(Ed note: This is a Jon Franz-written potluck. So instead of meat dishes, we get...laxatives. Enjoy.)
Normally when we write these potlucks we don't "count calories." That's because paying attention to nutritional information at a tailgate is simply un-American. This week is a rare exception, and I think -- in light of the events of the last eight months in State College -- you'll agree it's for the best. Since his arrival on campus, Bill O'Brien has taken tremendous steps to remediate the culture surrounding Penn State athletics. O'Brien realizes that what the local community needs more than anything is a fresh start. What better way to give it to them than with a four-day juice cleanse? That's right, faithful Penn Staters. It's time to purge, detoxify, and renew. Help yourselves to one last slice of pie, for the next 96 hours you're on an all liquid diet. Have no fear, that lightheadedness you feel is simply the stress of the past season evaporating. But seriously, you might want to sit down.
Day 1: Healing Juice Blend (4 carrots, 125 grams fresh spinach, one handful of flat-leaf parsley, 2-3 stalks of celery, two cups water)
Legacies are a funny thing. You can spend an entire life trying to write your own, only to have events (somewhat) outside your control crumble your carefully crafted "image." Don't worry, I'm not about to ask about Joe Paterno's ultimate legacy. I do want to know whether Paterno Field should come to fruition? If so, when?
KennardHusker: I have a feeling this week's potluck is not being put on by the Lutheran Women's league, huh? Anyhow, I don't know how the rest of my fellow writers are going to feel about this, but I tend to lean towards naming the field after Paterno. While last year's events were unfathomable and unacceptable in any sense, the fact remains that Paterno's good overshadows the bad of another person. Unless it comes to light (and there is in no way any evidence of this) that Paterno was not only aware but openly negligent of Sandusky, I don't see how you do not honor the man that makes that field important. As for when? Not until this case is long over. In fact, I'm not sure if I would make this happen in the nearish future... so basically I'm sending mixed signals.
mikjones24: I think they should just name the stadium after him. WTF is Beaver Stadium? What does a beaver have to do with Penn State? Is a beaver related to a Nittany Lion? Is there an abundance of beavers in the area? Iowa's stadium is named after their Heisman winner. Nebraska, Illinois and Indiana named their stadiums in memory of the fallen. Ohio and Michigan named their stadiums after their respective states. Penn State's stadium is named after a semi-aquatic rodent. I'm just sayin...
When? Not now, obviously. Penn State will forever be scarred by the Sandusky sex-scandal and I doubt the healing will truly begin until the legal process is over. And who knows how long that could be. Right now all of the media attention is dedicated to the criminal case. Who knows how many civil cases will follow. How about 10 years? That sounds about right.
Jonathan Franz: Yes, I do think ultimately there should be a Paterno Field in State College to recognize all the positive things Joe did for Penn State University and the lives of the players he impacted. Although Paterno's life was hardly the Norman Rockwell painting it was often portrayed as, I do believe that the good things Joe Paterno the coach did in this world (teaching young men to be productive members of society on and off the field, putting Penn State on the map, and dramatically increasing its endowment and research capabilities in the process) outweigh the bad things Joe Paterno the man did in his lifetime. Although Joe's failure to act to protect young children when he should have known they were at risk is truly, completely baffling and inexcusable, I do know that hindsight is always 20/20, and unless/until we discover that Paterno's actions were anything more than negligence, I have a hard time completely throwing him under the bus. It shouldn't happen for a long, long time, but one day, I think the playing surface at Beaver Stadium should bear Paterno's name.
Ted Glover: I have debated this with myself (yeah, weird, I know) from almost the moment JoePa passed. If you're a Penn State die-hard, of course...but it's not that easy. You look at the philanthropy, the decades of building men into productive members of society, and the selfless way in which it was done, and you match that against one awful, awful, horrifically terrible thing...so I'm going to say no. Look, it wasn't JoePa that did all of that stuff, I'm not trying to put this on him. But he comes off as terribly hypocritical--at best--by sitting on the information Mike McQuery gave him (witnessing sexual abuse by Sandusky in the PSU locker room) for an entire weekend. That's not aiding and abetting, and in and of itself not a crime, but it's morally unconscionable. And he was okay with Sandusky keeping an office at Penn State after he retired. When I was in the Army we had a saying: "One awshit cancels out 1,000 attaboys." If that phrase isn't appropriate for this scenario, I don't know when it would ever be. That doesn't mean JoePa won't be beloved, nor does it mean it's wrong for Penn State fans to hold JoePa in high esteem. But I just don't think renaming Beaver Stadium Joe Paterno Stadium would be appropriate.
