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The Pundit’s Power Rankings: Plaxico shoots up the list!

Unlike traditional Power Rankings, which attempt to rank teams on a week-to-week basis, the Pundit’s Power Rankings avoid such arbitrary silliness. Instead, The Pundit wishes only to rank the pertinence, scope, and conversational value of the top sports stories of the week. Extra points for any stories that lend themselves to relentless mockery and high-horse rhetoric. On to the Rankings!

1. Plaxico Burress shoots himself in thigh

A true run-and-shoot offense. Well, shoot and run, I suppose. And I’m not sure if I’d be running after I had shot myself in the thigh. Whatever. I feel as though we need to go over the details of this one more time: Plaxico Burress shoots himself in the thigh after stuffing his handgun, which didn’t have a safety, into his sweatpants while hanging out at a club. A handgun he didn’t have a permit for in New York, a city notoriously strict on illegal possession of firearms. And not only do the Giants lose their best receiver, but one of their top linebackers, Antonio Pierce, might be in some trouble as well. This story speaks for itself.

2. The Juice is no longer on the loose

At this point, anything I say would just be piling on. And that’s what, a 15-year penalty?

3. Sean Avery’s sloppy seconds

Hard to believe he got a six-game suspension for what he said. Classy? Hell no. But worth a six-game suspension? Hardly. Seems to me like the NHL was looking for a reason to crack down on what they felt to be one of their more unsavory characters, and they got their money’s worth. Quick question: on a sloppy-second score, is Avery credited with an assist?

4. NFL players take substance to mask steroids, suspensions suspended

Anybody else think it’s a bit fishy that the Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson, of Minnesota, was the judge who temporarily delayed the suspensions of the 5 players accused of using diuretics to mask steroids? Which, of course, led to a federal judge blocking the suspensions until a further investigation into the matter could take place. Would Judge Larson have taken such a vested interest in the manner if the Williams Wall, and the Vikings playoff hopes, weren’t in jeopardy? I have no idea, but I love a conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, so I’m going to go the paranoid route. Which is why I’m almost positive that Matt Cassel has been taking injections of Tom Brady’s DNA, Tony Sparano is actually Tony Soprano and is involved in a massive point-shaving operation, explaining the Dolphins sudden success, and somebody suddenly changed the overtime rules without telling anyone in week 11, confusing Donovan McNabb and, apparently, a huge contingent of NFL players. Oh, and Plaxico Burress didn’t shoot himself in the thigh – there was another shooter up on the grassy knoll, maaan…

5. Charlie Weis’ future in question

Let’s do some math, ok? Alright, here’s a problem to start with: Unlimited resources + a multitude of highly touted recruits + a lucrative television contract + a huge contract for your head coach + the past four years = 28-21 record and two losses in the Fiesta Bowl. Oh, and the two losses in the Fiesta Bowl were with players almost exclusively recruited by Tyrone Willingham. I despise Notre Dame and their College Football politicking, so seeing them fail doesn’t bother me much – I say, let Charlie work it out. Heh…

(And now, for a commercial break. This has nothing to do with this post at all, but I just saw this TV, and it absolutely cracked me up – they were offering commemorative Barack Obama half-dollars. I mean, seriously? What’s next, the Collector’s Edition Obama Oreo Tin?)

6. Oklahoma or Texas? The BCS again reveals its flaws

Though, after watching Oklahoma absolutely toy with Missouri during four lopsided quarters, its hard to argue that Oklahoma doesn’t deserve to be where they are right now. I mean, if you’re a college football fan, the Oklahoma vs. Florida match-up has to be getting you pretty pumped up.  Plus, Penn State vs. USC, and Texas, Alabama, Utah and Ohio State pairing off should actually make for a decent bowl season. Still, even though I supported Oklahoma being the Big-12 South champion, I can’t help but feel as though Texas got absolutely screwed. Hey, at least ESPN now has the broadcasting rights to the BCS after Fox’s contract runs up – now we’ll get years of the Gameday Crew touting the wonders of the BCS. Hooray!

