Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Anti-BCS Rant - Part I

Thus far I have spared my few readers on this young blog to my anti-BCS diatribe. Well, today you're going to hear my views on the Bowl Championship Series.

On Sunday the BCS announced it will be expanding to a fifth game. The plan is to play another game a week after the other four BCS bowl games. It kind of sounds like a playoff, but it's not. The fifth game will be between two teams who did not participate in the four previous games. Now here's the real catch: Instead of adding a fifth bowl location, one of the existing BCS bowls will get a second game every year to be rotated among the four bowls starting with the Fiesta this year. They claim this will be more inclusive and make it easier for smaller programs to qualify for the a BCS bowl game thus sharing the wealth. This is a crock of....well, you can fill in the blank.

Rest assured this will only serve to make the BCS richer. Marquee matchups like the Capital One Bowl which traditionally features the Big Ten #2 against the SEC #2 will be shuffled over to one of the BCS bowls. They will not include the small programs. They will just include more of the bigger programs from one of the big six conferences (Big 10, Big 12, SEC, Big East, PAC, and ACC). The second tier bowl games will still manage to get some pretty interesting matchups, but the third tier bowl games, which often feature the smaller programs that don't reside in one of the big six conferences, are going to have even fewer of the big teams to choose from. If the BCS continues to snatch up the big time teams, the smaller bowls are going to suffer and eventually have to shut down leaving the small schools nowhere to play in December. How is that sharing the wealth?

Tune in later to read Part II of my anti-BCS rant, "Why the BCS Hurts the Student Athlete."

Monday, April 24, 2006

2006 Team Captains

As a side note to the Blue-White Game last saturday, Penn State announced the team captains for 2006 will be Paul Posluszny and Levi Brown.

Posluszny was a consensus All-American last year bringing the Butkis and Bednarik awards to Happy Valley. He's a leader on and off the field. He passed on millions in the NFL to stay in school and play another year at Penn State. He is the heart and sole of the defense. This pick was a no brainer making Poz the first two time captain since Mike Reid and Steve Smear in '68 and '69.

Levi Brown was a second team All-American and first team All-Big Ten in 2005. He has started the past three years and figures to be the anchor on a young inexperienced offensive line in 2006. Brown graduated in 3.5 years and like Poz could have passed up his final year to make millions in the NFL but chose to come back.

Both of these players deserve to be named captains and I believe they will show great leaderships to a young team. My only complaint is in who was not named captain. I think Tony Hunt is deserving of the captain's role as well. With the exception of Poz, no player on the team has shown more guts and determination than Tony. He comes to practice every day with the mindset that he is going to do whatever is asked of him to help the team win. He doesn't have the blazing speed or the fancy moves. He just plays smart and tough. I'm disappointed he didn't get the nod as well.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Blue-White Game Recap

I managed to clear my afternoon yesterday to watch the Annual Blue-White Game. The BW Game can be extremely boring at times. The defense is not allowed to really pressure the offense. No punt returns. Nothing to really play for. All you can look for is individual effort.

Anthony Morelli looked great. No, he was better than great. On a cold rainy day his passes were on time and sharp. He threw tight spirals and hit most receivers in stride. In probably what amounted to a half of play he went 13-16 for 191 yards. And he spread the wealth well hitting five different receivers. His only mistake on the day was fumbling the ball on the goal line. Anthony, buddy, M-Rob you are not. Keep your feet on the ground and hand it to anyone wearing 26, 33, or 30 and you'll be fine.

Speaking of the receivers, they all looked great. Williams looks to be back to 100% and man that kid is fast. Norwood had a great day leading all receivers with eight catches for 154 yards. Deon Butler played at WR despite rumors last season he would switch back to defense. And to think we still have three seasons of watching these guys to go.

Tony Hunt got limited playing time to start the game and looked sharp breaking two of his four runs for over four yards. He ended the day early with four carries for 20 yards.

