Smelling Roses? Predicting Penn State’s Bowl Game Destination

Another football season has left us as quickly as it arrived.  Penn State capped off another 10 win season with a senior day victory over Rutgers.  There isn’t much to talk about from this one, it was a really bad game that I wasn’t able to watch.  Rutgers is bad at football and Penn State really had nothing to play for. That matched with the smaller post-thanksgiving crowd was a formula for an overall bad game.  Either way, Penn State is 1-0 this week and ends the season 10-2.  

With all things considered, a 10-win season is a step in the right direction for Penn State Football.  The losses to Minnesota and Ohio State hurt, but it shouldn’t put a damper on the entire season. I’ll have a full season recap later, but we still got a bowl game to play.  Tuesday nights rankings put Penn State at No. 10 in the country entering Championship Weekend. Let’s take a look at where Penn State may play this bowl season, who they may play, and who you should root for this championship weekend.

The Impossible: College Football Playoff

It should be obvious now, but I’ll address it.  Penn State is not going to the playoffs. It was a possibility for a long part of the season, but Minnesota put the nail in the coffin and Ohio State hammered it in.  The playoff picture should be generally untouched in my eyes. Ohio State, LSU, and Clemson should all win their championship games. Georgia plays LSU in the SEC Championship Game and if they win, their in.  Georgia winning doesn’t mean LSU is out of the playoffs though, meaning 2 SEC teams would be in the playoffs, leaving out Utah or Oklahoma.

My prediction is Ohio State, LSU, and Clemson all win and make the playoffs.  This means Georgia is out, opening the door for Utah or Oklahoma to slip in. Considering the committees love for Oklahoma and their disgust for the Pac 12, my final four will have Ohio State vs. Oklahoma and LSU vs. Clemson in the playoff semifinals.

The Worst Case Scenario: Outback Bowl

Having the Outback Bowl as a “worst case” scenario is a good indication of how good this Penn State team is.  A trip to Florida for bowl season is always a good time and the teams Penn State would play would really be a good benchmark for where this team is.  If it comes to the Outback Bowl, Penn State would most likely play either Auburn, Texas A&M or, wait for it, ALABAMA. Alabama may have lost twice this season, but I don’t need to see that Alamba receiving core match up against the Penn State secondary.   It would be like having five Rashod Bateman’s running at you every single play. Even with no Tua, Penn State doesn’t stand a chance.  

If you play Auburn, Penn State would be playing against a top tier Auburn defense and freshman  phenom in Bo Nix. If you play Texas A&M, the task isn’t as daunting but a Jimbo Fisher coached team lead by quarterback Kellen Mond will have a field day vs. Penn State. For the sake of my fragile ego, Penn State can’t play in the Outback Bowl.  The Outback Bowl doesn’t have the same prestige as the other bowls I’m going to mention and I don’t need to see Penn State play Alabama or Auburn, PLEASE GOD NO!

The Plausible: Orange Bowl

Penn State could be making a trip to south Florida this bowl season to play in the Orange Bowl.  This scenario is a little more complicated, but yet again still possible. This only comes if Penn State isn’t the second highest ranked team in the Big Ten post championship weekend.  This would mean Wisconsin either won or played Ohio State close, resulting in them either staying at No.8 or dropping to No.9, which would be one ahead of No.10 Penn State. This would mean Penn State would have to claim the at large bid here, meaning they have to beat out Florida, Notre Dame, Alabama, Auburn, and any other team I couldn’t think of.  The committee loves Penn State and with a favorable ranking, they can slide in ahead of all those teams.