7. Arbitration, Free Agency in MLB

None of the major moves have happened to this point, so much of this story has simply been speculation. Player X is going here, player Y is going there, Scott Boras is a huge piece of shit, etc. etc. Well, except for that last part – that’s just true. Once Manny and CC are signed, sealed and delivered, the rest will fall like dominoes. As for me, I’d like to see Derek Lowe end up in Philly, as well as a second to third-tier outfielder. What I think will happen?  Jamie Moyer will be back, and we’ll still get a second to third-tier outfielder. Though I have a feeling that Mr. Amaro is going to want to make a splash in his first offseason…

That’s it for this week’s Pundit Power Rankings – be sure to check in tomorrow for some postgame Eagles reactions.

E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!!!

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Combining the BCS, the traditional bowls, and a playoff: The Pundit devises the ultimate system to determine a National Champion

There are many quality arguments for a college football playoff. There are a few supporting the current system. There are many people who say to hell with the tradition of the bowl games, and many more who aren’t so willing to kick them to the curb. There are those who claim that the regular season is far more exciting than it would be with a playoff intact, and those who feel that the playoff would simply be the appropriate resolution to a captivating regular season.

The Pundit is here to bring you all together.

What will follow is my comprehensive plan to combine the BCS ranking system, a college football playoff, and the current bowl structure. If that sounds crazy, bear with me: I think this could work.

First of all, the regular season would have to be limited to 12 games max, including any conference championship games (which means ACC, SEC and Big-12 schools would be limited to 11 games before their conference championship bouts). Don’t want to lose money by losing regular season games, big conferences? Then cut the cream-puff games against puny schools. The conference championship games would take place a week earlier than they currently do. The week after this game, a 16 team playoff would ensue. The first two rounds would take place, leaving only four teams left to play for the National Championship. These first two rounds would be played at the home stadium of the higher-seeded team. After these two playoff rounds, all of the traditional bowl games would make their selections, picking from a pool of all eligible schools, excluding the four schools playing for the National Championship. This would leave around two to three weeks for the players of these schools to take their finals, the coaches to prepare for their next bowl game, and the fans to purchase their tickets.

Deep breath. And continue…

The four remaining teams would play the semifinal games after the New Year’s culmination of bowl games. These semifinal playoff games would take place on neutral fields. All bowl games would be played on or by January 1st. In the event that January 1st fell on a Saturday or Sunday, the semifinals would take place on Monday and Tuesday. Otherwise, the semifinals would take place on the first Saturday after January 1st, and the National Championship Game would take place a week later.

Alright: how would this thing be seeded?

Good question. The winners of the six BCS conferences (ACC, Big-10, Big East, Big-12, Pac-10, ACC) would be given the top six playoff seeds, placed in order of their BCS rankings. After these six teams, the next ten BCS-ranked teams would qualify. Some stipulations: any BCS conference winner that did not finish the season ranked in the top 20 would still automatically qualify, but would be dropped from the top six seeds and automatically seeded ninth. In this scenario, the highest-rated BCS team that did not win a conference would take their place in the top six. As well, if a non-BCS conference winner, such as Utah this year, finished in the top six, they would be given a seeding in the top six according to their BCS rank, unless all of the BCS conference champions placed in the top ten, in which case that BCS non-conference winner would automatically qualify for the seventh seed. If a non-BCS conference team placed in the top six, the BCS conference champion they ousted from the top six would automatically be given the seventh seed, unless they were ranked lower than 20. Also, there would be no limit as to how many teams from one conference could qualify for the playoff – this year, four teams from the Big-12 would make it, while the Pac-10 and Big East would only have one each. Sorry, fellas.

Any questions? Alright, let’s do some predictions to see how this would play out. Based on what I think will happen for the rest of the season, the following will show exactly what would happen if my model were in place for the rest of the season. Since I predict wins for USC, Oklahoma, Florida and Boston College next week, my BCS top 16 after this weekend would be as follows:

1. Oklahoma   2. Florida   3. Texas   4. Alabama   5. USC   6. Utah   7. Texas Tech   8. Penn State   9. Boise State   10. Ohio State.   11. TCU   12. Ball State   13. Cincinnati   14. Oklahoma State   15. Georgia Tech  16. Boston College

Here’s what the first round match-ups would look like:

1. Oklahoma vs.16. Georgia Tech

8.  Texas vs. 9.  Alabama

4. Utah vs. 13. TCU

5.  Penn State vs.12. Ohio State

6.  Cincinnati vs. 11. Boise State

3.  USC vs. 14. Ball State

7.  Boston College vs. 10. Texas Tech

2. Florida vs.  15. Oklahoma State

Obviously, there are some rematches here – Penn State against Ohio State and Utah against TCU. Hey, that’s how playoffs work, people. As well, the one danger in my system occurs when conference winners aren’t necessarily at the top of the rankings, as evidenced by the monster showdown between Texas and Alabama in round one. But that would add a whole new level of drama to conference play – win the conference, guarantee yourself a high seed, and let everyone else sweat out horrific early match-ups. An important note: round two would be re-seeded. Why? Well, imagine this year, where the third and fourth ranked BCS schools ended up as the eight and nine seeds in the playoff – would it really be fair to ask the top-seeded team in the playoff to face one of them in round two, should that team win? I don’t think so, and thus, I would propose the second round, and only the second round, be re-seeded.

1. Oklahoma vs.  11. Boise State

4. Utah vs.  5. Penn State

3. USC vs.  9.  Alabama

2. Florida vs.  10. Texas Tech

Some pretty intriguing games there, right? Let’s whittle it down to four, then figure out the bowls games.

1. Oklahoma vs.  5. Penn State

2. Florida vs.  9.  Alabama

Ah, another rematch – that’s a playoff system for you. Now, the 12 teams that lost in the playoffs would be dropped back into the pool of bowl-eligible teams. An important note: the playoff would not affect the BCS rankings before the bowl game selections. Once the playoff begins, the regular season and BCS rankings are closed. The next, and final BCS rankings, would thus occur after all of the bowls and playoff games were decided.

Here’s how I would project the major New Year’s day bowls based on the results of the playoff, using traditional bowl-selection protocol:

Rose Bowl – Ohio State vs. USC

Orange Bowl – Cincinnati vs. Boston College

Fiesta Bowl – Texas vs. Utah

Sugar Bowl – Georgia vs. Texas Tech

I would predict an Oklahoma win over Penn State, a Florida repeat over a worn and torn Alabama team, and an Oklahoma win over Florida for the National  Championship.The semifinal and championship games would get huge ratings and generate as much (if not more) revenue as the bowls. Everybody wins.

Whew…that’s my system.

See – you get a playoff, and the bowl games are intact. Perhaps there are those that will argue that my system renders the bowls consolation games; isn’t every bowl game except for the National Championship Game a consolation game in the current system? Some may say that the drama and controversy will get sucked out of the regular season. I beg to differ – it will still be huge to win the conference, and now, instead of the top teams sweating a BCS bowl bid, the teams hovering between rankings 10-20 will be battling every week to get into the playoff. The BCS will still generate controversy, as ultimately a few teams will be left out of the playoff. Imagine this year: Would the voters keep Utah at six, automatically giving them a top-six seeding in the playoffs? Or would they bump them down a slot to seven, altering Utah’s playoff seed from the 4th seed all the way down to the 9th or 10th? Imagine the stakes for the showdown between Georgia Tech and Georgia this past weekend – that game would have had a whole new meaning. Certainly, controversy would remain, but we would have a winner determined by the play on the field.

That’s what we really want, right?

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Football has become essential agony: The Pundit dishes on the Birds and the BCS

The Eagles

What exactly was Andy Reid thinking when he sat McNabb down on Sunday? The Birds were only down by three points, after all. Granted, McNabb had been playing an atrocious game, but benching McNabb, at least to me, signaled a move in a new direction, i.e. the Kevin Kolb era. And then Kolb stunk it up, and Andy announced on Monday that McNabb would be his starting QB.

Huh?

So now, not only have you put all of the pressure on McNabb’s shoulders by singling him out and benching him, but you also are refusing to give Kolb a long look to see what you have for next year. ‘Cuz let’s be honest – it doesn’t look like McNabb will be coming back after this year. What kind of message has Andy Reid now sent to his starting quarterback? To me, he’s sent a very simple one: “Better, uh, watch your back there, Donovan, ‘cuz at the next sign of trouble, you’re coming out, and, uh, Kevin Kolb, we’re uh, we’re going to go ahead and give him a shot.”

Because, you know, the quarterback position isn’t already chock full of pressure. Let’s go ahead and put even more pressure on McNabb. Let’s go ahead and bench our franchise quarterack, in a game we are only trailing by three points, while we are still apparentely in a playoff race!

I MEAN, ARE YOU FRICKIN’ SERIOUS?

