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Illinois-PSU pregame stretch...

October 8, 2010 - Ray Eckenrode
The good, the bad and the ugly

In the very early days of this blog (late 2004), we wrestled with the diminished success of Penn State football and finally decided the following: Penn State fans who want to support Joe Paterno's right to coach until he chooses to retire have to accept the program will never be great again.

We decided then to put ourselves in Paterno's corner (as far as it being his decision to retire when he wishes NOT in terms of immunity from criticism, c’mon we’ve got limits) and batten down the hatches for what we thought would be a few more rocky years.

Of course, the years 2005-2009 turned out to be most un-rocky, in fact they were good, very good and borderline excellent (though never great) and the whole issue faded to the background … until now. As the 2010 season has unfolded, we’ve been re-introduced to the hobgoblins of the first half of the decade: lack of talent, lack of leadership, lack of preparation, lack of execution.

So we’ll say it again (as much for our benefit as for yours): The amazing achievements of the first four decades of Joe Paterno’s coach career, both on and off the field, far outweigh the trials and tribulations of the last decade. The disheartening bad comes with the soaring good. That’s the deal. It’s Joe Paterno’s train (or train wreck as the case might be) and we’re all just passengers. Buckle up.

Some Newsome please

Consider us firmly behind any plan that gets Kevin Newsome on the field in any capacity other than starting quarterback. On a team that is so obviously lacking elite athletes, it makes no sense to have one of them playing zero snaps. If that means getting him in at QB for a red zone package or letting him take an occasional series, so be it, but that should really be a short-term solution.

In the offseason, Newsome, his family and/or advisors, and the PSU staff need to seriously consider whether he should consider a change of positions (which is the right thing to do if he wants to play in the NFL) or a transfer (which is what he should do if he wants to continue playing quarterback).

Cory Giger made a great point last week about the PSU staff making the same mistakes with Newsome that they did with Darryl Clark when he was playing behind Anthony Morelli. JoePa even amplified the point by giving the same lame answer in the postgame press conference that he used to give about Clark’s PT: We had a plan to get him in, but in the flow of the game it never happened. That needs to change this week.

On the bright side, we were heartened last week to see the offensive game plan include a number of ways to get Devon Smith the football. Although it didn’t play dividends against Iowa, it will eventually.

Eleven as one

Things are considerably more difficult on the other side of the football where it’s becoming more and more evident each week that Penn State doesn’t have any elite athletes. That doesn’t mean the Penn State defense can’t be successful. It means that to be successful they’ve got to have 11 guys playing as one with no missed assignments or blown coverages. And it means they have to tackle impeccably.

The pick

If you watched the Ohio State-Illinois game, you know the Illini could have and possibly should have (absent some shoddy officiating) beaten the Buckeyes, so they are more than capable of beating Penn State. But we have a hunch the Penn State team we see this week will be considerably better than the one we saw against Iowa. Someone wise once said that you’re never as bad as you look when you lose and we think that plays out today. Some names we think will be prominent: Justin Brown, Stephfon Green, Michael Mauti and Mr. Automatic. We’re not only taking the Nits to win, but to cover … Penn State (-8) 27, Illinois 17.

Prediction record

Last week: Iowa (-7) CORRECT

Season straight up: 4-1, .800

Season vs. spread: 3-1, .750

I am looking for: