Penn State -- and then everything else. In that order.
This column always runs on Thursday, except for that one time when it ran on Friday. It's usually written Wednesday or Thursday and very rarely is the bulk of the writing portion done at any time before that. This week, the Alabama-LSU game had me inspired enough to actually do some slight analysis, so I ended up writing a bit on that and then diving into the slate a little bit. It's 8:21 a.m. on Wednesday right now, and as I scan through the column, it just feels so dated and insignificant.
Now it's 10:27 a.m. on Thursday, and it feels even more dated and more insignificant.
Every time I've tried to think or write anything on this damn Penn State scandal, something more significant happens. This might get Paterno. Paterno might step down. Paterno said he's going to retire... at end of the year. But, finally, Wednesday night saw the end of Joe Paterno's reign at Penn State. Before we go any further, let's clear it up: this is Jerry Sandusky's fault. Not all his fault, but it's primarily is fault. If the alleged crimes are true, he will be known as the guy that ruined Penn State. And that will probably be the most favorable thing on the list of what he is remembered for. Again, if it's true.
These allegations have brought a lot of thoughts out of me I didn't know I had. Most controversially... politically, I'd describe myself as a moderate. If I had to say I had a view that was particularly conservative, it would be leaning toward maybe supporting the death penalty. I'm not saying I support (or don't support) it, but, if forced to pick a side, it's probably the side I'd trend toward. And only in super rare cases where legitimate evidence and witnesses can convict that person. One of the initial thoughts that popped into my head as the specific details of Sandusky's alleged actions surfaced was "If we are going to have the death penalty in this country, why would it not be used in a situation like this?" Again, if proven true. The man put thoughts of death into my head. It's hard for me to grasp thinking about what he did and not viewing it as a worse act than murder. These allegations can do things like that to a person. And I try to maintain a balance with this stuff -- I overhead someone this week saying he'd love to put a bullet in the guy's brain. And, you know, maybe talk is just talk, but these are definitive ways people are feeling about everything. And that's why JoePa didn't get to coach until the end of the season. Reactions provoke. But we can react to those reactions, and that's when I find it hard to wish death upon any man.
I've been buried in the coverage. In a good way. Just consuming, consuming, consuming. The board of trustees press conference -- not as disgraceful as everybody said, but the question from the inexplicably indignant guy who was like "Can't you let him finish the season with dignity?!?!?" should probably never be mentioned again. The Matt Millen interview -- whatever you think about the guy, he has a passion for Penn State, the responsibility of coaches, and the protection of children. Kinda killed me to hear him so broken up about everything. The man was a personal friend of Sandusky. He worked with him on charities. How can you not re-evaluate every moment you've ever had with a person after something like that? I'd be reacting worse. The Chris Fowler interview -- again, blown out of proportion. I thought he was level-headed and interesting. Twitter's been great throughout. Whether it was supplementary details when this first broke or simple jokes and critiques to lighten the mood, it's hard to imagine this whole experience without it. Paterno and his wife speaking outside their home -- maybe it was his Nixon/helicopter moment.
I can't stop thinking about black and white changes. They fascinate me. From something simple to "how can I be in a swimming pool first period and a science lab second period?" in high school to something as heavy as life one minute and death the next, something immediately going from one thing to a totally different thing is always going to provoke thought. JoePa is no different. Just last week in this column, in regards to Penn State's football program being boring, I wrote:
But where's Penn State?! Man, screw Penn State. Seriously. They are the worst. The worst. Everything about them is the worst. I hate Penn State.
The original ending to the rant last week was going to be "Fuck Penn State," but I ended up deleting it because, come on, that profanity was way too over the top. This week? The words to describe everything on what's happened don't even exist. If vocabulary is a swimming pool "Fuck Penn State" would be the shallow end.
We use too much hyperbole in our society. It's not a bad thing, but when we really need those words. Those next level, 2.0 words, sometimes they're just not there for us. Matt Millen said something like "You can't even call this a 'heinous crime.' A speeding ticket is a crime, this is something so much worse."