Kudos to McNabb for toeing the company line and playing it cool on this one. I, personally, would have been pissed the hell off. Don’t tell me that no one’s job is safe, bench a guy, then start him again the next week. Especially in a game they were only trailing by three friggin’ points! To me, Andy simply didn’t evaluate the situation properly. Was McNabb playing horrible football? Absolutely. Can you blame Andy for wanting him out of the game? Maybe not. Should Andy Reid have considered how sensitive the entire quarterback issue is this season, and really has been throughout Donovan McNabb’s career in this town, before he yanked him at halftime? Shouldn’t he have considered how this would be treated by the media and the fans, many of whom are already questioning whether or not McNabb will, or should, be back next season?

DUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHH!!! (Editor’s note: Oh, that’s just obnoxious).

What is going to happen to McNabb? If he isn’t going to return, will we get to see Kolb at some point? Barring a ridiculous hot streak by the Eagles, where they win out, at what point should Kolb get a look? Is Andy Reid’s job safe any longer? Has he lost control of this team? He certainly has lost the public support, but will that matter to Jeffrey Lurie? Who would you want to replace Reid?

I miss the Phillies.

The BCS

Oh, what a tangled web we weave. Now, unless Alabama loses to Auburn or Florida loses to Florida State, the winner of the Alabama – Florida SEC Championship Game will be playing in the BCS Championship Game. Right, that seems simple enough. And it seems likely that somebody from the Big 12 South will be there as well, in all likelihood either Texas or Oklahoma, each with one loss. Ahhhh, let the debating begin.

In one corner, you have Texas, who beat Oklahoma earlier this year, on a neutral field. I mean, honestly, shouldn’t the argument end there? Well, not exactly. After all, if you are going to rank Texas ahead of Oklahoma, shouldn’t you also rank Texas Tech ahead of Texas? Tech also only has one loss, and beat Texas earlier this year.

Ah, but let’s not forget about that neutral field. Texas’ win over Oklahoma has to be slightly more impressive than Oklahoma’s victory over Texas Tech, since Texas beat OU on a neutral field, while OU beat Tech at home.

But hold on, hold on a second: OU absolutely destroyed Tech, 65-21. They beat the number two team in the nation by 44 friggin’ points, for God’s sake. To me, that cancels any advantage that Texas would be given for winning on a neutral field. Still, Texas beat OU.

Alright, but how about this: OU has several impressive non-conference victories. They beat Cincinnati, who will likely win the Big East, 52-26, in week two. Cincy is currently ranked number 16 in the BCS rankings. They also beat TCU, currently ranked 14th in the BCS rankings, 35-10 in week 5. As a matter of fact, in 4 games against opponents currently ranked in the BCS top 25, OU has outscored its opponents 187-92. Very, very impressive stuff, and if they knock off number 12 Oklahoma State this Saturday, it’s hard to imagine they won’t jump ahead of Texas.

But would that be fair? Texas has also played against 4 teams currently in the top 25 of the BCS rankings, and outscored those opponents 162-129. Not as impressive as the margin of victory posted by Oklahoma, but Texas faced those 4 opponents in four consecutive and unbelievably brutal weeks!

To review: if OU beats Oklahoma State, they will have victories over Texas Tech, OU State, TCU and Cincinnati under their belts. Their primetime, utter demolition of Tech will not quickly erase from the minds of the voters. Sam Bradford might be the frontrunner for the Heisman. Oklahoma is certainly the sexy pick.

Texas will have victories over OU, Oklahoma State and Missouri under their belts. Their only loss of the season will have come in an extremely tight game against Texas Tech, which they lost on the last play of the game. Oh yeah, and they already beat Oklahoma this year – on a neutral field. Texas is, by no means, a sexy pick, but they just might be the correct one. Hard to say, and they will be ignored if Oklahoma destroys Oklahoma State like they did to Tech.

Funny thing about that game for Texas: they need OU to win. See, the only reason this discussion is taking place is because, in the Big 12, if there is a three-way tie for first, the tiebreaker goes to whoever has the highest BCS ranking. But in the case of a two-way tie, the tiebreaker is a head-to-head match-up. And Texas Tech beat Texas. So if OU loses, Texas Tech wins the South based on their head-to-head win against Texas. Texas actually needs OU to beat Oklahoma State for them to have a chance, though I doubt they want them to win anything other than a squeaker.

Does your head hurt yet? Mine sure as hell does.

