National Signing Day

Wednesday, February 7, is a day every college coach marks on his calendar. February 7th is national signing day, the day when all recruiting classes are finalized and football pundits can begin to talk about who will have a legitimate shot at a national title. For years this has been the big day, but this year, the NCAA changed the rules and allowed for one early signing period to take place in December for a few days. Most players signed their national letters of intent on those days, but there are still a few prized recruits left to commit including 4 star OT from Maryland, Rasheed Walker. Rasheed Walker is the most important remaining prospect for Penn State football as the offensive line has been a sore spot for the team the last few years. Other than Walker, Penn State will be watching to see what 4 star receiver Solomon Enis will do. Enis, for a long time, has been projected to go Penn State because he is the son of former Penn State All-American Curtis Enis. Other than this, signing day will be a quiet day for Penn State. With this in mind, this blog will take the time to now highlight some key pieces of the recruiting class.

5 Stars: Micah Parsons, Justin Shorter, Ricky Slade. These three players were touched upon in the last blog because of how instrumental they will be for the sustained success of the program. All three players have the ability to play as freshman.

5 Star Justin Shorter shows his potential.

4 Stars: 11 in total. With 11 total four star recruits to go along with the 3 five stars, Penn State has an incredible number of 14 blue chip prospects. This total is enough to propel Penn State into uncharted territory as, according to ESPN, this is Penn State’s highest recruiting class ever (the classes began being scored in 2006) With this is mind, fans everywhere should be very excited for what is to come in the next few years. Of those four stars we will focus in on a few. 1. Jayson Oweh. Oweh is a very interesting and exciting prospect. He is a DE and ranked as the fifth best at his position in the country. Owen signed during the early signing period but did not announce his decision till later on national tv (he chose the Lions over OSU) Besides his lighting speed and agility, the reason he is so exciting is that he did not begin playing football until he was a junior in high school. That’s right. High school. He is just full of untapped potential and should be one to keep an eye on. 2. Frederick Scruggs out of Erie Cathedral. This is a very important player as he will help alleviate the O-Line issues. He is the fourth best player in respective position. 3. Zach Kuntz/Pat Friermouth. Kuntz and Friermouth are part of the best signed TE duo in the country. Kuntz is the 4th best in his position and Friermouth is the 9. Two top ten TEs is a solid start at replacing Mike Gesicki.

The new season cannot come soon enough. At least Blue White game is coming up.

Looking Forward to 2018

The 2017 season is officially in the books. Alabama is national champions, blah blah blah Nick Saban, blah. In college football, each team is around for only one year. Next year’s team will be will lose key players Marcus Allen, Jason Cabinda, Mike Gesicki, Daeshean Hamilton, and Troy Apeke among others to graduation. Undeniably, the biggest loss will be of consensus first team All American, Saquon Barkley who isforgoing his senior season for the NFL draft and is predicted to be a top five draft selection. Key returning players include: Trace McSorely, who is on the preseason shortlist of Heisman Trophy contenders, Juwan Johnson, Miles Sanders, and John Reid who is returning after missing last season with a torn ACL. The team has certainly lost a lot of star power, but there are several key young players waiting for their chance to shine. Among those potential stars are Tariq Castro-Fields and Lamont Wade at the defensive back position, and five star freshman Micah Parsons who will be looking to earn the starting position at linebacker. After losing the star power this teamhas, most teams would experience a rebuilding year, but not Penn State. Coach, James Franklin has done an admirable job recruiting in the last few years and has the young talent primed to make an instant impact. This year, Franklin has his recruiting class situated nicely at 4 in the country with several incredibly promising prospects.

The 2017 seniors on senior day.

