Tag:Robert Bolden
Posted on: September 27, 2010 8:00 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2010 11:53 pm
 

For the Big Ten, the fight begins this weekend

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Big Ten Conference play begins this weekend*, and the race for the conference title is either already over (Ohio State) or wide open (the six other teams seemingly capable of winning the conference). We'll quickly find out whether many of the presumptive challengers to the Buckeyes' supremacy have what it takes to put together a great season. Considering the questions surrounding so many of them, the answer seems to be "maybe, but it's unlikely." In no particular order ...

Michigan (4-0): On one hand, Denard Robinson is a near-lock for Heisman candidacy this December; his stat lines are other-worldly, and there are few defenses in the conference that seem capable of containing this Michigan offense. But that defense. Ye gods, the defense. Michigan allowed 37 points to FCS stalwart UMass, and has given up more points thus far than every Big Ten team except Minnesota. Can Robinson and his teammates outscore enough conference opponents to justify the team's No. 19 ranking? They'll find out soon enough against Indiana this weekend; the Hoosiers have scored more than 40 points a game this season and have talent everywhere on offense.

Iowa (3-1): The good news: the Iowa Hawkeyes look materially better than last season, as wins that were close last year are blowouts now. Ricky Stanzi is far more efficient as a passer, and the only interception he's thrown all season came on a deflection. The bad news: the Hawkeyes have three kickers, which is to say they have none, and their cornerbacks are still rather suspect. And good heavens, that Arizona game. Iowa committed mistake after mistake in the first half, found themselves down 20 points at the break, then imploded on the offensive line with the game on the line. So what's there to make of the Arizona game? Was it an aberration, or is Iowa merely a bully of plainly inferior competition? Penn State comes to town this weekend, and intends to find out exactly how good the Hawkeyes actually are.

Wisconsin (4-0): No undefeated Big Ten team is more of an enigma than Wisconsin, who looks like it should be a Rose Bowl contender on paper -- and may very well be so -- but has underwhelmed against FBS competition. The Badgers needed a blocked extra point and a miraculous tackle at the 1-yard line at the end of the first half to help preserve a 20-19 win against Arizona State, and only beat an unimpressive San Jose State team 27-14. Yes, they won 70-3 over Austin Peay. Whatever. Wisconsin has the hogs up front and the stable of running backs (led by All-American candidate John Clay) to run over just about anybody in the conference, and Scott Tolzein is having another impressive and efficient season. Their defense isn't a weakness, and they get Ohio State (whom they've usually given fits) in Madison. But lo and behold, they face Michigan State in East Lansing this week, and it's basically a toss-up. Which Wisconsin will show up this Saturday -- and this season? 

Penn State (3-1): Joe Paterno made waves when he installed true freshman Rob Bolden at quarterback to begin the season, and for the most part, the decision has worked out; Bolden hasn't looked great, but he's playing with a maturity beyond his years, and he's certainly not a weak link in the offense. That weak link, however, would be the offensive line; Penn State hasn't blown anyone off the ball with any regularity yet this season, and that includes the likes of Youngstown State and Temple. That Penn State is still ranked after its somewhat underwhelming non-conference schedule demonstrates the deep level of trust voters have in JoePa to field a competitive team, and that's a trust that's rarely betrayed. Still, the Nittany Lions had better start playing like a quality team very soon, or they could find themselves in line for something like the Texas Bowl.

Northwestern (4-0): The Cardiac 'Cats have the inside track to a 6-0 record right now; they're two-thirds of the way there at 4-0, and their next two opponents are absolute doormats Minnesota and Purdue. Quarterback Dan Persa is one of the highest rated passers in the NCAA, and he's also Northwestern's leading rusher. That's sort of a bad thing. In fact, Persa and his stable of running backs all average less than 4 yards per carry, and they haven't even faced great rush defenses: of their three FBS opponents, only Central Michigan is in the top half of the nation's rush defenses. Let's face it: if you can't run on Vanderbilt (143 yards on 46 carries most certainly does not qualify), you can't run on most of the Big Ten. Can Persa keep up his efficient passing in the conference season, or is that 6-0 start going to turn into 8-4 and a mediocre December bowl bid?

Michigan State (4-0): Here's what's scary: The relatively underhyped, unheralded Michigan State squad could end up being better than all the teams mentioned above. Kirk Cousins is 17th in passing efficiency in the FBS. True freshman Le'Veon Bell is a dynamo in the Spartans' backfield (and pancaked two defenders at once on MSU's game-winning fake field goal). Also, unlike Michigan, MSU doesn't have a giant honking RED ALERT attached to its defense. Oh, and the Spartans miss Ohio State on this year's schedule. Ten wins or more for Sparty? It's happened all of once (1999) since the NCAA went to 11-game regular seasons, but it could easily happen this year. Or MSU could revert to its usual self and drop four or five games in the conference. We'll start finding out when the Spartans and Badgers lock horns -- if, y'know, ancient Greek warriors and badgers had horns -- this Saturday.

So who's legit and who's not? To be honest, right now, nobody really knows. That's why this weekend's going to be vitally important for all the teams mentioned above. No more excuses, no hiding behind cupcake schedules; it's Big Ten season now.