If Penn State plays in Miami, their opponent would be either Clemson or Virginia.  The only way Clemson plays in this game is if they lose to Virginia, which is highly doubtful.  So if it comes to this, Penn State would play Virginia. Is it a favorable matchup for Penn State? Yes.  Is it entertaining? Sure. Is it the most appetizing option Bowl game for Penn State? No. The only reason Virginia would get this spot is because the ACC Coastal is a joke and Clemson is in the playoffs. Virginia probably won’t even be ranked when they play in a New Year’s Six bowl game.  From my minimal research, this is the first time since unranked Wisconsin represented the Big Ten in the 2011 Rose Bowl that an unranked team played in a New Year’s Six game. I like and respect Virginia, but they don’t deserve to be in this game. I would have preferred to play Justin Fuente’s Virginia Tech, as I think it would be a better game and a nice preview for Penn State’s trip to Blacksburg next season.  Either way, Penn State playing in the Orange Bowl would be great, as any New Year’s Six game is good for this Nittany Lion team.

The Likely: Rose Bowl

I love the smell of roses on New Year’s DayIt’s crazy to think that this Penn State team is in a perfect place for a Rose Bowl berth, but it’s their.  Penn State is currently the 3rd highest ranked team in the Big Ten, behind Ohio State and Wisconsin. With Wisconsin at No. 8 and two losses on the season, a loss in the Big Ten Championship game should put them below Penn State with three losses.  With Ohio State in the playoff, Penn State would be the highest remaining ranked Big Ten team and that means a Rose Bowl berth. In an attempt to be unbiased, having Minnesota at No. 18 in the ranking is disrespectful to the Golden Gophers. Obviously i’m happy Penn State is in this position, but the Golden Gophers should be more of a factor then they are.

The only way this doesn’t happen is if Wisconsin wins in Indianapolis.  It’s gonna be tough for the Badgers, but if they pull it off, they’re either in the Rose Bowl or maybe they slip into the playoffs.  Considering Ohio State is a buzzsaw offensively and defensively, I don’t see Wisconsin having a chance. A close Wisconsin lose may still keep them over Penn State, but the committee loves Penn State and a Badger loss would relegate them to the Outback or Taxslayer Bowl. 

My Prediction

My bet is Penn State will be smelling roses in a showdown vs. either Utah or Oregon.  Similar to the 2016 Rose Bowl, either matchup would be one of the most enticing during Bowl season.  If Penn State could win against either of these teams, it would not only be a highly ranked win, but a win against what one has to assume would be the Pac 12 champion.  Take your pick on who you want to face. It’s either a dynamic Oregon offense lead by Justin Herbert and former Penn Stater Juwan Johnson vs the hard hitting, dynamic defense of Utah.  For a gauge where Penn State is nationally, Oregon would be the better matchup, but I have a sour taste in my mouth from 2016 and want that Rose Bowl. So I’m predicting No.9 Penn State will have a date with No. 5 Utah on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California.  It still feels crazy to say, but ladies and gentlemen, prepare to take out that second mortgage to fund a New Year’s trip to the granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl.

 

Penn State Basketball Review: Believe the Hype

I may have overreacted a bit in my last column. The 4-0 start got to me and gave me ample amounts of faith in this team. This is not to say I lost faith – as a matter of fact, I am still buying in heavily to Penn State basketball this year. 

Since the 4-0 start the Lions are 3-1, with the single loss coming to Ole Miss. Penn State has proven through eight games to be a legit team at the defensive end. Currently they rank 23rd in the nation in total steals (82) and 13th in total blocks (50). The team’s grit on defense has paid off with Chambers’ team earning the 10th-best defensive rating in all of college hoops. Defense has been carrying some of the weight lately as a few offensive struggles have made their way to the surface. 

Fans must remember the backcourt for this squad is young and still has much to learn. That being said, in recent matchups there has been a definite uptick in turnovers. The good news is that there is plenty of season left for this to be cleaned up. On the other side of that, two of the most pivotal matchups on the calendar are up next with games against No. 6 Ohio State and No. 3 Maryland. 

Despite no longer being undefeated, Penn State is gaining recognition around the sports world. Its BPI rank has risen to 17th (four spots up from the last rankings). Not to mention the current projections for the NCAA Tournament have the Nittany Lions at a possible four seed. Last year they only made the NCAA projections once, as a projected 16 seed. Now I won’t be reviewing the Yale or Ole Miss games,  as they are long gone, but let us delve into the most recent two contests, Syracuse and Wake Forest. 

