I will admit it. I was guilty of both terribly underestimating the Indiana Hoosiers, and also of over estimating our Nittany Lions. When that line of PSU -2.5 came out last weekend, I jumped all over it, figuring there was no way the PSU offense would be slowed down by one of the statistically worst defenses in the country. On the other side, I figured Indiana would be able to score, but I also thought PSU would get the stops they needed. Oops.
With the Wolverines visiting this week, and a trip to Columbus looming in 3 weeks, many are wondering whether Penn State may go 0 for October, and questioning nearly everything, and everyone, within the program. I am not here to tell you to back off from the ledge as I did after the UCF loss, but I am hoping to at least bring some rational thought to the discussion.
First and foremost, Bill O’Brien is not perfect. He never professed to be, and no rational thinking fan thought he was. He admitted on Saturday after the game that he and his staff were very average. I would agree with that 100%. I would also tell anyone that thinks this is the worst coached PSU game they have ever seen to pop in a tape from any game from 2000-2004, Michigan in 2006, Iowa in 2009, or a half dozen other examples. Yes, Kevin Wilson and the Hoosier coaching staff were better than OB on Saturday, but the reverse has been true much more often than not in O’Brien’s 17 games.
Bad games happen, especially when you deal with 18-22 year olds. Questioning O’Brien, or the staff is only fair, they get paid good money to prepare this team, but calling for mass firings or huge changes is way over the top. Bill O’Brien was just fine as a play caller a year ago, especially as PSU won 8 of 10 to finish the season. He has a young team, with a freshman QB, trying to find their way. John Butler is dealing with a defense that lost leaders on the line, at linebacker, and the secondary, not to mention a ton of talent. Oh, and he has zero depth to work with.
The sanctions are very clearly a significant factor in this, whether you want to admit it or not. The lack of depth is well chronicled, but to pretend it does not play a part is foolish. Penn State is relying on just 3 linebackers much of the game. The situation on both lines and the secondary is not much better. This works out to about 80 snaps yesterday for PSU’s best players on defense, and over 90 for PSU’s offense. That matters, whether you want to admit it or not.
Chances are there will be other games like Saturday’s. Penn State doesn’t have the talent to show up and beat most teams, or the depth to survive much less than 100% effort every game. Coaches will make mistakes, players will not make plays, and good football teams will out play Penn State. How about we just use some common sense when that happens.
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