Alright, let me do my BCS predictions. OU is hot right now. They beat Oklahoma State, though not as handily as they beat Texas Tech. Let’s say 38-21. Sorry, Texas, but the sexy chick always gets laid before the bland, practical one does. Florida beats Alabama, Oklahoma beats Missouri, and Florida beats Oklahoma, 56-52, to win their second National Championship in three years. The other bowls? Oregon State will lose to Oregon, meaning an intriguing Rose Bowl between USC and Penn State. I go Penn State over USC, 23-21. (Editor’s note: What a homer!) Alabama will face at-large Utah in the Sugar Bowl, and handle them fairly easily, winning 35-13. The Orange Bowl will be Cincinnati vs. one of the ACC teams. Seriously, I have no friggin’ idea what is going on in the ACC, and quite frankly, I could give a damn. Cincinnati wins the Orange. Finally, poor ‘ol Texas gets a less than appealing match-up against Boise State, who gets a rare second at-large bid for the mid-majors, ousting Ohio State for the final BCS slot. Texas Tech is the highest ranked team to get stiffed, since only two teams from any one conference are eligible for BCS bowls. Texas takes out its rage on Boise State, winning 49-10. Clearly, none of this will happen, and it is only what I am hoping will happen. In all reality, I just want the BCS to explode.

(Editor’s note: God, would a playoff be great this year. Stay tuned – methinks The Pundit is in his linguistic laboratory, concocting the perfect playoff system, one that will please all available parties. Oh, it shall be grand – or not. Either way, stay tuned).

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From the Nosebleeds: The Big 12 ain’t got jack on Penn State

Ryan Jacobs

I was very impressed with Penn State’s performance in Madison this past Saturday night; it was the kind of victory that is solidifying PSU as one of the best all-around teams in the country.  Daryll Clark has been the most impressive player during this team’s rise to 2008 football glory.  Against Wisconsin, Clark proved himself as a passer more than he has all season.  Quite simply, Clark is playing lights-out football.

However, Daryll Clark is being outshined by the holier-than-thou Big 12 quarterback club.  I watched the Red River Shootout and was extremely impressed with both Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford…honestly, who wouldn’t be?  Bradford has thrown for 23 TD’s already this season and McCoy has completed 79.4% of his throws.  These huge stats continue through the rest of the conference with quarterbacks like Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell, and Todd Reesing.  How did this conference give birth to so many aerial assaults?

There are many possible answers to that question, but I think maybe poor defense has something to do with it.  Don’t get me wrong – when you have a gifted offense like many Big 12 teams do, you’re going to score some points. But you would figure that inter-conference rivalries would slow high-scoring teams.  Oklahoma State did a good job of forcing turnovers on Saturday night, intercepting Chase Daniel three times, the first time he’s been picked since the season debut against Illinois (showcasing his, well, God-like abilities during that time). But Daniel still threw for 390 yards in a close game.

Oklahoma, who Kirk Herbstreit says is one of the “nastiest defenses in the country”, got gashed for 161 yards on the ground and 277 yards through the air in their close loss to Texas.  Vice versa, Sam Bradford lit up the “best defense he has seen by far this year” for 387 yards and 5 TDs (though he did throw two picks).  These teams have great playmakers, but defense does not seem to be this conference’s strength.

In fact, Kansas, ranked 27th in the nation in scoring defense, has statistically the best defense in the conference, followed next by Oklahoma at 37.  Penn State, on the other hand, is 6th in scoring defense and 8th in total offense allowed.  I realize that Penn State racked up those stats against some pretty poor offenses, but the same goes with Kansas, Oklahoma, and the majority of the other Big 12 teams, with their early season, cream-puff schedules.  The point is simple: if you’re playing poor teams and you have a good defense, you should be able to win these games without surrendering many points or yards.  These Big 12 teams obviously don’t have those kinds of defenses.

And another thing – I keep hearing that the Big 12 is the best offensive conference in DI-A.  While this appears to be valid, many supporters of this theory have (obviously) never checked out the eye-popping stats put up by players in the non-BCS, Conference USA.  Just check last year’s numbers for guys like Tulsa’s Paul Smith (QB, 5065 passing yards, 60 Total TDs) or Central Florida’s Kevin Smith (RB, 2567 rushing yards, 30 Total TDs), or Tulane’s Matt Forte (RB, 2127 rushing yards, 23 Total TDs), or Eastern Carolina’s Chris Johnson (RB, 1423 rushing yards, 23 Total TDs).  All three of those running backs are now in the NFL and are already, or will soon make a difference for their respective teams.  This is, overwhelmingly, the best offensive conference in D-IA college football and possibly the worst defensively.

