Friday, September 26, 2008

So Penn State Should Be No. 1 Right?

If my deduction skills are correct, Penn State is the best team in the country. Hear me out. USC was No. 1 in the nation heading into last night's game at Oregon State. Oregon State beat USC 27-21. Penn State plowed the Beavers (see what I did there?) 45-14, and truthfully, it wasn't even that close. So naturally, Penn State should be No. 1 in the country, at least if they take care of business at home against Illinois tomorrow, right?

Obviously, I know that's not how college football works. The Nittany Lions, no matter what they do on Saturday, have no shot at vaulting 11 spots to No. 1. But we may have learned an awful lot about the 12th ranked Lions in USC's loss at Oregon State. The once invincible Trojans have, for the second straight year, lost to a losing team (at the time) on the road in the Pac-10. It's becoming a habit for Pete Carroll's boys.

But make no mistake about it, Oregon State flat-out beat USC. The Beavers didn't have this game handed to them. They took it. Offensively, Jacquizz Rodgers gashed the vaunted USC defense all by himself, gaining 186 yards and scoring twice. He did gain 99 against Penn State, but most of it was in the second half against backups. And as a team, Oregon State rushed for just 92 yards at Beaver Stadium compared to 176 against USC.

But on offense is where the real difference in statistics lies. Last night, the Trojans managed just 86 yards rushing and fell behind 21-0. Penn State steamrolled the Beavers on the ground, to the tune of 239 yards, and jumped out to a 28-0 advantage. For the game, USC finished with 313 yards of total offense while Penn State wracked up 454. And the scoring differential—21 for USC, 45 for Penn State—shows just how legit the Nittany Lion offense is.

Now I know that playing on the road vs. playing at home in college football are two very different things. Much more so than in the NFL, college teams truly do get a home field advantage. Student sections go berserk, and college players truly feed off that energy. Penn State had a very distinct advantage playing Oregon State at home, with the Beavers having to travel all the way across the country and play in the biggest (this year) and one of the noisiest stadiums in the nation. Meanwhile, USC had to play a Pac-10 rival and deal with the Oregon State fans, who were surely on top of their game against the No. 1 team in the land.

But still, this has to bode well for Penn State. USC was hands down considered the best team in the country before last night. They embarrassed Ohio State on national television and looked like a well-oiled machine. And if any comparisons can be made, it looks like this Penn State team is for real. With the way USC manhandled the Buckeyes and stumbled against Oregon State, it truly gives hope that Penn State could actually toppled Ohio State and win the Big 10, although they do have to play in Columbus, a place where the Lions haven't had much success. Plus, they have to take on a very good Wisconsin team in Madison, and as we've seen in the past, anything can happen in league play.

Well, the journey begins on Saturday night when the Nittany Lions take on No. 22 Illinois at home. It certainly won't be an easy game, unlike Penn State's first four contests, but it is a game they should win. And reinforcements are on the way. Suspended starting defensive linemen, tackle Abe Koroma and All-American end Maurice Evans, are going to play:

"Both will play. I've kept them out of three games and the Judicial Affairs people have indicated that there's nothing that they're going to do that says they can't play, so they probably will play," Paterno said during his call-in radio show Thursday night.

That's certainly good news for Penn State, because the Lions will need all the help they can get in Big 10 play. And by the looks of things, they may just be a team to be reckoned with in the Big 10 and beyond.

No comments:

Post a Comment