Punt/Counterpunt: Penn State 2015 Comment Count

Brian November 21st, 2015 at 10:44 AM


[Ben Stanfield]


By Heiko Yang

This feels like Michigan State all over again. All week we’ve been reading about the opponent’s mediocre bits: its offensive line is no good, its secondary is prone to busting big plays, and the only way Penn State going to come close to winning is if its quarterback can consistently make NFL throws while its defensive line plays lights out.

Once again, I have a terrible feeling that this is going to be the outlier game where everything somehow clicks for the opponent. After being in Beaver Stadium for whatever the hell you want to call the 2013 game, I can confidently say that a vulnerable Michigan team is totally the kind opponent Penn State would get up for. There’s an unspoken rivalry here, too. The two teams have had a lot of interesting history over the past two decades, and if you think about it, there’s currently more parity between them than there is between Michigan and its other rivals.

Beyond that, a win for the Nittany Lions would go far to validate James Franklin’s tenure in Happy Valley. It would his first win over a ranked team while at Penn State and also his first over a perennial conference powerhouse (if we ignore the last decade or so. Womp womp.). Being able to hang this trophy on his mantle would be a great way to divert attention away from his numerous clock management gaffes and the gradual Algernoning of Christian Hackenberg.

But let’s be clear. Nothing short of a Shane Morris-like debacle would do anything to affect Franklin’s job security. There’s no shame in losing to a 12th-ranked Michigan team when your roster is as deep as the lyrics to a Carly Rae Jepson song at nearly every position. Franklin is playing with house money so long as the repercussions from the Sandusky scandal linger, and that’s really what scares me about him and this team. It’s never a good position to be in when the guy sitting across the poker table puts you all in with someone else’s chips.

At least Michigan is better equipped this season to deal with the things they can control. At this point 27 for 27 feels like a distant memory, even if the run game hasn’t gotten that much better and could easily reproduce that outcome against Penn State’s defensive line. It’s comforting t know that we might actually throw a screen when defensive backs line up 15-yards off our receivers. It’s also nice to know these days that both Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis are behaving less like waves and more like particles. That was the difference maker two years ago and it’s possible that it will be the difference maker once again.

I don’t know. I can’t bring myself to predict a victory, and I learned a few days ago that certain members of the MGoCrew are heading to Happy Valley today to attend the game in person. I can’t fathom why. We did something two years ago there to anger the football gods -- maybe it was the urinating outside the port-o-potty, or maybe it was the taunting of the waitress on her birthday. Either way, I can’t imagine that a return visit would inspire them to look favorably upon Michigan, and for that reason I’m going to call this game a loss.

Michigan 23, Penn State 24


By Nick RoUMel

Heiko, you are going to get flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Why would you taunt a waitress on her birthday? Was she reciting Carly Rae Jepson lyrics? (By the way, I for one happen to appreciate the dark irony of “Call Me Maybe.”)

I believe in karma. You will get yours. One day a waitress will avenge the memory of her taunted friend. A beer on your head, Dr. Yang!

I remember when Penn State joined the Big Ten and taunted its new siblings, boasting that it would run away with every conference title. I gloat to this day that Northwestern has just as many titles as the Nits. (By the way, I love calling Penn State the Nits, another name for head lice.)

We have had some great games with them, beating them about ten straight times at one point, having their number like Holly Holm vs. Carly Rae Jepson. I remember when Michigan went into Beaver Stadium in 1997 to face the #2 Nits, and won 34-8. I savored beating them in ’05 for their only loss. Heck even B-Ho beat them last year. They are reeling, on the ropes.

But I do understand where Punt is coming from. The tale of our beloved Wolverines is one of two teams: the disciplined one that plays to their fullest capability, compared to the Keystone Kop team where every offensive lineman has his own internal start clock, the defense misses tackles, and we somehow let mediocre teams claw us within one inch of our death.