I am still impressed with the big-play Big 12 offenses, but I think Penn State deserves some serious national respect. (Editor’s note: Um, gotta say, I feel as though a national ranking of three is respect).  Penn State’s offense is extremely efficient and very balanced, which in turn leads to smaller numbers for Daryll Clark.  This may lead to a conclusion that Clark isn’t good enough for consideration in the kissing-the-Big-12-quarterback’s-ass club. (Editor’s note: From what I’ve heard, people leave these club meetings with a bad taste in their mouth). On Saturday night, however, he proved to me that he has the ability to throw with the best of them.  He is smart, makes good decisions, and can make every throw across the entire field, regardless if he is standing upright or running for his life.  His ability to make plays in the passing game, especially after things have broken down, is amazing.  His comparison to Michael Robinson is unfair, because Clark is a true passer who just happens to be able to run (and with some strength).  Dare I say he reminds me of a young Donovan McNabb at Syracuse?

Clark is enjoying extreme success in a spread offense that has weapons everywhere (7th in Scoring Offense with 45.3 pts./game), and a team that really doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses (9th in Total Offense, 8th in Total Defense, excellent special teams).  Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated (probably SI’s best known college football writer) stated, quite frankly, that he hasn’t seen an offense as dynamic and dangerous as Penn State’s since that of the 2004 Utah Utes, led by coach Urban Meyer, who broke into the BCS that year with an undefeated season.  Anybody else think Urban Meyer knows how to run a really good spread?  Now what about Penn State?

Penn State’s offense is ranked statistically with the best in the nation, but I still don’t think that many analysts realize the stats they’ve compiled.  In the first quarter of this Saturday’s Red River Shootout, a stat flashed onto the screen: Oklahoma has outscored their opponents 103-3 in the first quarter this season.  Kirk Herbstreit promptly stated, “I don’t know if we’ve seen a stat like that in college football”.  Oklahoma improved upon that stat, making it 110-6 by the end of the first quarter in that game, a very impressive stat with a 104 point difference.

Now look at Penn State.  Coming into Madison, Penn State had outscored its opponents 110-20 in the second quarter, then improved that stat to 131-27 by halftime; a very impressive stat with the same 104 point difference as Oklahoma in the first quarter. So in a word, Kirk Herbstreit is wrong.  I won’t give him that much flack, as Herbstreit seems to be a Penn State supporter himself.  In the end though, he played quarterback at Ohio State, which forever leaves a part of him in the realms of douche-bagginess. (Editor’s note: Dot that eye, bitch!).

Coming into this Saturday, I thought Oklahoma had the best all around team in the country.  But after seeing them lose and seeing Penn State’s complete dominance, I think the Nittany Lions need to be considered as the nation’s most solid team from top to bottom.  I still have much respect for Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, USC, Florida and the likes (and I realize that Penn State has a ways to go), but PSU is a force to be reckoned with.

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Previewing Penn State…and The Official 2008 Rally Post

(Editor’s note: The Pundit started writing this post at approximately the same time as the Phillies scored their first run in the 4th inning of their game against the Mets. Why is this being mentioned in a preview for Penn State football? Read on, Punditeers.)

With my NFL preview starting on Thursday night, I realized I had failed to preview another sport I hold dear to my heart: College Football (Editor’s note: Plus, the Phillies are down 7-1 right now; methinks The Pundit needs distraction). I’m not going to do a full college football preview, but I am going to highlight a few points about my favorite team, the Penn State Nittany Lions. Now, I know what you’re saying: Why Pun, didn’t you go to Temple? Well, um, yes, I did, and I grew up following their basketball team very closely, still do. But football? Let me give the Andy Reid response here: “I’m happy to see that Al Golden has the team moving in the right direction, and I’ll continue to keep my eyes on them.” For now, though, I’m with Penn State, the team I’ve been watching intently since I was a wee little tike (Editor’s note: Now he’s just a wee little Pundit).