So yeah, last week, I felt like their football team was a bunch of boring pretenders. This week -- just this week... just one week removed -- that coach who was the coach for the last 2,500 weeks won't be the coach at that helm.
And, if the allegations are true, he doesn't deserve to be. The team doesn't deserve him; they deserve better.
So fuck the legacy. Entitlement is dead. It's 2011. Joe Paterno doesn't get to choose how he goes out. On a much smaller scale and under drastically different circumstances, Bobby Bowden didn't either. Wins might be currency, but when it comes to doing the right thing, not even currency can protect you. Putting on a lone vest doesn't make you bulletproof.
Retire at the end of the season? An impossibility. The board of trustees knew that, and that's why the trigger was pulled. And even though this all did happen in less than a week, their initial inaction felt like years of being stuck in cement. So here's to the right thing being done. If not every time we face injustice, but for once in our damned lives.
Maybe Paterno was the pretender all along.
Do you still want to talk actual, tangible football? I didn't think I did, but I'm pissed off and now I kind of do. If you want to skip the rest of this, that's fine. I'd love to see you next week. And I understand there are bigger things to think about. I feel you. I do. But we're going to press on. If not for normalcy, out of pure stubborn will.
Do you remember less than a week ago -- less than six full days ago -- when the so-called Game of the Century was played? I barely do too, and now, I'm going to talk about it. So join me, if you wish to join me...
Had I known last week's Alabama-LSU game had been dubbed by multiple outlets as the Game of the Century, I really would have tried to amp up my efforts making fun of of it and that name even more. With that snark out of the way, I will make some concessions.
1) I was wrong about the outcome: While I rarely like to make predictions, my gut really felt like Alabama was going to have the upper hand in that game. While I do believe they totally outplayed LSU, they did not, in fact, win the game. Hat tip, Tigres. You boys did it, and holy shit, did you slug it out.
2) It (/sigh) was (/sigh) a good game: I hate defense and grit as much as the next spread head, but the game really was a sight. Something about the value of touchdowns just skyrockets when the defenses are that good. How often do we get to see defense just murder offense and know it's because the defense is just that much more dominant? While a TD wasn't scored, you had a feeling if either team ended up breaking the goal line, the single touchdown would have felt like 30 points. Yards and field position mattered that much. People seemed pretty amped with what we'd witnessed once the game ended, but it took less than a few minutes for the backlash to come out. Mostly critics saying 9-6 was a pretty unsatisfying game. There's something to be said about that. Then, of course, the backlash to the backlash began. You know what I'm talking about -- the people who bluntly said things like "If you didn't like that game, you don't understand good defense!"
Appreciate the understanding, guys. I fall in the camp of this: it was a great game, not the best game, the defenses are fantastic, but, and this is a bit of a but...
The offenses really, really got vanilla on us.
I don't blame the coaches for going boring on us when it came to the O, because the stakes were so high, and any mistake could have translated into an insta-loss. But come on. Had LSU lost that game, and let's say they lost it by 14 points, you really don't think if Les Miles had a second chance to do it, he'd play it so conservatively? I concede and believe in the dominance of those defenses, but those 'meh' offenses really left a lot of plays on the table. I truly believe that's inarguable. Even though my bitterness regarding that one specific gripe, and my general hate biases toward the SEC, I still ask that the game be remembered as great. Because it was.
(* = unbeaten, son)
(** = complete bullshit)
1) LSU*: HEAR YE, HEAR YE -- the No. 1 team in all of the land! Cancel the rest of the season! No more games shalln't need be played!
2) Oklahoma State*: Every week, I don't think I can possibly like this team any more, but then more and more cool stuff keeps happening. Right after 'Bama peed all over the field against LSU, I flipped over to ESPN2 to catch the end of the Okie State/K-State game, and boy, was that a culture shock. The anti-touchdown effort of the SEC game was a black night compared to the sun sacrifices being made in the 45-45 deadlocked Big 12 game that blew me away. OSU ended up going up another touchdown and holding off a late -- but very threatening -- K-State drive (fourth down in the red zone) to win the game. Afterwards, coach Gundy Awesome was interviewed and the interviewer was like "Coach, did you hear about the LSU-Alabama game?" Gundy's like "Who won?" And the lady goes "LSU." Then he says something like "Oh, I thought you were supposed to be watching our game." Ah screw it, let me look for the clip.
