Penn State's non-conference schedule put the Nittany Lions in a no-win situation well before the season even started.
Win the games big, and you should.
Flounder, like the Lions did in the second half against Akron, and there's cause for concern.
Mirror file photo by J.D. Cavrich
Evan Royster and the Penn State running game need to show improvement today against Syracuse.
Joe Paterno has always believed a team makes its most significant one-week improvement from the first to the second game.
Which means he'll be paying particular attention to some of the areas that didn't grade out that well last week.
Those areas would be the running game, field-goal kicker Collin Wagner and an overall, four-quarters worth of intensity missing vs. the Zips.
Syracuse (0-1) at PSU (1-0)
TV: Big Ten Network (Channel 66 on Atlantic Broadband)
Line: Penn State is a 28 1/2-point favorite.
Updated PSU injury/status report: LB Navorro Bowman (groin) is out. Keep an eye on the offensive line where G Matt Stankiewitch and T DeOn'tae Pannell are still getting their feet wet and may give way to backups. Former Lion legend Lenny Moore is an honorary captain and will take place in the coin toss.
Paterno was not pleased with how practice went this week so that may fuel some sideline impatience if the Lions aren't sharp today.
A more complete performance would be positive. Then again, the quality of opposition will temper just about anything Penn State does accomplish.
Some may argue this is the perfect year to be playing the likes of Akron, Syracuse, Temple and Eastern Illinois because the Lions are breaking in a new offensive line, receiving corps and secondary.
But it also underscores that - especially as the nation's seventh-ranked team - the Nittany Lions' real opponent, at least until Iowa gets here Sept. 26, is themselves.
n Next year the Lions will face a tough, early non-conference road test at Alabama so you'd think they'll want to get backup quarterback Kevin Newsome, the likely starter, as much action this year as possible. Since Newsome played just one series against Akron, these next two weeks could be important to his development.
n It will be shocking if starting tailback Evan Royster remains the No. 1 punt returner long.
n In the action he's seen in the last two seasons, on special teams and at backup linebacker, Nate Stupar looks like he could start for most teams in the country. With Navorro Bowman out, Stupar, a redshirt sophomore from State College, likely will make his first start today.
n If you get a chance, catch a repeat of the "TV Quarterbacks," retrospective being aired on WPSU. It's extremely well done.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or email@example.com.