The Spread HD

Wait, did the word “spread” just appear in an article about Penn State? The same ground-and-pound, bruise-and-cruise, crush-and-rush Penn State of Joe Paterno lure? (Editor’s note: This writing is bore-and-snore). That’s right, folks, the new Penn State offense will apparently be a marriage of the new-school spread and the old-school wishbone. Expect to see receivers motioning to the backfield before the snap, both quarterback-halfback and quarterback-receiver options, and a passing attack more akin to an NFL style scheme. The idea, essentially, is to get Penn State’s playmakers, such as Derrick Williams, into mismatches against the opposing team’s defense. They certainly have skill position talent; it will be interesting to see if this new scheme can create opportunities for their ballers to excel.

(Editor’s note: The Phillies just cut a 7-1 deficit to 7-5 after 2-run HR’s by Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. Apparently, this article is good luck. Could be a long article.)

Lead us to the promised land, Daryll Clark

Joe Paterno has announced that Daryll Clark will be the starter against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (Editor’s note: What in God’s green earth is a Chanticleer? Who the hell fears a Chanticleer?). Doesn’t mean we won’t see Pat Devlin at some point this season, or even that both won’t occasionally share the field; remember, Clark is a good runner. It seems, though, that Clark’s ability to threaten the defense with both his arm and his legs is a slightly better fit for the new “Spread HD.”

We know the receivers got game, but who are the RB’s?

They would be Evan Royster and Stephfon Green. Royster had a solid campaign his freshman year, and just might be the surprise star of Penn State’s season. All indications are that he is a very solid starter and should be productive. Then, there’s Mr. Green, he of the 4.25 forty. Call him High Times, ’cause he’s blazin’ (Editor’s note: Yo homie, The Pundit be working maaaaad street cred right there). He looks as though he’ll be threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Just watch the video here (click on the video to the right of the page), and try not to giggle too loud (Editor’s note: Lucy, could you get the Pundit some new drawers? Yeah, he’s watching Stephfon Green highlights again…)

Now don’t get defensive, but…

…the Penn State defense may not be quite as solid as in year’s past. The suspensions to Chris Baker and Phillip Taylor at DT will hurt a unit that wasn’t really stellar last year to begin with, and recently lost Devon Still. Obviously, losing Justin King, Dan Connor and Sean Lee will hurt. Especially Connor and Lee, tackling machines who set an aggressive tone for the defense. Will A.J. Wallace step up and blanket the other team’s number one wideout? Can the defensive ends, namely stud Maurice Evans, get enough of a rush to take some of the pressure off of a secondary with question marks? The Penn State offense, in a serious role reversal, may have to carry the defense this year. (Editor’s note: The Pun loves role reversals – he’s a real 21st century guy).

Should I stay or should I go now?

The Pundit highly doubts Joe Paterno is all that concerned with this question (Editor’s note: Or The Clash, for that matter). But if Penn State falters, is it time for Joe to step down? Many question whether or not he’s lost a bit of control over the program, especially given Penn State’s recent player transgressions. And he has certainly loosened his reins on game planning; one has to wonder if he’s become a figurehead, much like Florida State’s Bobby Bowden. The Pundit, for one, thinks that Joe Paterno, the most important figure Penn State football has ever had, should be carted to the field each week on a golden throne. And I also think that Paterno should delegate – extensively – from that throne.

(Editor’s note: Jimmy Rollins just hit an RBI single to close the gap to 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth. Keep up the rally writing, Pun.)

Oh, right. There are other teams to consider.

So, apparently Ohio State is good this year. Really good. The October 25th game, in Columbus, could be a match-up that determines the Big East champion. If, that is, Penn State can survive a late September / early October juggernaut of a schedule, that includes games against Illinois, Purdue (away), Wisconsin (away), and Michigan, the mystery of the Big Ten this year. Illinois still has QB Juice Williams and WR Arrelious Benn, and a better defense then some might think. Their running game, last year’s strength, is this year’s mystery, and may determine their fate. Wisconsin brings back 19 starters, and should run the ball effectively with P.J. Hill and solid RB depth. Oh, and Travis Beckum, their ridiculous All-American tight end, should only improve. Ohio State has my preseason pick for the Heisman, Beanie Wells, and enough talent to make Pete Carroll jealous. I firmly believe that these three teams should be the only three that threatens PSU this year, unless they underachieve, which they are fully capable of doing.

(Editor’s note: Eric Bruntlett just tied the game with a two-out, bottom of the 9th double. Carlos Ruiz steps to the plate, with the chance of making this, as The Pundit is calling it, The Official Rally Post. Ohhhhh baby, this is getting good).

