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Pregame stretch, 09.16.11

September 16, 2011 - Ray Eckenrode
Penn State vs. Temple

Noon Saturday, ESPN

Announcers:Dave LaMont and Ray Bentley 

Annoyance factor: Um, we got nothing, but you know you’re in a big game when Dave LaMont and Ray Bentley are on the call.

Line:Penn State -7.5

Smarts say: With an over/under of 45, Vegas has this looking something like 27-20 Nits.

Quick hits:

+ Penn State won this game last year by nine points and is favored this year by 7.5 points. In other words, America believes there is a little more than a touchdown difference between these two programs. Take from that what you will. (And we're not suggesting the Lions should be favored by more.)

+ We discussed all of Alabama's pro prospects last week (many of them potential No. 1s) and Penn State's lack of same. In fact, it's hard to imagine a Penn State player will be taken in the top three rounds next year. Offensively, Derek Moye and Joe Suhey are the only players who pop up on early draft boards and both are considered late rounders or more likely free agents. Defensively, Devon Still and D'anton Lynn look like the Lions best draft-eligible pro prospects, projecting right now as 3-4 rounders. Jack Crawford, Nate Stupar and Eric Lattimore show up here and there on boards as later rounders/FAs. Temple running back Bernard Pierce might be the best pro prospect on the field Saturday, with some services ranking him as a high third rounder.

The pick:

 In a perfect world, Rob Bolden would build on last week's strong first quarter and step up in this game and take charge in Penn State's frustrating quarterback battle. And the defense would build on last week's solid showing, create a few turnovers and establish itself. And Silas Redd would get 22 carries and a clock-draining 125 yards. But we don't live in a perfect world and we're expecting few, if any, of the above to happen Saturday, maybe even throwing in a missed field goal or two to make it way too interesting ... PSU 23-20. Last week:CORRECT straight up and vs. spread, 2-0, 1.000 pct.!/15MinutesBlog   Seattle vs. Pittsburgh

1 p.m. Sunday, FOX

Announcers:Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa

Annoyance factor: Albert is one of our favorite football play-by-play guys and Johnston is serviceable. We still don’t understand Siragusa’s appeal (a yinzer John Madden?) but we’re going to go out on a limb and say there will be mention of he and Primanti Brothers in the same sentence Sunday.

Referee:Bill Leavy

Competence factor: From the “You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me” file. Yes, the same white hat who “gave” (according to the entire world outside of western Pennsylvania) the Steelers their Super Bowl XL victory vs. same Seahawks is back on the field the very next time the two teams meet, albeit more than four years later. What could go wrong?

Line:Pittsburgh -14.5

Smarts say: Whoa, the first instinct is to ask how a team that just got hammered like the Steelers got hammered is a 14.5-point favorite over anyone, but remember this isn’t a prediction, per se, but an attempt to get even money on both sides, so the bookies obviously think that the bettors think Pittsburgh’s swoon was a one-week anomaly.

Quick hits:

+ The Steelers hired Sean Kugler as their offensive line coach in 2010 and he’s now brought along two guys he coached in 2009 with Buffalo. The first is Jonathan Scott, who came to Pittsburgh as an insurance policy and is now the starting left tackle. The second is Jamon Meredith, signed this week after Willie Colon was placed on IR and the team couldn’t reach a financial agreement with Flozell Adams. Meredith looks to be the third option right now at right tackle, but that’s what we said about Scott when he got here. It’s not unusual in the NFL to see coaches and players follow guys they used to work with. It is a bit unusual to see it happen from Buffalo to Pittsburgh. For the record, the 2009 Bills were 16th in rushing yards, a few places ahead of the 2009 Steelers, and 28th in sacks allowed, again ahead of the Steelers who allowed a league-high 51 sacks that year.

+ The Ravens kicked the Steelers rear ends last week but to say “they got their revenge” as so many in the Baltimore and national media have done is a tad ridiculous. If winning a home opener is “revenge” for being knocked out of the playoffs multiple times in crushing fashion, then we have a different definition of the word in this corner.

The pick

We now have no idea what to make of this year's Steelers. Are they the Super Bowl contenders we thought they were, now humbled and ready to get to work? Or are they past-their-prime punching bags who we'll now watch sadly attempt to go down swinging like Ali or Tyson at the end of heavyweight careers? We're not sure we'll get the answer Sunday, but we might get some clues. Can the Seahawks run the ball? Can their defense contain the Steelers offense by forcing Ben Roethlisberger to scramble to his right? We think the Steelers will win. We can't believe it will be by 14 ... Steelers 31-21.  Last week:INCORRECT straight up and vs. spread, 0-1, 0.000 pct.

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