Paterno Ave: If they were to rename it the stadium/field and put Joe's name up inside the stadium I wouldn't be mad. It would be nice to have a big reminder of Joe every time you looked up at the press box during a game. That being said, if I were to vote I would vote against it. I don't think it is what Paterno would have wanted. He consistently deflected praise away from himself and towards the players. Joe wouldn't have wanted his legacy to be "great football coach"; he didn't want to be another Bear Bryant. Joe wanted, first and foremost, to be considered a molder of young men. He wanted to be remembered for instilling a strong work ethic in young people and associating hard work with success. Success clearly did mean winning football games, but it also meant graduating college and having a career in another field after the game. We have his name on the library, that's what he wanted, and I think that is the better reflection of what he really stood for.
MSULaxer27: The guy has got a statue and a library. You want to give him a field too? Ok. Look I'm not a PSU alum, so my emotional attachment is much different from the decision makers. I am generally against the deification of anyone, but Joe Paterno was an instrumental figure in transforming a small, academic backwater into an internationally recognized institution of higher learning (MSU's relationship to UM and the PSU relationship with Penn are similar in this regard, except of course Penn is actually an IVY league school). So it's going to happen. Mrs. Paterno got her $10 million settlement, so the family will play nice. I think it happens five years after Sandusky is convicted.
Day 2: Blood Builder (2 bunches grapes, 6 oranges, 8 peeled lemons, 1/4 cup honey, two cups water)
It's well known that Penn State will enter the 2012 season light on proven starters on offense. Perhaps the biggest question mark is the offensive line which replaces multiple starters (OT Quinn Barham, OG Johnnie Troutman, OG DeOn'tae Pannell, and OT Chima Okoli) with young but promising talents. Now that there's a new sheriff in town, will the attrition on the line ultimately be addition by subtraction? And is this line, coupled with the talents of running back Silas Redd, good enough to support a reliable running game?
Jonathan Franz: Ever since Bama Hawkeye wrote his groundbreaking editorial on Plow Horses and Show Ponies, I've paid close attention to offensive lines. Penn State's lines in particular have always interested me because despite fielding blue chip talent, the Nittany Lions always seem to underachieve (for what it's worth I feel the same thing about Ohio State under Jim Bollman.) I think a lot of the problems at Penn State have to do with coaching and conditioning. When Urban Meyer took over at OSU he immediately identified weight and body fat problems and went to work retooling his line. Not surprisingly, Bill O'Brien has also overhauled the strength and conditioning program in State College, switching from machines to free weights for a number of exercises. In light of these personnel and training upgrades, I think Penn State is bound to put a better product out on the field.
Ted Glover: I don't see that. You have an inexperienced line learning a new offense with new blocking schemes, and I think it's going to be pretty ugly. I expect Silas Redd to have a tough time finding running room, and if defenses can shut him down, and the game rests on the shoulders of Matt McGloin? Let's just say I think the offense will struggle mightily this year.
Paterno Ave: The ability to consistently produce a quality offensive line was one of the biggest shortcomings of the last coaching staff. Development was slow and only in years that happened to have a lot of upperclassmen starters was the offensive line really any good. The new S&C program seems to be producing real, tangible results in the form of stronger players on the offensive line. Not sure if other B1G fans know this, but previously Penn State had one coach for Centers and Guards and another for Tight Ends and Tackles - separate positions coaches as well as separate unit meetings to review film. Players have openly commented that having one line coach has been really successful so far this spring. I'm usually not a big buyer of the idea of "addition by subtraction," but I think the line could turn out pretty good this year. Add to that a very solid stable of running backs and an offense that can audible into a run when the defense gives them a good opportunity? I think the running game will be very successful in 2012.
MSULaxer27: As MSU learned last year, even with great talent in the backfield, it takes time for a new O line to jell. Redd is an incredible talent to be sure (five games in a row last year with at least 129 yards rushing) but you need an experienced line to open those holes. PSU doesn't play what I would consider a "historically stout" defense until Iowa in week 8. That may give the O line the time it needs to come together and function as a fine tuned unit. I would expect Redd to have decent stats just because of the teams they play until Iowa (and he went for 142 against them last season). Of the teams that PSU plays in the first eight weeks that they played last year (Temple, Illinois, NU) he went for 86, 137, and 164 respectively. If that line meshes, watch out.