So what’s gonna happen, Pundit?

State should coast against Coastal Carolina (Editor’s note: Ugggghhhh). Don’t give a dam about Oregon State, we’ve got a few more bullets in our holster. Syracuse? Oh brother. Temple? Well, um, you know they’ll come out swinging. (Editor’s note: Paging Mr. Reid). Then its Illinois, a game that I am scared of. Juice Williams is the type of player who can beat a team all on his lonesome; he did it last year to Ohio State. And if Illinois beats Missouri in their opener, they will have a lot of confidence coming into their meeting with Penn State. That being said, Beaver Stadium can quickly shake any team’s confidence. Plus, I don’t believe Illinois will beat Missouri – they have a lot to prove this year. Penn State in a scorefest. (Editor’s note: I could use more “scorefests” in my life) Purdue won’t be easy, but they should survive them. Wisconsin is a tough call. I think they’ll run the ball on Penn State, control the clock, and keep the ball out of the hands of the Penn State offense. Much as it pains me to say it, I think they’ll beat State in a hard-fought redemption game. (Editor’s note: Blasphemy!) Then, a huge test against Michigan. Wait, Michigan? That’s right, for a slew of reasons. For one, how will Penn State respond to their first loss? Will they be looking ahead to Ohio State? Not to mention that Michigan still has talent, and won’t roll over. This will be the character game of Penn State’s season, and I think they will respond, winning with a strong defensive performance after their disappointing showing against Wisconsin. Then, to Ohio State. I don’t think PSU can beat them in their house, unless something crazy happens. Too much talent for the damn Buckeyes, and just enough questions for Penn State. I’m afraid that, with the conference championship out of reach after losses to Wisconsin and Ohio State, they’ll lose focus and drop their game against Iowa. I don’t think, in any other circumstance, that this team could lose to Iowa, but in this case, with the Chip basically out of reach, they come out flat in a heart breaker for Penn State fans. They’ll regain their focus and win their last two, getting into a bowl, but their season will end with the bittersweet aftertaste of “what might have been”. Fact is, I feel as though this team is just a few key components away from claiming the Big Ten, and if they avoid Michigan and Iowa letdowns, could deliver a stellar showing. Should be an exciting and intriguing season in Happy Valley.

(Editor’s note: So, despite the fact that The Pundit is devoid of new content, and wanted this post to be finished hours ago, he refuses to finish it until the Phillies game is over for fear of ending its previous luck. He is steadfastly holding to the notion that if the Phillies win, this will become their Official 2008 Rally Post. Despite the fact that it is about Penn State Football. So, he continues to edit and add links and slightly modify filler sentences. Aaargghhh. Top of the 12th. Let’s go, boys!)

(Editor’s note: Top of the 13th. The Pundit refueses to end the post and watch the game. He hasn’t eaten in about 9 hours. He just exclaimed his love for swivel chairs. He’ll only turn around after hearing what is happening – he refuses to simply watch the game. He’s friggin’ batty, if you ask me. This is the classic case of a ridiculous fan thinking that they can somehow influence the result of a game by performing a rite of superstition. Holy shit, T-Mac just made a Penn State reference on the broadcast – something about Wheels’ notebook. It’s a sign, people. Go Phils!)

(Editor’s note: THE PHILLIES WIN!!! WHAT A GAME!!! They finally cap their magical comeback on a one out, bases load hit to center field by Chris Coste. A strange finish to the game. Shane Victorino started the inning with a triple. The Mets proceeded to intentionally walk the next two Phillies because the Phillies were out of bench players and had to send Brett Myers up to the plate. Charlie Manuel specifically instructed Myers not to swing so that he wouldn’t potentially hit into a double play. Myers was rung up, and the Coste shot would have likely been caught had Myers hit into a double play. As it was, Beltran was playing in and wouldn’t have had a play at the plate even had he been able to catch it. A crazy game with multiple moments of strange baseball strategy. Plus, hoping to avoid watching the game, The Pundit stumbled upon this article. Look where this schmuck predicts Penn State to finish! So, The Pundit can finally end his Penn State Preview. And, apparently, the Official 2008 Rally Post. He’s mumbling something about how this better be a great omen for PSU this year. Lucy, peel him out of the swivel chair, its time to go home.)

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