Taking an in depth look at this year’s recruiting class, it is no secret that homegrown, 5 star, 5th best prospect in the country, Micah Parsons is a huge recruiting win for Franklin. Beyond Parsons, there are two other five stars, WR Justin Shorter (number one receiver in the country according to ESPN), and RB Ricky Slade (number two running back according to ESPN). These three players are the nucleus around which Franklin hopes to build a national championship team. All three players have the potential to have a considerable impact as freshman. What Franklin has accomplished is quite remarkable as having three five stars commit in one class is the most Penn State has ever had. In the class, Penn State has an incredible 14 blue chip recruits. (a blue chip recruit is any recruit who is four or five stars) Some may say that four and five star recruits do not matter, they may use the example of three star QB Trace McSorely leading PSU to a Big Ten title, but there is no way to deny hard statistics. The last ten national champions have been over the magical threshold of more than 50% of their scholarship players being former blue chip recruits. With this year’s class, Penn State will join an exclusive club of less than ten teams nationally that can claim that. Does this mean a national championship is in the cards? Potentially, but one cannot forget wh
at Urban Meyer has been able to do at OSU where his class currently sits at 2 in the country.

 

Being the offseason, the blogs will continue to look at Penn State off the field in the subsequent blogs.

#dontbethatguy goes to Georgia. Blowing that lead? Come on dawg.

Fiesta Bowl Champions

11-2, and a Fiesta Bowl victory. To most, that seems like a successful season, even a great season. But why does it feel so.. empty? Why does this feel like a let down? Penn State won its biggest bowl game since a 2005 Orange Bowl victory of Florida State. Penn State finished in the top ten for back to back seasons. We, as fans, were privileged to watch the once in a generation talent of Saquon Barkley routinely produce highlight reel plays. Every week it seemed like the game was not complete until Barkley broke off a big play. That is not normal. Players do not do that. One or two, or maybe five, at most, big plays would qualify as a phenomenal talent and incredible year, but Barkley could have an astonishing career highlight tape of his career and it would only have to show his junior season. So why does it feel like something is missing?

The Nittany Lions were four points from perfection. Four. A 39-38 loss at #6 Ohio State and a last second field goal loss to #24 Michigan State resulted in a 27-24 loss that would ultimately quash the hopes of a birth to the program’s first College Football Playoff. Had Ryan Bates not gone down with an injury against Ohio State, maybe the offensive line could have given Barkley enough time to run some clock, or maybe it could have prevented the running game from being torn apart the next week against Michigan State. Maybe if the defense made one more play, or just sacked JT Barrett one time in the fourth quarter could they have stolen the momentum, or maybe the pass defense could have done anything but give up 400 passing yards against Michigan State. What if Trace McSorely did not throw three interceptions against Michigan State, including one late in the game that could have put Michigan State away instead of allowing them to tie the game?All these what ifs will forever live on for those who followed the 2017-2018 season. The fact of the matter is, PSU at one point held the #2 ranking in the country and had the single best football player in the country. With this in mind, anything but a national championship seems like a disappointment.

This view could not be anymore nearsighted considering where the program was just four years ago. This year, Penn State just finished off an incredible campaign with an incredible New Years’s Six bowl 35-28 win against a stout #11 Washington Husky team.

Saquon Barkley breaks off a Penn State Bowl and Fiesta Bowl record 92 yard run.

The Huskies had the number one rushing defense in the country giving up just over 94 yards a game. Saquon Barkley gained 92 yards in just one play as the Penn State offense lit up the tough defense. On the defensive end, the PSU defensive backs did an admirable job forcing a very dangerous QB in Jake Browning to under 200 yards passing.

A Fiesta bowl win (which I had the pleasure to witness in person), back to back top ten rankings and 11 wins seasons, and a recruiting class ranked number four in the country as a result of the on field success? Yea, I guess you could say it was a very successful season.

Defensive MVP Marcus Allen and Offensive MVP Trace McSorely celebrate a successful 2017 campaign.

Till Next Year

At the end of the last post, I touched on how these next three games would decide the Lions’ fate and whether or not Saquon had a shot at the Heisman. Remember how hopeful we all felt? This was it- we were number two in the country- the eyes of the nation were upon us. Win two of these games and PSU would be in a very good spot to go to their first ever CFP.