Penn State vs. Syracuse: 85-64 W

After a devastating loss in the first round of the NIT Tip Off tournament (they blew a 21-point lead to Ole Miss) the Lions bounced back soundly against the Orange. Despite allowing Syracuse to make a little run to begin the second half, PSU was able to handle Jim Boeheim’s squad with relative ease. 

This game marked Lamar Stevens’ third 20-point outing of the season. Stevens’ play has been growing more consistent, something his teammates will need going forward. 

Behind Stevens were blooming sophomore guard Myreon Jones (16 pts) and senior forward Mike Watkins (15 pts). Penn State’s bench was also productive in this one as both Curtis Jones and Seth Lundy managed double-digit scoring. 

The Lions were able to limit Syracuse’s best player, Elijah Hughes, to only 3-11 from the field. Although Hughes did have a productive day from the charity stripe, it seemed his inability to get in a rhythm slowed down the rest of the Syracuse offense. 

It certainly wasn’t the most efficient game from PSU as they only shot 40 percent from the field. But it was a good win against a very respectable Syracuse team coached by one of college basketball’s all time best, Jim Boeheim. 

Penn State vs. Wake Forest: 76-54 W

Another dominant performance from Penn State’s defense as for the third time this season they have held an opponent under 60 points. This was also the first game in which the Lions held their opponent below 30 percent shooting. Penn State also forced 20 turnovers, 12 coming from steals. 

Mike Watkins was the silent MVP of this one as he stuffed the stat sheet across the board. Watkins finished with 7 points, 16 rebounds, 3 steals, and 5 blocks. It was a productive game to say the least for the big man. 

As usual, Myreon Jones and Lamar Stevens led in the scoring department, putting up 22 and 14 respectively. This was Jones’ second 20-point outing of the season. He is averaging 16 points per game this year. 

Pat Chambers needed the past two wins to get his team back in a confident state of mind. Now the real test starts. Penn State enters BigTen play this Saturday, December 7th, in their matchup against Ohio State. Maybe they can do what Penn State football could not and solidify themselves as a legit tournament team team. 

Up Next: @ No. 6 Ohio State 12/7, vs No. 3 Maryland 12/10

State Leaders (per game)

  • Points – Lamar Stevens (17.5)
  • Assists – Myreon Jones (3.4)
  • Rebounds – Mike Watkins (10.0)
  • Steals – Jamari Wheeler (2.5)
  • Blocks – Mike Watkins (4.1)

 

 

Rutgers: LOL

It hurts just a little bit.  Despite a spirited effort by the Nittany Lions, Ohio State proved too much this past Saturday as the Lions fell to the now number one ranked Buckeyes by a score of 28-17.  Considering the Lions were 19-point road underdogs, they sure didn’t play like one.  

Both coaches said pregame that in order to win the heavyweight matchup, they needed to land big blows on their opponent.  At the start of this game, it was all Buckeyes. The duo of J.K Dobbins and quarterback Justin Fields tore apart the stout Nittany Lions defense.  As the first half came to a close, it was looking like the second half has squaring up to be a rout.

After an early second half touchdown that extended the Buckeye lead to 21-0, chaos commenced.  Sean Clifford went down following a brutal hit from an Ohio State defender, forcing redshirt freshman Will Levis to enter the game. The quarterback was thought to be a known quantity as an athletic, but raw play caller.  Levis’s first drive felt like old school, hard mouth Penn State football. He and Journey Brown used their physical running ability and ran the ball down the Buckeyes throat for a touchdown.  

