This is the first of what will become a new weekly Penn State article here on Off Tackle Empire. Consider it a prototype, as I'm looking to refine it as the season progresses. The general idea is to both take a look back at last week's game as well as forward to the one coming up, and not just comment on how the players and coaches did/will do, but to do so through the eyes of the Penn State fanbase (as measured by yours truly).
For those of you Big Ten fans, hopefully you will get to learn a little about the Penn State games you didn't catch, as well as get a peek inside the Nittany Lion nation's psyche as the season unfolds.
This week: looking back on the romp against Indiana State, and hunkering down for the Alabamocalypse.
Last Week: Penn State beats Indiana State 41-7
Generally: Last week Penn State cruised to a win over a far-outmatched opponent. The run game was on fire. Rob Bolden started, but both quarterbacks essentially got equal playing time with the first string offense. Neither clearly separated himself from the other. The defense looked pretty good. The game was a souped-up scrimmage, though, and it's hard to take too much away from it.
Suhey the younger.
(September 2, 2011 - Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America)
If they had played the game ten times, Penn State would have won...
Ten times. No realistically-conceivable number of turnovers or great/terrible plays would have changed this one. Penn State was giving over 37 points for a reason.
NOTE: Last week was the outlier as far as this question/segment goes. Almost every other week of the season the teams will be more closely matched, and a few specific plays or other events could probably have changed the outcome for the day if the game was hypothetically played ten times. For example, let's take Penn State v. Florida in last year's bowl game: A 37-24 win by the Gators that came down to the fourth quarter until an 80-yard pick six sealed the game. In my opinion, if those two teams had played that game ten times Penn State wins six of them. While both teams had mishaps, McGloin's five interceptions were backbreaking. In general I thought Penn State drove the ball consistently better and was the better team, albeit not by much. In the future I'll go into more specifics on this question.
This Week: Alabama Crimson Tide at Penn State, 3:30 p.m.
In the last couple years, the only game you can count of Penn State fans getting excited for is the Ohio State matchup. Michigan...yeah, I guess. Iowa has sparked some interest following the 2008 game. Wisconsin, I suppose...
When Alabama comes to town, though, people get pumped. SEC teams don't leave the south for away games too often, and Alabama in particular has a ton of history with Penn State. Crimson Tide fans know it too - I suspect it may have something to do with Paterno being one of the last links with The Bear, but that's up for discussion. I've heard that RV's with Alabama license plates have been spotted in State College as earlier as Wednesday afternoon. Both team are brand-name, traditional college powers.
Suhey the elder.
Alabama is currently at the top of the college football food chain, Penn State hovering in a sort of second-tier status for the time being. Both teams should feature strong running games this season, with stiff defenses, and an uncertain quarterback situation. The problem for Nittany Lion fans is that while both teams appear to be cast from the same mold, the Crimson Tide (and Trent Richardson) seem to be made from adamantium whereas the Nittany Lions are more your dependable, workmanlike, Western PA-cast iron.
So what would a win mean? A loss? My impressions on how the Penn State fanbase will react in either situation:
If Penn State beats Alabama, it will be like:
Yes, V-E Day. What I think of when I try to picture "greatest day of celebration in the Western world since the invention of the photograph, if not ever." I think it's safe to reference Wikipedia here:
Upon the defeat of Nazi Germany, celebrations erupted throughout the western world. From Moscow to New York, people cheered. In the United Kingdom, more than one million people celebrated in the streets to mark the end of the European part of the war. In London, crowds massed in Trafalgar Square and up The Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the Palace before the cheering crowds.
Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed to wander anonymously among the crowds and take part in the celebrations....
Massive celebrations also took place in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, and especially in New York City's Times Square.
I believe that a win over this Alabama squad would be akin to another National Championship to Joe Paterno. Alabama has always been a (cordial) rival, and has bested him in some of the most high profile games of his career. It wouldn't be any less than that to the fanbase. Wins over top-5 teams have evaporated in last ten years, and to many this win would signal a return to prominence for the program. It would mean much more than a big win on the season: the recruiting effect would be significant, and no matter how the game was won, it would be a lasting memory for a generation of Penn Staters.
If Penn State loses to Alabama, it will be like:
(If you don't get the reference, you may want to catch up on your South Park: (http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/151320/case-dismissed), probably not SFW.)
If Penn State loses this game people will be disappointed. Probably very much so. I think Joe Paterno, knowing that this has to be his last shot at the Crimson Tide, will be the most disappointed person in that stadium.
But it won't be a surprise by any means. The Tide dominated the Nittany Lions last year in Tuscaloosa. Alabama's program is at the pinnacle recruiting-, coaching-, and results-wise that any program can really hope to be. Whether the preview article was written in May or this week, the line is the same: Penn State will have to play the perfect game to win. Not that it can't be done.
I'm not a believer in the "moral victory," and I won't get any satisfaction out of keeping it close or putting up a fight. It's a great opportunity for Penn State to general its national perception, and none of us want it to slip by. But we know what we're getting into. I won't be angry that Penn State didn't have the horses to taken down the Tide, but I will spend a little time after the game moping.
Hopefully a few mind erasers will be the cure if Alabama makes me a sad panda.