Saturday, November 10, 2012
Penn State-Nebraska pregame ponderables
By Brian Bennett
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Greetings from an unseasonably warm and breezy day at Memorial Stadium, where temperatures are in the mid-70s but wind gusts are approaching 30 mph. The sun is out, but there is a chance of thunderstorms before this one is over.
If I'm a Nebraska player or coach, I say: Let the wind blow even harder. Anything that might disrupt the passing game has to favor the Huskers, since Penn State's offense is so heavily based on the passing game. Weather or not, whether the Nittany Lions can get an effective running game going behind Bill Belton, Zach Zwinak and Michael Zordich is a big key to this game. As good as Bill O'Brien's attack is, you do not want to get one-dimensional against a Bo Pelini defense, or it will start teeing off.
On the other hand, the Penn State defense is really strong. Taylor Martinez can't afford to give the ball away three times, as he did last week against Michigan State, or be as loose with the ball as he sometimes is, because the Nittany Lions' defense led by Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges will likely capitalize.
Nebraska also needs to cut down on its penalties, which it has been able to get away with until now. And a big question will be, are the Huskers at all emotionally spent after three straight emotional games -- the comeback at Northwestern, the win at home against Michigan and the comeback (again) at Michigan State. Reminds me a little of last season, when Nebraska stumbled at home against Northwestern the week after a big win against Michigan State.
Penn State knows about the emotional rollercoaster, as the Lions admitted they were probably too geeked up for their big game at home against Ohio State, which showed in some early mistakes. This team really has nothing to lose and can play a spoiler role in the Legends Division race today with what would be its best win of the season.
Unlike last season's game between these teams, the emotions in this one are -- thankfully -- all about football. Even though they aren't really rivals despite the permanent crossover designation, this should be a good game today with a lot at stake.