Following that, a switch was flipped and the Penn State defense looked absolutely dominate.  The play following the touchdown, Ohio State’s stud running back J.K Dobbins fumbled the football and Penn State recovered.  Just like the last Penn State offensive drive, Levis and Brown ran the ball right through the Buckeye defense and scored yet another touchdown.  It was deja vu on the following Buckeye drive, as they fumbled again and Penn State recovered. Penn State was held to a field goal, but the Nittnay Lions had suckered punched the best team in the country so hard that their was a belief that the Nittany Lions could pull off the shocker.

Sadly for Penn State, Ohio State’s sheer talent took over.  The Ohio State defense clamped down with the leadership of future number one pick, Chase Young.  A 4th quarter Chris Olave touchdown would seal it for the Buckeyes, as Ohio State escaped the Horseshoe with a victory and their perfect record in tact.  Ohio State’s stars came to play and in the end, that made the difference.

I’ve never felt better after a loss.  The defense, including the secondary, played amazing.  Micah Parson’s did his thing and Lamont Wade was an absolute beast.  Offensively we saw Will Levis’s coming out party. Is he the new starting quarterback over Clifford this season?  The answer is a hard no. This performance did show us that James Franklin may have something to ponder at the quarterback position, possibly opening up a quarterback competition in the spring.  Also, Journey Brown continues to improve week by week. I have full confidence in Journey Brown as Penn State starting running back this season and next, with Noah Cain as a situational guy for the time being.

A loss is a loss though.  Penn State has suffered their second loss of the season, putting them at a 9-2 record.  The College Football rankings put the Nittany Lions at No. 10 in the country, keeping them firmly in the mix for a spot in a New Year’s Six Bowl.  There’s still business to be done and that starts with going 1-0 this week. So let’s get it. It’s time to take a look at this week’s opponent, the mighty, terrifying, dominate *checks notes*, RUTGERS!!!

At First Glance…

RUTGERS IS SO BAD.  They currently sit at a 2-9 record and have not won a single game in conference play.  They beat UMASS and Liberty. Their like really, really, really bad.

A Deeper Look…

To put Rutgers into perspective, there isn’t a single player currently on their roster who would even sniff Penn State’s starting lineup.  The best player they “have”, Raheem Blacksheer, decided to redshirt 4 games into the season because they were so bad and he didn’t want to play for them anymore.  Blacksheer, a junior running back, is statistically Rutgers 2nd best receiver. HE HASN’T PLAYED IN TWO MONTHS!

I can’t preview their quarterback because no one knows who’s it’s going to be.  They’ve used Johnny Langan, Artur Sitlowski, and McLane Carter. Not a single one of them has a positive touchdown to interception ratio.   I would expect for Langan to start this game, but I highly doubt he finishes it. Their one bright spot can be considered to be Isaah Pacheco.  He’s got 7 touchdowns on the season, which is kinda good.

The defense isn’t even worth mentioning.  According to S+P ranking, which is a highly regarding stat in tracking the quality of a team, Rutgers ranks 118 out of 130 FBS teams.  At least they’re not the worst team, statistically.

Connor’s Keys to the Game…

Penn State- Show Up

Yep.

Rutgers- Hope Penn State doesn’t show up

Yep.

Predictions

Penn State’s going to win this game and it won’t even be close.  I wouldn’t be shocked if a game similar to last year happened, where Penn State only won 20-6.  It may be a slow start from the Nittany Lions, but their going to run away with it. Couple all this with the fact that Penn State’s performance may have a factor on their bowl placement, pray for Rutgers.  I’ll give Rutgers a field goal out of pity and also for the fact they represent my home state of New Jersey.

Score Prediction- Penn State 49, Rutgers 3

If you can get out to the game this weekend, try and go.  With a lot of students home for break, the student section will be bare.  It’s the last home game for the likes of Jon Reid, Garrett Taylor, Robert Windsor, Blake Gillikan, Jan Johnson, Nick Bowers, and nine other seniors.  A spot in the Rose Bowl or Orange Bowl are still on the line. So, Nittany Nation, let’s get it for one final time. Kickoff from Beaver Stadium is set for 3:30 p.m on Saturday, November 30.  The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. As our fearless leader James Franklin always says, “It begins with I love you and ends with I love you.” We Are!