/looks for the clip
I couldn't find it. Trust me, though.
3) Alabama**: Really, ranked third? I was trying to think of who they've played that's good outside of conference, and then it hit me -- Penn State! God, do they ruin everything, or what? Hopefully the eventual PSU losses help hurt 'Bama in the rankings.
4) Stanford*: OREGON WEEK!
5) Boise State*: Congrats to QB Kellen Moore, the new NCAA wins leader.
6) Oklahoma: Switch with Oregon and stop being annoying. That cool WR you have got hurt, and it made me sad.
7) Oregon: STANFORD WEEK. I work with this SEC and Big Ten fan, and when I told them Oregon had the most telegenic offense in CFB, they were appalled. They then tried to give me a speech about how defense was important, but I think I fell asleep standing up then died.
8) Arkansas: Real game this week, right?
9) Clemson: Too high.
10) Virginia Tech: Probably too high.
11) Houston*: Did you even move up from last week?
12) Penn State
13) South Carolina
14) Kansas State: Real great game last week, boys. Very proud of ya.
16) Texas: The SEC guy in my office said the Big 12 doesn't play defense. Then I reminded him of the Texas D semi-shutting down USC in the national title game. His retort "How long ago was that?" Uh, 2005. Not exactly ancient history. White Sox World Series year!
17) Michigan State: Sup, losers? Wanna come to Kinnick?
18) Wisconsin: I love when you guys run up the score.
19) Nebraska: The Northwestern loss was a complete debacle that could have been avoided. Just embarrassing. Plus those idiots made t-shirts.
Now do you see the gravity of that loss? Nebraska, let me explain to you how the Big Ten works: it's a conference that claims and touts everything. It's a conference where Illinois brags about making a Rose Bowl they lost by 30 after placing third in the Big Ten. Losing to Northwestern at home is like losing a Super Bowl to those people. You really need to re-tool and murder a tad more next year. Just my advice.
21) Georgia Tech
22) Southern Miss
24) Michigan: Want to be mad about this, but I might not be.
Michigan-Iowa was a travesty. Not wasting time, condensed: Iowa's coach who always coaches conservative busts out a million sweet calls that he never does, of course / Michigan continues to play backup QB Devin Gardner, who just isn't ready, and the offense is disrupted time and time again / Michigan shackles Denard with un-inventive pro style plays / Red zone turnover for M / Not a big "refs sucked!" guy, but a lot of PI did not get called on Iowa / Michigan *still* has a chance to win -- only after they let Denard spread and shred, DUH!!!! -- but can't close with four plays in the red zone / Iowa wins despite losing to Minnesota last week. Everyone goes home unhappy.
25) Baylor: Eh.
Dropped from (AP) rankings, sponsored by randomness: Arizona State (bros, bros, bros, bros-bros), West Virginia (ESS EE--I mean Big 12!)
Watched the latest Tebow effort (vs. the Oakland Raiders) with my buddy and roommate Ed, a Purdue alum who loves Kyle Orton so much, he just might hate Tebow more than me. Seriously, this dude hates the 'Bow. He was mad when the Raiders jumped off-sides, giving the Broncos a FG attempt that was five yards closer, because the potential three points would help Tebow in a direct way. Tebow wasn't even on the field! It was really something. Despite my long track record of hater behavior, I sorta found myself rooting for him. Then, of course, the Broncos get all these non-Tebow points to win the game without him having to make any clutch plays. Will Tebow still get all the credit for the victory? Probably. Was Ed right? Probably.
Virginia Tech (10) at Georgia Tech (21): Really think I coulda been roped into this game if Virginia Tech had the sense to be ranked No. 9. They are selfish. No. 10? Worth nothing! I do love Georgia Tech that much, though.