*It's worth pointing out that the Big Ten is still something of a dinosaur in this respect; it's the only conference with an eight-game schedule that has yet to begin conference play. Sure, thanks to bye weeks, Indiana and Illinois each still have a non-con to squeeze in during the conference slate, but that's it; for the rest, it's the tried and true formula of out-of-conference, in-conference, bowl. A bit stale, to be sure, but it's somewhat nice to not have your conference title hopes completely ruined before it's even October; Georgia, after all, has already gone 0-3 in the SEC. Hopeless in September. That's no way for a fan to be, is it?

Posted on: September 25, 2010 7:02 pm
 

Penn State offense continues to struggle in win

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Penn State may have come away with a 22-13 victory over Temple on Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium, but the offensive struggles that have plagued the offense all season were still in full force.  The Nittany Lions needed five field goals from Colin Wagner to take the lead 15-13 in the third quarter before finally breaking the plain of the end zone in the fourth quarter to ice it.

On the day the Lions started five offensive possessions inside Temple territory.  Those five drives resulted in two field goals, a missed field goal and two turnovers on downs.

The inability of the Penn State offense to put the ball in the end zone is nothing new this season.  Of the team's 93 points through four games, 30 have come on 10 field goals from Wagner.  Penn State has managed only eight offensive touchdowns this season and four of them came in the season opener against Youngstown State.

A lot of this can be attributed to new starters on the offensive line along with a true freshman starting at quarterback in Robert Bolden , but if the Nittany Lions are going to make any noise in the Big Ten once conference play begins next week, they're going to need to see a marked improvement.  The good news is that some signs of it happening are already there.

Evan Royster had only 110 yards rushing through Penn State's first three games, but he had his best game of the season against Temple, finishing with 187 yards on 26 carries.  Royster is going to need a lot more games like the one he had on Saturday if Penn State harbors any hope of playing in Pasadena this January.
Posted on: September 24, 2010 5:22 pm
 

Insane Predictions: Week 4

Posted by the College Football Blog staff

Every season, every month, every week, there are several outcomes and achievements that, frankly, nobody operating within reason would ever predict. Who could have predicted Nebraska would beat Florida for the title by 38 points, or that Boise State would pull off three late trick plays to knock off Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, or that Mike Pouncey would screw up a baker's dozen worth of snaps in one game? Nobody... until now. We're going to try capture that lightning in a bottle by making similarly absurd predictions every week. Are they at all likely to come true? No. Do we even believe the words we're writing? No. But if we make even one correct call on these, we will never stop gloating. Ever.

Highly Unlikely

The Michigan State Spartans lose Kirk Cousins to an injury during the first quarter of their game against Northern Colorado.  His replacement, freshman Andrew Maxwell is dealt the same fate early in the second quarter and the Spartans go into the half trailing 21-10.  After quarterback-turned-WR-turned-back-i
nto-QB-because-of-emergency-in-this
-scenario Keith Nichol succumbs to a horrible stomach virus in the locker room, interim head coach Don Treadwill calls on punter Aaron Bates to lead the team in the second half.  Bates comes out and throws for 300 yards three touchdowns and kicks another three field goals as the Spartans roll to a 40-21 victory. -- Tom Fornelli

Temple upsets Penn State in Happy Valley. There's really no excuse for this happening; even with Temple starting out 3-0 and PSU looking average with true freshman Robert Bolden at QB, Penn State is still highly favored in this contest. But the Temple front seven (led by returning MAC Defensive Player of the Year DE Adrian Robinson) gives the Nittany Lions' enough fits that Temple goes into halftime leading by 10, Bolden gets benched, Kevin Newsome performs worse in relief, and the Owls shock Happy Valley, 27-20. -- Adam Jacobi

Marcus Lattimore is held to less than 70 yards rushing by the Auburn defense. Lattimore only ran for 57 yards against Southern Miss, but when the Gamecocks have really needed yards this season, they turn to number 21.  He will likely get at least 18 carries, and the Tigers did give up 140 yards to Clemson's Andre Ellington, but look for the defensive line to step up and shut down Lattimore at home in primetime. -- Chip Patterson

Severely Unlikely

Mike Leach makes it through the entire broadcast of the Houston - Tulane game without some reference to "symptoms of concussion" followed by awkward silence that lasts as long as an equipment shed is wide. -- Chip Patterson

With his team trailing 24-21 late in the fourth quarter against Arkansas, Nick Saban calls a timeout as his team is marching down the field looking for the go-ahead touchdown.  "I've had an epiphany, gentleman.  I'm not here to win football games, I'm here to make you all better men and better human beings.  Sometimes being the bigger man means letting the other man have his moment in the spotlight."  Saban then forces Greg McElroy to kneel four straight times to end the game. -- Tom Fornelli

Boise State sets the post-WW2 single-game record for most team yardage (pre-WW2 may be a touch out of reach) in their victory over Oregon State, 94-0. Kellen Moore and the rest of the Broncos' starters play every snap, even after Oregon State puts in their second stringers in the 4th quarter. Following the game, Chris Peterson then throws his headset at the press box and yells, "Are you not entertained?!" Boise does not budge in the polls. --Adam Jacobi

