. place before this college football court, the 2009 season of the Penn St. Nittany Lions.  Can this team, with the fewest returning starters in the Big Ten see the success that brought them a Big Ten title last year?  I say to you, ladies and gentlemen of the college football jury, ENOUGH!  Let this court give them the fair assessment that they deserve.

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I. Case History

The 2008 Nittany Lions were a good team - a very, very good team.  They steamrolled their non-conference schedule, including a pounding of Pac-10 runner-up Oregon State.  The Lions ended Michigan's hex over them in convincing fashion, and crushed all comers until their annual battle with Ohio State.  In Columbus, Penn State won a beautiful 13-6 slugfest and rose to No. 3 in the country.  Unfortunately, the national title hopes were dashed at Iowa two weeks later.  Penn State recovered from their lone regular season loss to reach their second Rose Bowl under Joe Paterno.

That didn't go so well.

Fantasy_i_pennstate_600_medium

 

II. Factual Summation

A. The Rivalry, Esq. Says

Here's some of what we've written about Penn State over the off-season

Spring Preview

Evaluating Darryl Clark

JoePa Doodles

Can They Catch It?

Scary Navarro Bowman

The Case Against Penn State

JoePa and Tricky DickIce Cream!Magic Defense

B. Michael Jackson Says

Because all blogs are required to compare athletic teams to some random entertainment icon, we're equating Big Ten Teams and Michael Jackson songs.  The quality of the reading improves if you listed to the barely justified song choice as you continue.

The secondary, the O-Line, the wide receivers...all out of Penn State's life.  And now they don't know whether to laugh or cry.


III. Emotional Plea

A. I Hate Penn State

Maybe its because he's lived too long in the South, where hatred is a tangible commodity, but Bama Hawkeye has felt his hatred for Big Ten rivals boiling.  Here's why he hates Penn State.

I hate Penn State because their fans seem to think that one consecutive title earns them the benefit of the doubt.  I hate Penn State for failing to show up until halftime of the Rose Bowl.  I hate Penn State for hiring Cael Sanderson and threatening Iowa in wrestling.  I hate Penn State for starting the "White Out" trend that no one else can do as well as them.  I hate Penn State for making "Zombie Nation" a part of every college football stadium's playlist.  I hate Penn State.

B. Why You Should Love Penn State

Because Joe Paterno is exactly what a football coach should be, and he has run his program exactly the way it should be run...Because nothing looks cooler than the old time uniforms on a muddy field...Because they're the only Big Ten team that beat an SEC squad to win a national title...Because they are the farthest outpost in the Northeast where people can still speak intelligently about college football...Because they got jobbed in 1994...Because JoePa handled getting jobbed in 1994 with far more class than 99% of the coaches out there...Because they've made the conference better since they joined...Because of 383 wins and counting...Because they're in the Big Ten.


IV. Verdict

A.The Rivalry, Esq. Calls the Games

Opponent Graham Filler Picks Law Buckeye Picks Bama Hawkeye Picks
Akron_medium Penn_state_medium Penn_state_medium Penn_state_medium

 

Syracuse_medium Penn_state_medium Penn_state_medium Penn_state_medium
Temple_old8_medium Penn_state_medium Penn_state_medium Penn_state_medium
Iowa_medium Penn_state_medium Iowa_medium Iowa_medium
@ Illinois_medium Illinois_medium Penn_state_medium Illinois_medium
Eastern_illinois_medium Penn_state_medium Penn_state_medium Penn_state_medium
Minnesota_medium Penn_state_medium Penn_state_medium Penn_state_medium
@ Michigan_medium Penn_state_medium Penn_state_medium Michigan_medium
@ Northwestern_medium Penn_state_medium Penn_state_medium Penn_state_medium
Ohio_st_medium Penn_state_medium Ohio_st_medium Penn_state_medium
Indiana_medium Penn_state_medium Penn_state_medium Penn_state_medium
@ Michigan_st_medium Penn_state_medium Penn_state_medium Michigan_st_medium
FINAL RECORD 11-1 (7-1) 10-2 (6-2) 8-4 (4-4)

B. Bama Hawkeye Calls the Bowl Game

It's not the bowl game that Penn State fans are expecting, but a shootout with an explosive Big XII offensive provides a great way to spend the night after New Year's Day.

Alamobowl_2007sm_medium vs.  Kansas_medium

 

V. On Appeal

Words from an SBNation blogger on their team.  The Black Shoe Diaries is one of the best sites on this collection of websites.  Here is BSD's explanation of why the Spread HD will succeed even after the exodus of wide receivers.

There isn't anything particularly innovative about the Spread HD offense. A lot of people, including Joe Paterno, have drawn comparisons to the Wing-T offense of the 1940's. It's just an offense that is highly diverse in its personnel and play calling. They spread the defense and distrubute the ball getting everyone involved. The defense can't just focus on shutting down Evan Royster.

A main talking point for those who doubt the Nittany Lions this year is the new receiving corps. They say Daryll Clark will not be the same quarterback without Derrick Williams, Deon Butler, and Jordan Norwood. These same people were the ones calling Butler and Norwood average at best and Williams a bust a year ago. And I suspect they were the same people who said Michael Robinson wouldn't have any receivers back in 2005.

But I say Penn State doesn't need a Michael Crabtree that can catch 12 passes a game for 185 yards and three touchdowns. When you look back at Penn State's stats the past few years, we didn't have a dominating wide receiver. But all three guys would usually finish the day with three or four catches for 50-70 yards. At the end of the day none of their stats jumped out at you, but Daryll Clark would get his 250 yards and two touchdowns. This is what made Penn State so effective.

When I look at this team this year I see plenty of talent for Clark to work with. Chaz Powell will play the Derrick Williams role with the quick slants, screens, and crossing patterns. Graham Zug will be the mid-range to deep threats. Though he lacks Butler's speed, he runs precise routes and has good hands. Brett Brackett will be the guy in the middle replacing Norwood. He's not as shifty, but he's a big physical presence that can fight off linebackers and safeties with his body. Add to this mix some of the talented freshmen like Justin Brown and Curtis Drake and I think there will be plenty of weapons for Clark to work with.

 

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