Day 3: Blue Machine Alkalizing Juice (1 cup blueberries, 1 cucumber, 4 celery stalks, 5-6 kale leaves, 2 Granny Smith apples, 1/2 lemon peeled, 10 parsley stems, 1/2 inch ginger)
For the better part of the past decade Jim Tressel proved that you can win B1G titles with a mediocre offense as long as you have a great defense and a decent punter. Is this as true in the conference today as it was from 2007-2010? If so, is Penn State a "sleeper" candidate to make it to Indianapolis? Remember, they get the two strongest foes in their division (Wisconsin and Ohio State) at home.
KennardHusker: I've only been here for a year, so maybe I shouldn't be weighing in on B1G trends. Still, with my limited set of observable evidence, I'd say that you need more than just a serviceable offense to succeed. Look, last year Penn State looked pretty good on defense and bordered on great at times, but that offense was awful. Unless BOB magically channels the spirit of Tom Brady into Mr. MOXIE, I just don't see this year being the year for them. I'll also add in the fact that bringing a pro offense to a bunch of kids who don't know the terminology is going to take some time. Callahan did this at Nebraska and it took players forever to understand what the hell was going on. Never underestimate that transition.
BabaOReally: Penn State has a decent chance of getting to play in the Oil Dome this December. The 2012 edition of the UW transfer QB doesn't look to be as good as Russell Wilson was last year. I don't know this for sure, but I would think Ohio State is in the same situation that USC was in last year: a bowl ban means no B1G Championship Game even if they win the division. I would put them as second-favorite behind Wisconsin to end up at Indianapolis.
mikjones24: The game of football goes through changes every few years. Unless you're in the Big Ten. WE ARE THE STATUS QUO. You can still win the conference with a mediocre offense, fantastic defense and a good punter but you apparently can't win the Rose Bowl (except for that one time). The problem with Penn State is that their offense isn't even mediocre, it's bad. Last year they were one of the worst offensive teams in the conference and they'll enter 2012 needing to replace 4 offensive linemen and Derek Moye. Did I mention Matt McGloin is their quarterback?
Penn State's excellent linebacker core will singlehandedly keep them in some games next year but they're going to need a strong offensive presence to win the ones that really matter. With Matt McGloin at the helm...I really don't see that happening.
Jonathan Franz: Make no mistake, what Jim Tressel accomplished on the field was impressive, but Tressel's success was equally a function of his coaching talents and a historically weak Big Ten. Slowly but surely the conference is improving and Michigan's resurgence combined with the addition of another pedigree program in Nebraska and sustained success from Wisconsin and Michigan State make it unlikely that teams will be able to get to Indianapolis/win the B1G on defense alone (not that that's actually what Tress did.) Having said that, I do think if you have to pick a place to be great, you want to error on the side of defense (just ask Rich Rod) and that a fundamentally sound defense can cover up a lot of ineptitude on the other side of the ball. For that reason I think Penn State has as good a chance as any of the other eligible teams in the Leader's division to reach Indy. I'm not saying they should be the favorite, I'm just saying that they have what it takes on paper to compete in league play and with a couple lucky bounces, you never know.
Ted Glover: No, it's not true. The last half of the Jim Tressel era saw him going up against lightweights, for the most part, on the opposing sideline, and the recruiting record for the B1G in that time frame is pretty underwhelming, save OSU. The talent and coaching is much better in this conference than it was just three years ago, and there are a lot of playmaking quarterbacks, even in Indiana and Minnesota. Penn State's defense is good, but not good enough to keep teams at 10 or 17 points every week. And they're going to get rolled by Wisconsin and OSU. They won't be going to Indy.
MSULaxer27: I think UW and MSU (and to a lesser extent UM) have proven over the last two years that a strong offense carries the day. Look at last year's B1G championship game, MSU had one of the top rated defenses in the country and they gave up 42 to UW (UW was no slouch on defense either and they surrendered
45 39 (stupid punter)). UM's defense has improved, but they live and die by shoelace. We're not the Big XII-II and defense averse, but offense is probably equally focused upon now in the B1G. Recruits in the skill positions don't want to go to schools where they can't generate the stats and "plays" to be featured on Sports Center. I think the coaches and coordinators understand this and have adjusted their game plans accordingly.
