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B1G 2012 // Penn State Cocktail Party Preview

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Ladies and Gentlemen, I've got good news and bad news. The bad news is the Penn State football program is about to be put under the microscope for the second time in the last eight months. The good news is this time the scrutiny will be football related. Welcome to Penn State week on Off Tackle Empire.

On last season

The good news is...

It's in the rear view mirror. I can say without even the slightest hesitation that 2011 was the worst season in the program's illustrious 124 year history. Everyone from Sudan to State College knows what happened and why the previous statement is completely devoid of hyperbole. For this reason I won't bother to rehash the horrifying events that led to the downfall (and ultimately) the death of the program's most beloved icon. I also won't rely on tired cliches "dawn of a new day," "nowhere to go but up," "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" in reference to Bill O'Brien's inaugural campaign. Okay, maybe just one. So often in life it's not what happens, it's how you deal with it. There are few places that saying is more true than in State College, Pennsylvania right now.

The bad news is...

I actually don't know if this is ultimately bad news, but Penn State returns just 12 starters in 2012. Five on offense, five on defense, and two on special teams. This puts them tied for 96th in the FBS.

On the offensive side of the ball

The good news is...

The Nittany Lions have announced a starting quarterback, and his name is Matt McGloin. I'm being serious about this. McGloin's sure status as a starter prevents a position derby from cannibalizing the transition to a New England style offense, and allows O'Brien to focus less on the weaknesses of his attack and more on its strengths: namely running back Silas Redd. Redd has the ability to carry Penn State's offense on his back, and the less the coordinators worry about polishing the turd that is a passing game that ranked 112th in the FBS in 2011 and the more they emphasize improving the run blocking ability of a young offensive line, the better. Did I mention that Penn State will field a defense that should keep them in most games this coming season?

The bad news is...

The Nittany Lions have announced a starting quarterback, and his name is Matt McGloin. says it best: "[t]he same quarterbacks – Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden - that stunk two years ago stunk worse last year and are now being asked to not stink." Penn State is going to be forced to play one-dimensional on offense in 2012, and they'll do it behind a line that is greener than a novice cigar smoker's face after trying to hot box a double maduro. They'll also have to cope with an inconsistent receiving corps.

Introducing the 2012 Penn State offense.

On the defensive side of the ball

The good news is...

They're Penn State for crying out loud, and the "Linebacker U" moniker is alive and well. Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges and Glenn Carson are special talents, and they're all primed for outstanding seasons. They'll stand guard behind a defensive line that is seriously stout. Most importantly, as observes, the defense is built perfectly for a schedule that will feature a lot of run reliant teams.

The bad news is...

Like most programs, health problems could derail the unit overnight. Additionally, the secondary is anything but perfect. If teams on the schedule channel their inner Mike Leach, it could be a long year in State College. Just not that long...

On special teams

The good news is...

Take a page from Jim Tressel's playbook. You can win in the B1G with an average offense and a great defense if you have a solid punter and senior Anthony Fera fits the bill.

The bad news is...

Penn State was a middle of the pack to lower tier B1G team in almost every relevant special teams statistical category in 2011. Eighth in conference in punt returns. Sixth in conference in kickoff returns. Eleventh in conference in field goals. Eleventh in conference in PAT kicks. Seventh in conference in opponent punt returns. Sixth in conference in opponent kickoff returns. Fourth in conference in opponent punting. Ninth in conference in opponent field goals. They'll have to step it up in most of these categories to stay in games in 2012.

On the schedule

The good news is... says it best: "Under any normal circumstances for Penn State, the schedule would be more than manageable enough for a huge season. The Ohio State and Wisconsin games are at home, the non-conference slate isn’t too bad, and there’s a well-timed week off in the middle of the year to let everyone catch their breath. Of course, these aren’t normal circumstances in Happy Valley and there’s not going to be a lot of time to tune up."

The bad news is...

There are an extraordinarily few number of "gimmies" on the 2012 slate. The Nittany Lions open with a must win game against an Ohio team that could be the best in the MAC. Then they'll have to go on the road to play Virginia, corral a Navy triple option attack that can give unprepared teams fits (see Navy vs. Ohio State in 2009), and face a Temple team that came ever so close to dethroning the Nittany Lions in 2011. If they lose more than one of these games, they might not have the confidence to navigate a B1G schedule that begins on the road (at Illinois) and reach bowl eligibility.

If you're talking to a Penn State fan

Don't mention...

Joe Paterno. Tim Curley. Gary Schultz. Graham Spanier. Mike McQueary. Jerry Sandusky.

Do mention...

How amazingly well Bill O'Brien is recruiting under the circumstances.


This week...

MONDAY | Cocktail Party Preview

TUESDAY | The Smartest Guys in The Room

WEDNESDAY | Penn State Potluck

THURSDAY | Wildcard

FRIDAY | Keeping the Enemy Close