Completely Insane

During the third quarter of a listless win at Washington State, USC head coach Lane Kiffin will disappear from the sideline for several minutes, and television cameras will catch him talking on his cell phone. He will claim to have been speaking with old college friends since the game was "boring," but anonymous sources with knowledge of Kiffin's cell phone records will later tell reporters that Kiffin was trying to negotiate a deal to rejoin Pete Carroll in Seattle as an assistant with the Seattle Seahawks. The deal falls through when Kiffin asks for $17.5 million a year. -- Adam Jacobi

Oregon State takes Boise State to overtime on the legendary Smurf Turf.  In overtime, Chris Peterson calls a trick play that finishes with Kellen Moore crossing into the end zone to win the game.  Upon crossing the goal line, Moore rushes over to the cheerleaders and drops to one knee... where he proposes to Buster Bronco.  The horse says "neigh." -- Chip Patterson

With the USC Trojans up 14-0 on Washington State in the first quarter, Matt Barkley finds Ronald Johnson for a 67-yard touchdown to make the score 20-0.  Lane Kiffin then decides to just kick the extra point. -- Tom Fornelli

Posted on: September 1, 2010 9:28 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2010 9:35 pm
 

PSU: Paterno tabs true frosh Robert Bolden at QB

Posted by Adam Jacobi

For the first time in his history as the coach of Penn State, Joe Paterno has named a true freshman his starting quarterback to start a football season. According to the Harrisburg Patriot-News, Robert Bolden beat out sophomores Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin for the Nittany Lions' feature role:

Penn State just confirmed what The Patriot-News reported first earlier in the day: true freshman Robert Bolden will start at quarterback Saturday against Youngstown State at Beaver Stadium.

Shortly after Wednesday's practice, Joe Paterno made it official in a statement issued on gopsusports.com:

"Based on what we have seen to this point, Bolden has a slight edge right now, but we are confident all three quarterbacks are ready to go and hope to give them an opportunity to play until we settle on the one that gives us the best chance to win," Paterno said.

For Penn State fans, this shouldn't necessarily be construed as a failure on the part of Newsome, who certainly seemed like the presumptive starter at this time even three months ago. If anything, considering the praise that has been leveled at Bolden out of summer practice, it's a remarkable accomplishment on Bolden's part, and would seem to indicate that Penn State is better off than if Newsome had just taken the reins straight away.

Of course, regardless of how skilled a passer and runner Bolden is, Nick Saban must be salivating at the prospect of unleashing his vaunted pass defense on a true freshman making his first road start in week 2. Sure, Saban's replacing most of the starters from his title-winning team from last season, but he's doing it with guys who have been learning and practicing his defense for years. Will Bolden have the maturity and wisdom to find any room in that defense?

Posted on: August 31, 2010 6:56 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2010 2:33 pm
 

Who will start at QB for Penn State?

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Penn State sophomore quarterback Kevin Newsome looked to be a prohibitive favorite at quarterback coming into 2010; he was a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school two years ago, and he was the first quarterback off the bench as a true freshman last year. Granted, it was all garbage time, but he was still clearly being groomed for a 2010 starting spot. Moreover, Newsome's competition for that starting role is a former walkon redshirt sophomore and a couple true freshmen.

And yet, Newsome still hasn't won the starting role; even at a teleconference today, Joe Paterno couldn't pin down any of his QBs as his signal-caller going forward:
"I've got to be honest with you. We've got some kids who we really like, and [we] think they are going to be good, and there's more than one," Paterno said. "But at this stage, I couldn't tell you which one is going to come to the front as THE guy to lead the team, or whether we have one who can handle the kinds of situations that the quarterbacks are going to have to handle as this season goes on."
It's important to note, of course, that JoePa had similar deliberations about whether to start Daryll Clark or Joe Devlin in 2008, and that worked out well enough. JoePa's not going to let on any amount of confidence he may have in any of the QB candidates if he doesn't have to.

Still, something definitely seems to be awry; as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes (via Dr. Saturday), Paterno has never opened a season with a true freshman or walk-on (current or former) under center on week one. Not once, not in any of his 44 years. Also, the game's just a few days away; if he's slow-playing anything, now's the time to cut the charade and not continue freaking fans out. So let's put some fears at ease and examine the candidates:
  • Kevin Newsome: Has the most in-game experience and arguably the most physical talent of the likely QBs. Still, if he were the guy, we should know that by now. Every day he spends sharing time with the first team in practice is more valuable experience lost.
  • Matt McGlouin: Is in his third season with the program, but lacks the physical tools of his counterparts. However, if all Paterno wants his quarterback to do this year is hand off to Evan Royster and not try to impress anybody with his arm, McGlouin might be the guy.
  • Robert Bolden: Only a true freshman, but has received rave reviews for his play in practice after joining the team early. May be the most gifted pure passer, but does he have any chance of knowing the playbook well enough to threaten the Alabama defense in week 2?
  • Anthony Morelli: Starting experience in... hey, wait, get the hell out of here, Anthony Morelli! You graduated years ago! Jeez!
 
 
 
 
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