Things started out as well as they could on the second offensive play of the Michigan game. Saquon took the ball over 60 yards for a touchdown, electrifying the record setting white out attendance of over 110,000. Minutes later, Saquon would run for another touchdown. Coming out at halftime with a 21-13 lead, PSU never looked back, dominating for a 42-13 win, running it up in the process to avenge last season.

Saquon Barkley runs 67 yards on the second play of the game.

Coming off the Michigan domination, the Lions headed to Columbus Ohio to play the Buckeyes. For the second straight week, the game involving the Lions hosted College Gameday. Once again, as has been the trend this season, Penn State was hot right out of the gate. Saquon took the opening kick all the way back scoring on his first touch yet again! Then, on their first posession, the Buckeyes fumbled and PSU capitalized. Minutes later, Saquon would run 36 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-3. Keeping a lead around most of the game, an controllable game and a crucial win seemed within reach. Everything, the CFP, the Heisman,  silencing the doubts, were all within grasp- and then it happened. In the most Penn State-esq way, the offense stalled and the defense could not make a stop. What resulted was a gut wrenching 38-39 heart break loss.

Saquon takes the opening kick back against

Picking up the pieces, the Lions would head to East Lansing to play the Michigan State Spartans. PSU was ranked 7 and MSU was ranked 24 in the first CFP. As expected, PSU was electric to start the game passing all over the MSU defense… and then the rain set in. An ensuing 2 hour delay took away all the steam from the Lions’ offense and left the field soaked. Weather favors the underdog. as the game progressed, word spread that Ohio State had been upset. The door was wide open- and MSU closed it shut 27-24 in one of the most deflating losses in recent PSU history. Trace McSorely threw three picks and Saquon could not get going. It was all there for us, and we let it get away. Penn State lost this season by 4 points.

In other news, Georgia is unbeaten no more and Notre Dame got destroyed by a legitimate Miami team. Both are results Penn State needed to make the CFP had they escaped MSU. After beating Rutgers the Lions are now 10 in the country and in great position withtwo gamesleft to make a big time New Year’s Six bowl. In any year this would be considered a major success, but after seeing what it feels like to be at the top, it just seems like fools gold.

#dontbethatguy goes to me and all the other fans who bought into a national title.

Next game: Nebraska 4pm BIG 10 Network. Its senior day, and likely Saquon’s last game.

 

Gameday!

Get up, its Gameday! For the first time since 2009, ESPN’s College Gameday will be broadcasted live from Penn State, and for the first time ever, from iconic Old Main. Every week the show picks the best game of the week and hosts their show from the campus of the host team. They decided that this week, the whiteout showdown between 2. Penn State 19. Michigan, is the place to be.The atmosphere around campus is electric and campus is soon to be packed. James Franklin is calling for Beaver Stadium to be #110kstrong, and an all time large crowd is expected.

The iconic Gameday crew, hosting them is a dream come true for college football fans.

Everyone around college football knows that Penn State is relatively untested so far this season. Crucial to their national championship hopes is the upcoming three game stretch of 19. Michigan, 6. Ohio State, and 17. Michigan State. Penn State has done well enough to get to this point 6-0. They survived the upsets and turmoil, and now find themselves on the cusp of an actually attainable birth to their first ever College Football Playoff. Several key upsets have led to the Lions being ranked second, their highest ranking since 1999. Coming off a strong win (albeit there was much concern about a porous offensive line) against Northwestern, an advantageous bye week propelled the Lions forward. The sights are now set on Michigan. A team who humiliated the Lions 49-10, a team who may have kept the Lions out of the CFP with the trouncing, now comes to town with a chance for revenge on primetime at 7:30pm, in a whiteout, with College Gameday coming. One could argue this may be the single biggest game in terms of coverage in Penn State history. A convincing win could solidify the Lions as contenders, and Saquon as the premier Heisman favorite. The spread of 11 points for this game is a little high in my opinion, I do not know if i would take the Lions, but in this environment I think the Lions will get the job done.

