The folks over at Black Shoe Diaries have been kind enough (after Matt begged) to include us in their weekly roundtable discussion. Make sure to check out the full scope over at BSD but in the meantime, here are the views of Matt de Bear and myself!
(1) We have to start with officiating. One offensive holding called in our favor since the Northwestern game. The sideline encroachment penalty after the punt. The Matt Lehman touchdown that wasn’t. What’s going on here?
Tim: I am the opposite of a conspiracy theorist. People suck at keeping secrets and a wide-blown secret wouldn’t stay quiet for long. Having said that, what the hell is going on?!?! Bad calls happen all the time and they happen to everyone. It’s the fact that Penn State has been on the wrong end of some terrible calls in their two biggest conference games that magnifies the situation. While I don’t think there is some mass conspiracy among the Big Ten and it’s officials, the refs have some definite issues and you can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a little unfair bias playing into that, on an individual level. It would be nice if Delaney and co. would issue a statement at least addressing the Lehman TD/fumble, but don’t hold your breath.
Matt: I’m not a conspiracy theorist. Going all the way back to 2002 against Iowa, I have always just chalked it up to incompetence. I’ve watched enough Big 10 football in my life to know that practically everyone gets screwed at some point (yes, even Michigan and Ohio State), but after the last couple of weeks, it’s hard not to wonder if something else is really at play. Look at the calls that have gone against Penn State, especially recently, and tell me there isn’t an appearance of impropriety. And just for fun, look at the calls that Nebraska has had go their way all the way back to the Michigan game. At the very least, you have to question whether someone wants to make sure Nebraska gets a shot to play in Indy, and Penn State shouldn’t be effecting that game.
(2) Penn State came out swinging and built a strong lead in the first half, but collapsed in the second, particularly on defense. What happened there? What accounts for the kinds of lapses that Penn State has exhibited in third quarters all year?
Tim: A lot of people have said that Roof and O’Brien didn’t make the right halftime adjustments. When you’re up 20-6 and dominating the line of scrimmage, what adjustments were they supposed to make? I’d say Pelini and his guys fixed a couple things and Penn State was on their heels before they knew it. As for previous games, there could be a bit of fatigue factoring in. Penn State is only using three or sometimes four defensive tackles, four linebackers and usually 5 defensive backs. Against the spread option offenses that they’ve played (Ohio, NW, OSU, Neb), every play is about gap and assignment responsibility. It’s possible that without great depth, the front seven is becoming tired. Or Ted Roof sucks, if you prefer.
Matt: Watching Nebraska’s potent offense even early on in the game, it really felt like just a matter of time before they got on track. PSU did well to end long Husker drives with field goals, and not TDs. They couldn’t do that on the opening drive of the 2nd, and then McGloin’s interception put them right back out there with a short field. Two quick scores, and especially the INT, really swung momentum to the home team. I thought PSU responded well, as it felt like the game could get out of hand there.
(3) Indiana’s offense has put up big numbers against many teams this year. How will Penn State try to quiet the Hoosiers?
Tim: It’s important that they put last week behind them before they step on the field this weekend. As is usually (always) the case, Penn State should be able to dominate the Hooiers, physically, and win the battle in the trenches. Indiana wants to throw the ball so Penn State will need to be able to stop the run with their front four, allowing them to focus their back 7 on the Hoosier passing attack.
Matt: I’ll admit to not having seen much of the Hoosiers this year. Even the near upset against Ohio State, I was channel surfing between a few games at my parents. But, Indiana is the best passing offense, at least statistically, that PSU has seen this year. PSU’s secondary has improved, but I’m not sure they’ve been tested the way Indiana will go at them. The key will be Stanley and Barnes getting pressure on the edges, and the blitzes getting to Cameron Coffman.
Tim: Don’t be surprised if Penn State gives up an early touchdown to what may be the best passing offense they’ve seen all year. After that, they’ll settle down and out-man the Hoosiers of Indiana. Penn State gets annother big day from Z28 on the ground and Allen Robinson puts his name in the record books.
Bill O’Brien goes home with a guaranteed winning record in his first year as head coach.
Penn State: 38
Matt: There is going to be a potential to overreact after a disappointing loss in Lincoln last week, much like we saw leading up to the Purdue game. But, Indiana, while improved, is still Indiana. Wisconsin had over 600 yards of offense last week against Indiana, and over 550 of those were on the ground. In fact, the Badgers only went to the air 7 times in the blowout win. I expect Zwinak, Zordich, Belton, and anyone else BOB can find to hand the ball to to have a huge game
Penn State: 42
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