 

A Night to Remember

By Sierra Snigier

Although a divide came down 30 years ago, the feelings are still here today.

On Nov. 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall border that separated East and West Germany fell. To celebrate this anniversary, Penn State Altoona (PSUA) had a speaker panel titled “Looking In, Looking Out” of Altoona residents that had first-hand experience in the former divided Germany.

The four speakers were former U.S. serviceman and Altoona Fire Chief Tim Hileman, former West Germany resident and instructor Anja Wagner, former East Germany resident Maggie Garman and former U.S. serviceman John Cool.

Matthew Adams, a PSUA 2018 graduate, commented on the panelists. “It’s interesting to think that even in a town that is kind of quiet, maybe, has a lot of people that have been witness to and participated in very monumental historical things,” said Adams.

While Hileman was living there, he served as a border cavalry scout. He described the tensions of border crossing to the audience of 30 in Misciagna Family Center for Performing Arts. “It was very intimidating. You wouldn’t want to try, unless you were really willing to take risk of your life,” said Hileman.

As Hileman was protecting the Germans on the border, Wagner felt that protection as a citizen.

Wagner grew up 15 miles from the East border, where American troops were in her town. “So, you probably imagine people living there in this area kinda shaking in their boots, right? Not so,” said Wagner.

Wagner describes that this was normal to them. She didn’t know anything different until she read a book in school from an author that described the destruction and mentioned places in her town.

While Wagner was growing up with the border, Garman was a child on the other side.

Garman grew up on the East Germany side, northwest of Berlin. She recounts that her town was not as strict as the border areas, but she did realize that there were differences between East and West Germany.

Garman touched on the propaganda that was pushed in her school, and how herself and her friends did not believe it, but a lot did. “I know there is still people today especially elderly people who never got over that divide in their heads,” said Garman.

Josh Potts, a resident of Altoona commented on the anniversary. “To see that kind of divide so recent to the time we’re in now is so surprising,” said Potts.

Cool was one of the 21-gun salute members when President Ronald Reagan came to Berlin for a speech. During the speech, Reagan made an infamous, unscripted quote, “Tear down this wall.”

Cool recalls that to him, this was the proudest moment in his military career. “Set of shivers run down my spine like never before because I knew in that moment I had just witnessed history,” said Cool.

Fourth Quarter Defense Helps Lady Lions Rally Past Bethany 74-62

Penn State Altoona women’s basketball overcame a deficit through three quarters of play during Saturday afternoon’s non-conference battle in the Adler Auxiliary Gym, coming back in the fourth quarter to defeat Bethany College 74-62.

The Lady Lions (2-2) trailed Bethany 51-48 by the conclusion of the third quarter, but Penn State Altoona used a strong defensive effort in the final period of play to rally past the Bison.

“I loved how we played in the middle of the third and the fourth,” said Penn State Altoona head coach Casey Wilt. “Our defense started the shift from trailing to taking the lead and hanging on throughout the rest of the game.”

Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) scored a game-high 16 points for Penn State Altoona while grabbing six rebounds and blocking two shots. Sarah Huston (Coatesville, PA/Coatesville) contributed 15 points – including going 8-for-8 at the free throw line – and four rebounds off the bench.

Sydney Snyder (New Enterprise, PA/Northern Bedford) added 12 points and a game-high five assists, and Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) scored 11 points while tying for the game-high in steals with four.

Kaley Strittmatter (Williamsburg, PA/Penn Cambria) added nine points, and Paige Burk (Claysburg, PA/Claysburg-Kimmel) tied Christine with four steals and secured a team-best seven rebounds.

For Bethany (0-6), Kelsie Meintel, Courtney Walker, and Haylie Glass each scored 12 points.

Penn State Altoona was helped by finishing the game plus-17 in the turnover battle, forcing 27 Bethany turnovers while committing just 10 themselves. The Lady Lions’ total of 10 turnovers was the fewest in a game by the team since last January 12, a span of 16 games.