Assuming the Lions win, the next two games, both away at ranked opponents, will decide the fate of the Lions. One Vegas opening line has Ohio State as 9.5 point favorites which is both insulting and astounding.

Elsewhere around college football this week we have a CFP eliminator game in 11. USC vs 13. Notre Dame. Both teams have one loss and with other gaining a huge advantage with a big win, the other will be eliminated from contention. At the midway point of the season, it appears that there may, for the first time ever, be one conference that gets more than one team in the CFP with the ACC, PAC 12, and Big 12 having teams with outside chances of getting in. This begs the question, assuming everyone goes 11-1, who gets in? Ohio State and PSU, or UGA and Bama? Personally, I feel that the SEC teams have incredibly weak schedules, so the Big 10 should get the nod. Only time will tell.

The honor of #dontbethatguy goes to Auburn for losing against a lackluster LSU team when up 20-0.

Don’t forget to tune into gameday at 9am, and the whiteout on primetime at 7:30ET on ABC

Just a friendly reminder of what happened last time Michigan vs. PSU whiteout was a night game.

PSU Rolls Onward

Since the last blog, Penn State has played two games, and won both on the scoreboard but went 1-1 against the spread. On national television, in front of 109,000+ fans, the 4th ranked Lions took the field against bitter rival Pitt hoping to avenge a gut wrenching 42-39 loss last season that may have ultimately kept the Lions out of the CFP. Before the game, the crowd was rocking as the 2016 sign to commemorate last year’s magical season was unveiled. Getting off to a fast start, in the first defensive series, DB Grant Haley intercepted a pass and returned it to inside the ten yardline. One play later, it was 7-0. State never looked back. The largest crowd in several yearswas treated to a 33-14 victory. This result, however, was not good enough for the AP voters as the Lions dropped to 5 in the poll, behind USC who dominated a top 20 Stanford squad. 

Saquon Barkley scoring one of two TD’s against Pitt

One week later, on September 16, the Nittany Lions faced off against the Georgia State Panthers under the lights. Despite the fact that the 38.5 point spread on the game was the largest in PSU history, the atmosphere was electrifying. Potentially more important than the game at hand, were the several top target recruits on hand at the game to witness Beaver Stadium and America’s best student section at night. With a game that was going to end in a PSU win before it even started, the fans were given a chance to celebrate a lot of touchdowns, none more impressive than this 85 yard reception by the incredible, Saquon Barkley.

The rest of the game was mop up duty as the reserves got to play. With the game well out of reach, and the clock winding down, Georgia State lined up to attempt a field go to prevent being shutout. It was a very makable field goal, and he made it- except, coach Franklin, had called a timeout seconds before the ball was snapped. This decision has drawn some controversy with members of the media speculating that he had attempted to ice a kicker while up 56-0. Coach Franklin has vehemently denied this, but honestly, who cares? The final score was PSU 56 GA State 0.

Elsewhere around college football this past weekend, USC avoided a catastrophic upset by coming back in the final seconds of regulation to force OT and beat Texas in double OT. This performance at home cost USC as they fell back to 5 and PSU returned to 4. Additionally, Ohio State could not figure out their offense and fell to 10 in the polls.

Next game up the Lions is a worrisome one. A night game in Kinnick. Any college football fan knows what that means. Upset. The Lions themselves felt the sting last time they were a top 5 team in a night game at Kinnick. The game will be aired nationally,4. PSU vs Iowa 7:30 ET on ABC.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not bestow the honor of #dontbethatguy to my favorite overrated coach in the country, Butch Jones. It seems like a trend to have Tennessee be overrated, or just the SEC in general. Regardless, his team, the Volunteers, lost on a hailmary. Gee, you can’t teach your defense or at least have them ready for a pass headed to the endzone? Everyone in the country knew where that ball was going.

