UNIVERSITY PARK - Joe Paterno wants to have it both ways but can't see the reality of the way things are in college football.
Paterno wants to criticize the BCS and call for a playoff system. He's absolutely right, too. There should be a playoff. But unfortunately, that's unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Paterno also wants to believe he can schedule anybody he wants and, by simply winning every game, it will be enough to reach the BCS championship game.
Joe Paterno's reflection can be seen in Cory Giger's sunglasses during a recent press conference.
He's dead wrong on that issue.
Given the status quo of the dumbest championship system in big-time sports, it would stand to reason Paterno would want to do things to enhance his team's BCS position. This season's cupcake-rich non-conference schedule proves Paterno and Penn State don't know how to go about that.
Let's start with one basic assumption: The Nittany Lions have a chance to go undefeated during the regular season. Sure, they are replacing lots of starters on both sides of the ball, but there are plenty of skill people back on offense and a tremendous front seven on defense.
The toughest Big Ten games (Ohio State, Iowa) are at home, and the Lions should be big favorites on the road at Illinois, Michigan and Michigan State. The non-con is a joke with the likes of Akron, Temple, Syracuse and Eastern Illinois.
A good but not great team can navigate that schedule without any losses.
Now let's get to the reality: If the Lions do go 12-0, there's a very good chance Paterno will not be coaching in the BCS national championship game.
Why? Because the BCS - with its human voters and computer analyses - will see through the schedule mirage and kick the Lions to the sidelines, perhaps even in favor of a one-loss team.
Paterno didn't like it when I asked about the soft schedule during a recent press conference.
"Forget about it. Oh, forget about it," he said. "I don't care about that."
He reverted to the standby of all he cares about is the first opponent, in this case Akron, and brought up the Appalachian State shocker at Michigan two years ago as proof teams can't look past anyone.
The next question, from another reporter, was about the BCS.
"I don't like the BCS situation," JoePa said. "I've said that 1,000 times. I think that we ought to try to figure out a way to have a good playoff."
There's little doubt Penn State has been shafted before in the national title picture. The 1994 team was as good offensively as any in the history of college football, and JoePa also was denied a title after back-to-back undefeated seasons in 1968 and '69.
"I'll go to my grave thinking I had four or five national championship teams and got voted out of about two or three of them," Paterno said.
At that point, my follow-up question was a no-brainer. I asked Paterno about the possibility of going undefeated this year and being glossed over yet again in the national championship picture.
"Oh, I know. You can if, if, if," he shot back. "You know what, I could drop dead tomorrow, too."
Paterno's refusal to accept how the BCS works is troubling, though not surprising. He likes to be in control of every situation, and he can be for the most part when it comes to preparing his team for games or for a season.
He will never be able to control how his team is perceived nationally, by voters or the BCS. Even if the Lions do go undefeated during the regular season, you can bet the next 10 generations of your family's wealth that there will be a slew of critics claiming Penn State has proven nothing and does not belong in the national championship game.
One college football columnist wrote last year that Iowa did the country a favor by beating Penn State. It spared everyone, he wrote, of the whining Lions fans would have done had they gone undefeated and been denied a spot in the BCS title game.
That just might have happened, too. An unbeaten Penn State team from a down Big Ten Conference may have been shut out of the championship game in favor of one-loss teams Florida and Oklahoma from superior conferences. That would have been a crime, but it could have transpired.
Paterno also likes to talk about how his team was only one second away from playing for a national title in 2005, referring to the last-second loss at Michigan. He's incorrect in that assumption, however, as there's no way the Lions would have been chosen for the BCS championship game over undefeated Texas or USC.
It's unacceptable that Penn State's non-conference slate this year is so weak. The Lions can win those four games 60-0, and it still won't enhance their BCS ranking.
The PSU men's basketball program learned a tough lesson this year as it put together a pathetic non-conference schedule and paid the price by missing out on the NCAA Tournament.
It would be a tough, double dose of disappointment to swallow if the same scenario plays out for the football team this fall.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.