Everybody, sans IU, is a sleeper in the Leaders division. UW and PU are playing QB Russian roulette (last man standing is the starter). Illinois is enigmatic. They could win or lose 11 and it wouldn't surprise anyone (if Zook was still the coach I bet they could find a way to win AND lose 11 games next season). OSU is serving their time out. Why not PSU? They've got just as many question marks as everyone else.
Day 4: Vanilla Almond Milk (1.5 cups of blanched almonds, 6 dates, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 4 cups water)
Don't forget the "cupcakes." Although Penn State's out of conference schedule may look a bit "diluted," when you break it down, it's actually kind of tricky. The Nits open with a visit from MAC favorite Ohio, travel on the road to face Virginia, and then host Navy (with its enigmatic triple-option) and upset-minded Temple? Will they survive the gauntlet unscathed?
KennardHusker: Even with the aforementioned transition, I think Penn State makes it out of the non-con alive. I do not believe in the four opponent's ability to defend a major conference defense. Of the four, Navy may be the trickiest on paper, but I think that the Nittany Lions will have a chip on their shoulders and beat the teams they should beat. Of course, I might not have a clue what I'm talking about and Ted Roof might be ran out of town before the B1G slate even starts. Talk about a fun year for Penn State fans!
BabaOReally: I think that Virginia will trip them up. Bill O'Brien's first away game is against a decent team, and I think the Cavs will win one for ACC pride like they did last year at lowly Indiana in Kevin Wilson's first game against BCS competition.
mikjones24: Navy and Temple lost majority of their offense while Ohio and Virginia return a number of key starters on both sides of the ball. Ohio could surprise Penn State at home considering things might take a while to "get moving" under B.o.B but I doubt it. If there's a game Penn State is going to lose early on, it's going to be Virginia. The Cavs get back their QB, RB, 3 offensive linemen and have a solid depth chart. The Nittany Lions could still be getting things figured out when they head to Charlottesville and I know Mike London would love nothing more than to shed the "LOL YOU'RE VIRGINIA" label. In all, I think Penn State will make it through the non-conference 4-0 but if I were in charge I'd circle that September 8 game @ Virginia.
Jonathan Franz: Yes, I think they'll make it out of conference play at 4-0, but they're likely to deal with a few scares along the way. I think Ohio will keep it close into the third quarter, and Virginia and Temple could be 60 minute games. Having said that, I think Bill O'Brien has enough talent on the roster to weather the storm.
Ted Glover: If they do, I'll be surprised. Navy is a helluva football team, and when you look at the questions on both sides of the ball, 2-2 wouldn't shock me. But that's the bad news. The good news is that Bill O'Brien has come in and recruited at a level few people thought possible, all things considered. With everything going on, I'm looking at maybe a 5-6 win season for the Nittany Lions, but if O'Brien can coach, he'll have them back contending for Indianapolis next year.
Paterno Ave: This OOC schedule is the antithesis of last year's, when it was all but a certain loss to Alabama and certain wins vs. the other teams. I think a young team learning a new playbook and coaching style is not a lock in any of these matchups. I expect a close wins over these teams, but they really are toss ups until we see what O'Brien can do. The fact of the matter is that, compared to these opponents, Penn State fields far superior talent at every position except for the most critical one: quarterback. I hope McGloin thrives in the new system, and I don't want to throw him under the bus, but if you gave us Daryl Clark or even Anthony Morelli this year Penn State would be a prohibitive favorite in every one of these games. It's hard to predict anything until we see the team in action for the first time against Ohio, and for that reason I think this is the most excited I have been looking forward to a college football season since I started following the team.
MSULaxer27: As a B1G school, especially one with a history like PSU, the mindset has to be that you win any game against any non-BCS conference team; anywhere, anytime. I would also think that with certain exceptions you are favored to win any game against an ACC (VA Tech) or Big East (WVU) School. Even then, those are situation dependent.
PSU should win all the games on its OOC slate. Temple got close last year and would love to have that scalp. Navy is a tough team to play, but in the end talent should win out. Yes, PSU can go 2-2 against that schedule, but I think a loss to OU in the opener would bring out the naysayers and chicken littles and make B.O.B's job that much harder. As the Zookster has shown us - recruiting prowess and coaching prowess are not always in the center of a Venn diagram.