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.
MICHIGAN 24, PENN STATE 20