Houston (11) at Tulane: Is Case Keenum gonna die or fly or what? Seriously.
Oklahoma State (2) at Texas Tech: Of course this game is included. All Okie State everything.
Does anyone want more "Okie State Rules And Their Bad Defense Is Cool" content? Just me? Well, good thing I control the keyboard then. Doc Saturday:
The Cowboys yielded 507 yards Saturday night and actually improved in the national rankings, moving up from 111th in total defense to 110th. By now, you're either willing to accept that a turnover-heavy, bend-but-don't-break style can sustain a perfect season despite such ghastly numbers, or you're impatiently waiting for the other shoe to finally fall on these impostors.
I'd be in Camp A, sir.
Wake Forest at Clemson (9): How did Climpson get back into the single digits so easily? I blame Virginia Tech for no reason.
Nebraska (19) at Penn State (12): Actual good game? No. Good only because it should prove Penn State sucks (and I'm completely petty)? Yes.
Michigan State (19) at Iowa: MSU fan I know said Sparty hasn't won at Iowa since the 1980s. If you saw last year's effort -- they lost to Iowa by, like, 40 points -- you'd believe it. I feel wildly optimistic about this one.
Rice at Northwestern: Oh, bad game you say? I beg to differ! As someone who starts Northwestern's TE and RB in college fantasy football (!), them playing a fake game has a huge impact on our last week of the regular season. Who saw this fake game coming? Not me.
Ohio State at Purdue: Upset alert.
TCU at Boise State (5): Does TCU have a shred of good left in them? Man, did they bone Boise.
/looks up TCU's record
7-2, undefeated in conference. Eh -- not bad, actually.
Wisconsin (18) at Minnesota: Russell, I want you to hit them as hard as you can.
All "Fight Club" aside, it's been fun to watch Minny play well ever since Kill's contract extension. I'm on board with their project despite all contrary past evidence.
Michigan (24) at Illinois: Might be going to this one. I expect a good game. I told some people that, and they laughed at me. If I do go, it'll be my first (and maybe only) time seeing Denard. Can you hear my heart beating?
Western Kentucky at LSU (1): There's that letdown game! Recover, boys.
Alabama (3) at Mississippi State: Real? Semi-real?
Oregon (7) at Stanford (4): As real as it gets. Maybe the most excited I've been for a game all year. Game of the Week, obviously. Andrew Luck vs. the coolest offense in college football. I hope these two teams don't even field defenders. I'd watch even if it was just televised practices of the two respective offenses. I want to eat this game.
Every year, once my actual favorite teams (Michigan, Iowa, Washington State) have been eliminated from the national title picture (by, you know, losing just one game), my buddy Ryan and I create what we call the "College Football Bandwagon" which mostly consists of a list of all the undefeated BCS conference teams minus Notre Dame (and sometimes others). The goal of the CFB is to fake feel good about yourself when your "team" makes the national title game. Plus it provides invested, fake rooting interests.
Roll Damn Tide
ROLL DAMN TIDE: You know you had that game.
(Asides: Because 'Down goes...' is named in his honor -- Rest in peace, Joe Frazier.)
After writing off the entire season two weeks ago, I am currently in first place of my division. How sick. And all it took was a one point victory over the league's worst team.
This week: Playing the league's second worst team in the last week of the regular season. While I am in first place, it's a three-way tie, if you noticed, so the playoffs are by no means a guarantee. I feel pretty good about it, though. Once there? Dicier.
In funnier news, Michigan's already mentioned QB2 Devin Gardner (who is also my backup in fantasy) is projected to score -2 points this week. How is this possible? If you'd watched him play at all this year, it might make a little more sense.
Every Penn State link I had here has already been dated, but let's just give out hat tips to Drew Magary at Deadspin and Doc Saturday at Yahoo! for some great stuff this week.
Wrapping It Up...
RIP, Heavy D.
And remember nothing if not the victims. Only.
Bobby Loesch is the assistant editor of Tremendous Upside Potential and a weekly contributor to SBN Chicago. He can be reached at bobbyloesch [at] gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @bobbystompy.