What to make of Michigan? They’ve probably done a little better than expected, on the whole. Pundits ranged between 9-3 and 7-5. Add a bowl game and no matter what happens the rest of the season, our waves and particles are still bouncing around in the same tight little prediction box.

Yet some have gone too far. Like Punt, I cringe a little when fans have already tucked Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa in the win column, sneak us into the playoffs, and end the season with Carly Rae Jepson crowning us national champions, with some wry and ironic words of praise at the victory podium.


But I refuse to believe that this James Franklin team, as directionless as an iPhone without Maps, whose most impressive victory is … Rutgers? Army? Maryland by one point? …is going to threaten us. Because Christian Hackenberg is about as scary as that adorable three year old toddler on Hallowe’en dressed up as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle with the fake muscles and six pack that you are too stingy to give a full sized Snickers bar to, because CVS had a sale on “fun sized” bars and you ate all the Kit-Kats and only gave out Milky Ways and Three Musketeers because nobody, I mean nobody, eats those unless they are all that’s left and they’re desperate for chocolate and have no pride or willpower whatsoever and probably have the munchies anyway.




November 21st, 2015 at 10:55 AM ^

I'm absolutely going to use that, despite the fact that none of my friends will get the reference. Speaking of which, one of my best friends is a huge OSU fan from Columbus.


November 21st, 2015 at 11:03 AM ^

and you ate all the Kit-Kats

But of course. :-)

For giggles I made a peanut butter sandwich and put a Kit-Kat bar in it.  One slice of bread folded over, PB+Kit Kat. Surprisingly good.

Crossing fingers the disciplined Michigan shows up.


November 21st, 2015 at 11:13 AM ^

Heiko Sharp.

No seriously I see this as a toss up game and line reflect that. 

Is purpose of this piece to always have one guy pick against UM and build a construct on how it will happen?

p.s. I dont see the same confidence as vs MSU IMO.  I think most of us think UM wont be able to run on PSU DL at all and UM has to win thru the air.  And not becuse PSU DBs are MSU LOL but because its a pick your poison thing (can't run, must pass).  Of course the issue then is pass protect for UM. Also its a road game and UM had been stellar at home up to MSU game (thus confidence) and hasnt put together a  full game on the road.   MSU had just come off a barely win vs rutgers and a barely win vs purdue and their OL looked a joke the prior week and their secondavy scorched earth. 

UM has more talent IMO but PSU matches up well in terms of exploiting weaknesses.

My hope is Zettel Johnson and Nassib tire out late as they play a ton and UM gets some pts late to eek it out in a low scoring affair.  I expect rough going early when those guys are fresh.


November 21st, 2015 at 11:43 AM ^

Is [the] purpose of this piece to always have one guy pick against UM and build a construct on how it will happen?

Surprised to see a guy as steeped in Michigan football as alum96 asking this question.

Yes, in the original incarnation of Punt/Counterpunt, the one that used to appear on the last page of the free gameday programs, that was the format: one guy picked a win (or blow out), the other picked a loss (or narrow win if an upset pick were really that unbelievable). My recollection was that Punt and CounterPunt roughly alternated whose turn it was to predict the win and whose to predict the loss; maybe they flipped a coin? (Nick can probably clarify, since he's been part of this column since long before MGoBlog existed.)
Don't remember what year they stopped doing free programs, but it's great that Brian has picked up this series and revitalized it here. These columns are as good as they've ever been; keep 'em coming!


November 21st, 2015 at 11:15 AM ^

M 31-PSU 16.    OSU 38-sparty 20.   Other winners today: LSU over Ole miss, USC over Oregon, NW over wisky, OK state over Baylor, Oklahoma wins big over TCU, and just for fun Minny over Illinois for the battle of bowl eligibility. 


November 21st, 2015 at 12:50 PM ^

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November 21st, 2015 at 8:10 PM ^

Nick, that was a brilliant column.  You've done great work before, but I think your piee had more belly-laughs than anything I have ever seen in this column.  That last paragraph is gold!

Kudos, and thanks for writing this.


November 22nd, 2015 at 7:49 AM ^

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