Friday, October 2, 2009

What to Watch This Weekend

The Eagles get the earliest possible bye week of the NFL season, meaning no Birds for you this weekend. So what to watch? Well, the Phillies begin a three-game set with the Marlins tonight to wrap up the regular season, but to be honest, it's hard to conjure up much excitement about it, even with home field on the line. After locking up the division, there isn't much drama left, especially with all four NL participants locked in. Now it's just a matter of when and where the Phils will take on either the Dodgers or the Rockies.

And let's be honest with ourselves: As much as I believe the Phillies can beat anyone in baseball, this isn't the same indestructible force that steamrolled through September and October last season. The bullpen is a mess. The starters have been up and down all season long. And the bats still go through their cold spells. Sure, they can still do it, but it doesn't quite feel like it did last year, does it?

Speaking of not feeling like last year, Penn State plays again this weekend. And by not feeling like last year, I mean this team will not repeat as Big Ten champs. Because last week, it actually felt exactly like last year, losing to Iowa again as Daryll Clark had a horrible game again. That part felt exactly like last year. The rest, not so much. There is no A.Q. Shipley, Gerald Cadogen and Rich Ohrnberger, and that means there will be no Big Ten title. Just not happening.

But Penn State does have a chance to get away from State College after that horrific loss and rebound against a struggling Illinois team tomorrow at 3:30. And rebound they better because if this team loses to an absolutely dreadful Illinois squad, I might just give up.

I miss George Paterno … and LaVar for that matter. But I digress.

Penn State has to beat Illinois. They just have to. And I think they will, but not everyone feels that way:

On the surface this looks like a good game for Penn State to shake off their disappointing performance from last Saturday night and get back to winning games. The Illinois offense couldn't find the endzone if you gave them a map and a GPS. Juice WIlliams is handing out turnovers like it's a bake sale. There's nobody in the backfield to compliment him in the running game. Their defense looks just barely tougher than Strawberry Shortcake. By all measures, this game should be an easy win for a team that won the Big Ten Championship a year ago.
And yet, I'm scared. We are now five weeks into the season. The hope that things are going to get better or work themselves out is fading away like the green in the autumn leaves. Until I see otherwise, I don't believe this offensive line can play any better. I don't think Evan Royster will find any room to run. I don't think Daryll Clark can handle even the slightest amount of pressure, and when things go bad he sulks rather than shake it off. I don't think he can get through a game without throwing one or two interceptions. I don't think we can return a kick past the 20 yard line. I don't think we can prevent our opponent from returning one past the 30. I don't think our place kicker can hit a field goal outside of 35 yards. And I don't think any of these problems will magically go away this week.
I think the defense will play well and keep the Nittany Lions in the game, but in the last two games against Illinois Arrelious Benn has absolutely killed them with big plays. This young secondary hasn't been tested against a beast like him. Miss an assignment against Temple and it's just a 36 yard gain. Miss an assignment against Benn and it's six points.
I just have a bad feeling about this game. It's the first road game of the year, and we all know that means PUCKER PUCKER PUCKER. I think it's going to be aggravating to watch as the Penn State offense bumbles and stumbles. I think the defense will be playing with their back against the wall often, and in the end the offense and special teams blow it. God, I hope I'm wrong.
Penn State 16, Illinois 20

I hope you're wrong too. Because a loss to this average-at-best team would be devastating and I'd be pissed off beyond belief.

At least there will be minimal stress on Sunday. With no Eagles, it's the perfect time to sit back and enjoy the Red Zone Channel in all its awesome glory. And if you don't have the Red Zone Channel, may I suggest killing yourself? I know I would if I was at the mercy of Fox and CBS. It's 2009, people. Get with the times.

BallHype: hype it up!

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