Game 1: Akron vs. #6 Penn State

Ahh, the first game of the season. A nice day in early September in the happiest of valleys. Temperatures usually peak around 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit and everyone is feeling good in the warm sunlight. As the Lions took the field last Saturday, the 2nd of September, all thoughts of warm sunlight and chilling in Raybans disappeared as it was a miserable sub 60 degree day with intermittent heavy rain- not ideal at all for the first game of the season. With the Lions being 30.5 point favorites, the biggest fear of most fans was an unnecessary injury to Saquon Barkley- which is doubly likely in the sloppy conditions.

As soon as the game began, the Lions drove straight into Akron territory, but failed to score as Trace McSorely was picked off in the end zone. The Nit’s defense was stifling from the start, as would be a trend throughout the game, and forced Akron to punt after their first turn on offense. DeAndre Tompkins got the scoring started and electrified the crowd as he took the Zip’s first punt all the way to the end zone for the first touchdown of the 2017 season, and the first punt return by a Nittany Lion for TD since 2008. Later in the first quarter, preseason All American Mike Gesicki, would catch a TD from Trace McSorely to make it 14-0. The score would stay 14-0 through the end of the first quarter. After forcing another punt to start the second quarter, the Lions returned to offense inside their own 20 yd. line. Pre-season All American and Heisman Trophy front-runner, Saquon Barkley, took the ball on a hand off in the back field and gave the entire crowd the moment they were waiting for as he raced down the field for an electrifying 80 yard run, picking up right where he left off  in the Rose Bowl last season. McSorely would run it into the end zone a few plays later to make it 21-0 and from there on out the gamewas over. State would continue to dominate on both sides of the ball winning 52-0. After the game, coach James Franklin was quoted in saying that the 52-0 rout of Akron is, “probably the most complete game” (per CSNphilly.com) a team he has coached has ever played.

Other games over the weekend included the marque matchup of 3. FSU vs. 1. Alabama. This would be the first time ever two top three teams opened up their seasons against each other. Alabama, per usual, dominated the game on defense edging out FSU 24-7. The loss, however, was much greater for FSU than the score indicated as they lost their Heisman contender, starting quarterback Deondre Francois for the entire season due to a knee injury suffered in the fourth quarter. Another notable game was the Western Michigan vs. 4 USC game. USC was a heavy favorite and played a poor game from the start. So poorly in fact, many began to doubt the preseason hype surrounding QB Sam Darnold and the rest of the Trojans as legitimate national championship contenders.

This weeks honor of #dontbethatguy is awarded to the entire Pitt football team as they watched a 21 point lead vanish and had to beat FCS foe Youngstown State in OT.

In the newest AP Poll, The Nittany Lions have moved up to 4 in the country, jumping a lackluster USC and a losing FSU.

Next Game: Pitt vs. 4 PSU on ABC 3:30ET.

Passion Blog Idea pitch

A passion of mine has always been college football, namely Penn State football. To me, it is more interesting than the NFL. Every game means so much more and the fans are not simply fans. They are students, peers with the players, or impassioned alumni. You are not simply rooting for a team, but instead your school who is in turn an extension of yourself. Your pride is on the line along with the school’s and you live and die with every game. With this in mind, I think it would be fun to keep an active blog week to week with the happenings in college football in the past week. The football season and the blogs fit so perfectly in fact, that my blogs would follow the season right up into the beginning of bowl season.

My other idea for a blog would be to just focus on Penn State football. I would recap the latest game and give recruiting updates along with highlights from the game. Towards the end of the blog, I would shed light on other important happenings in the week of college football and how this affects Penn State.

Regardless of whether or not I write solely about Penn State football or not, I intend to have a little segment at the end of every blog that highlights one player or one group of players, who messed up or made a horrible mistake in a key situation. This segment would be where the name of my blog, “dontbethatguy” begins to make sense. I would write about the highlighted mistake and remind everyone to, “don’t be that guy”.

To recap: Blog option 1: All of college football. Blog Option 2: Just Penn State football.

I am interested to see what you guys think, any and all suggestions are welcomed.