Another tradition of the Blue-White Game is seeing all the diamonds in the rough. The guys who were buried in the depth chart last year and hope to be the stars of next season. Knowledge Timmons pulled down two interceptions. Granted, they were both poorly thrown balls, but he was in position and didn't drop them.

Based on yesterday's performance I have to say Kevin Suhey is the backup quarterback. He looked sharp and managed to move the white team pretty well even though he couldn't get them in the endzone. His final stats were 9-14 103 yards. Paul Cianciolo never looked comfortable. Maybe it was the weather or the crowd, but Suhey definitely showed he can lead the team.

Tyrell Sales was the beast on defense leading all tacklers with nine and forcing a fumble. Curiously, he finds himself at buried on the depth chart behind some guys who wear Nos. 31 and 40. I'm sure he'll find a way on the field if he keeps playing like that.

The offensive line was disappointing. Despite Hunt doing well, the two squads combined to gain only 59 yards on 45 carries. 1.3 yards per carry is not going to get it done in the Big Ten. Twice the Blue squad was stuffed on the goal line in the first quarter. Granted Levi Brown didn't play, but hopefully the O-Line can get it together quickly in fall practice before we go to South Bend.

On the flip side, the defensive line looked impressive stuffing the run all day. And despite the lack of blitzing linebackers they managed to get pressure on the QB several times getting five sacks. I don't think we'll have any worries about the D-Line doing their jobs in the fall.

So that was it. There's your spring Penn State football fix. The good news is nobody got hurt. The few injuries on the team are mostly minor and everyone should be healthy in time for Akron. Bottom line the team looked great. There is a lot of talent and when these guys learn to play together they are going to do some special things.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Blue-White Week

The annual Blue-White game is this weekend. I sense more of a buzz than in past years. In the past it seemed nobody knew when the Blue-White game was until you read about it on page five of the sports section in the Sunday paper the day after. Now it seems people can't wait for the game this year and I think that's great. There is definitely more excitement in the fan base to get their Penn State football fix. I guess we really were spoiled with winning teams for so many years. A few losing seasons has really renewed a sense of appreciation with the fans.

There are so many questions people will look to have answered in this year's game. How will Morelli perform? Who is going to play on the offensive and defensive lines? Is Derrick Williams back to 100%? Who will start in the secondary?

In all I'm very optimistic for the 2006 season. I think Morelli will take the offense to a new level. While M-Rob could strap the offense on his back and carry them down the field, Morelli will utilize the talent around him and make those young receivers better. I look for Tony Hunt to get more touches on screen plays like he did in 2004. With Levi Brown back to lead the offensive line I think they will be fine by the time we start Big Ten play.

On the defensive side of the ball there are more questions. I think the defensive line will be ok. All those guys have to do is tie up blockers and let the best linebackers in the Big Ten do the rest. The question will come in their ability to get pressure on the quarterback. Their ability (or inability) to do so may dictate the success of an inexperienced secondary. The secondary most likely will feature Justin King as our new (untested) shut down corner. Whoever plays across from King is sure to get tested early. Right now that appears to be Tony Davis. I would suspect by mid season we will see A.J. Wallace making his way onto the field as the nickelback with his eye on the starting job in 2007. The Hero Back position seems to be locked up by Donnie Johnson. Donnie looked fantastic in the 2005 Michigan State game getting a pick and blocking a kick. The FS position seems to be a question mark with Nolan McCready the favorite to land the position. This unit will be tested early so the learning curve is steep. But they all have game experience and the talent to be a good squad.

Bottom line is there are some good omens coming out of spring practice. In years past, Paterno has not been shy about talking down his team when he felt they were not very good. Key Paterno phrases like "We have a lot of work to do" and "We're not where we want to be right now" were heard often during the past few down years. This season there definitely seem to be a sense of optimism coming from the coaches and players. Let's suit up. I'm ready to play.