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MSU-PSU pregame stretch...

November 26, 2010 - Ray Eckenrode

Joe won’t go…

In a move that came as a surprise to no one, Joe Paterno announced this week that he intends to return next year to coach the Penn State football team. We didn’t see the word “intends” in a lot of reports on this and we think it’s an important word. When you’re 83, a lot can happen in a year. We’re not trying to be morbid, that’s just fact.

Otherwise, you know our position on this:

> It’s Joe’s train (or trainwreck) and we’re all just passengers;

> The end of the Paterno era is just as much a part of it as the beginning and middle;

> It’s easy to say from the outside looking in that Joe should be able to recognize the limitations he’s put on the program and step aside gracefully, but it’s a lot harder to do that (for Joe and all of us) from the inside looking out;

> And truly, Joe’s presence as the “heart” of the program is still a plus in most regards, although a growing hindrance on recruiting.

As Joe becomes more and more of a figurehead, the real coaching issue becomes the dynamic between Tom Bradley, Galen Hall and Jay Paterno, the three men who now share most of the gameday decision making. And the real question about Joe’s decision to stay becomes this: Is it born of a futile desire to see his son succeed him? Most Penn State backers would scoff at the suggestion right now, but might they change their tune if the Lions somehow won another national championship next year or the year after? They might, but Penn State won’t. And you have to wonder if that’s not the Catch-22 Joe is caught in: PSU won’t win another title any time soon because of the drop in the talent level caused by the recent recruiting drag caused by the uncertainty about Joe’s future caused by his desire to hang on and try to win another national title so that his son has a shot at succeeding him.

Of course, this is all pure speculation (what are blogs for, if not pure speculation?), but we’re certainly not the only one speculating. All of which makes for a weird dynamic between Penn State’s tri coaches.

Bradley has waited 20 years for a shot at this job. And now, not only are his chances diminishing at PSU, but his attractiveness to other schools is waning. Of course, Bradley can’t really talk about any of this while he’s working for Joe and PSU which leaves him trapped in a glass case of emotion.

Jay Paterno must remain outwardly positive, upbeat and supportive of his father’s legacy, while inwardly he realizes with each good-but-not-great season and with each 20-point loss the chances become more real that he’ll be coaching in the Mid-American Conference someday soon rather than at Penn State, which must leave him feeling like he’s trapped in a glass case of emotion.

And then there’s Hall, who looks on most Saturdays like he wonders how he got into this mess, which is a lot like being trapped in a glass case of emotion.

Here's Ron Burgundy in a glass case of emotion (and yes, it’s sad this is the best version of this scene on Youtube):

Penn State Week in Twitter

We cyberstalk the Lions so you don’t have to:

> Silas Redd’s mother came to State College for Thanksgiving. On Black Friday, he got a new 40-inch TV.

> Matt McGloin is a little worried about what kind of crowd will turn out for Penn State’s first post-Thanksgiving game in recent memory. (Blogger’s note: We think he’s right to worry.)

> Rob Bolden is a little, er, a lot, homesick.


Ohio State President Gordon Gee was flambéed this week for suggesting TCU or Boise State wouldn’t fare as well if they played a Big Ten of SEC schedule. Huh? Did we miss something? Although Gee’s “Little Sisters of the Poor” wording might have been ill chosen, the basic sentiment of his statement is 1000 percent correct. Everyone agrees TCU and Boise State are good football teams. They could beat ANY team in the Big Ten or SEC on ANY given day. But there is no way they could be ALL of them on EIGHT given days. They would be 6-2 or 5-3, like most of the good but not great teams in those conferences.

The pick

A lot of people in East Lansing are very nervous about this game -- and rightly so. Penn State is obviously an improving team, especially offensively, and Michigan State seems to never play well at Beaver Stadium. The Lions really have nothing to lose here as they're likely going to the Gator Bowl regardless. Meanwhile, Sparty has a lot to lose, still vying for the Big Ten title. As a result, the Nits are only get 1.5 points here, but we're playing a total hunch that will be enough ... PSU (+1.5) 31, Michigan State 29.

Prediction record

Last week: Penn State -10.5 CORRECT

Season straight up: 6-5, .541

Season vs. spread: 4-6, .400

Note: Both these total are below Neil Rudel’s marks for the year, which is like a major league hitter being below the Mendoza line.

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