Bethany opened the game by outscoring Penn State Altoona 7-2 in the first two minutes. The Lady Lions pulled back and eventually took an 11-9 lead at 3:41 on Cannistraci’s layup, and back-to-back scores from Cannistraci and Christine gave the home team a 15-14 lead with 1:02 left in the period. A free throw by Meintel with 46 seconds left tied the game 15-15, and that score stood for the rest of the quarter.

The two teams battled through another even quarter in the second, with each squad putting 13 points on the scoreboard. Meintel’s basket and pair of foul shots put the Bison ahead 24-20 at the 4:20 mark, but three-pointers from Christine and Snyder got Penn State Altoona back on top, 26-25, with 1:14 to go in the half. Glass’ layup and foul shot with 24 seconds left gave Bethany a brief 28-26 lead, but Huston’s free throws with four seconds on the clock tied the score 28-28.

Bethany threatened to pull away midway through the third quarter, only to have Penn State Altoona close the gap to a one possession game by period’s end. Three-pointers on consecutive possessions by Walker and Abbey Dobbins helped Bethany to a 41-32 lead by the 5:35 mark.

But Huston’s three-pointer at 3:24 cut Bethany’s lead to six, 43-37, and Strittmatter converted on a three-point play at 1:04 to trim her team’s deficit to three, 48-45. Bethany came back with a three-pointer by Allison Kuhn, but Snyder answered with a trey of her own to make it 51-48 by the end of the third.

“Sarah was our defensive game changer. Her intensity on defense created chaos and made Bethany uncomfortable,” said Wilt. “Strong defense led to a beautiful transition score from Syd to Kay late in the third quarter.”

Penn State Altoona took advantage of a pair of Bethany turnovers early in the fourth, as Snyder and Huston teamed up for back-to-back layups off of turnovers to give the Lady Lions a 52-51 lead less than a minute into the quarter.

“How about that behind-the-back pass from Syd to Sarah in transition? That was pretty sweet,” Wilt remarked. “The two of them kept it rolling for us offensively. Their two backdoor scores couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.”

The Lady Lions did not relinquish the lead for the rest of the quarter. Buckets by Cannistraci and Snyder increased Penn State Altoona’s advantage to 56-51 by 7:45, and scores from Alivia Borlie (Belsano, PA/Bishop Carroll) and Burk made it 60-55 by 6:27.

Bethany got back to within one, 60-59, following a pair of Meintel free throws at 4:26, but a Kassidy Sorichetti (Halifax, PA/Halifax) converted on a three-point play at 4:18 to get her team’s lead back to four points, 63-59. Cannistraci and Borlie followed with scores to make it 67-59 by 2:13.

Huston’s layup at 1:24 gave Penn State Altoona a 69-62 lead, and Christine, Huston, and Cannsitraci combined to go 5-for-6 from the foul line within the final 50 seconds of the game to help ice the Lady Lions’ win.

The Lady Lions’ 26-11 fourth quarter scoring advantage was powered by a defensive effort that limited Bethany to an 18.8 percent (3-for-16) performance from the floor while also forcing seven turnovers. Penn State Altoona also took advantage of driving to the basket during the fourth quarter, going 10-for-12 on shots inside three-point range.

“We continued to find success when we attacked the basket,” said Wilt. “I don’t typically tell them to stop shooting, but tonight I had to tell them to lay off the threes, because we weren’t hitting. Our success was on the inside and from transition points.”

Penn State Altoona led Bethany in points off turnovers (31-10) and fastbreak points (16-2).

Next, the Lady Lions will travel for their first Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference game of the season at La Roche University on Tuesday, November 26.

“We have a big game coming up on Tuesday. In order for us to win, we need that defensive presence to show up from the start and remain,” Wilt stated. “I’m glad we are entering conference play on a win. Bethany certainly challenged us from the start.”

Tipoff for Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh is scheduled for 8:00 p.m.