BY RYAN OSBAHR ON OCTOBER 11, 2013
Even the great news Penn State received last week (NCAA sanctions reduction) can’t help the program escape its current reality. In the past, no matter how bad a season was going for Penn State since joining the B1G, the Nittany Lions could always count on one thing – beating Indiana. That’s no longer the case as the Hoosiers hammered Penn State on Saturday for the first time in 16 tries.
Bill O’Brien, who’s been a pretty cool customer since arriving in Happy Valley a little over a year ago, showed his frustration a bit this week at his weekly press conference. His answers were short, his responses were snarky and he seemed none too pleased about the questions the local media had to ask about last week’s loss to the Hoosiers.
“I’m not talking about scholarships, sanctions, anything. I’m talking about Michigan,” O’Brien said. “Our team’s focused on Michigan. We feel like we got off to a good start on Monday. I’m not here to talk about scholarships, sanctions, not last week’s game. I’m here to talk about Michigan only.”
O’Brien didn’t raise his voice; he didn’t go off on any tangent to make him a talking point all week a la ISU’s Paul Rhoads. The word “proud” wasn’t uttered once but it was clear that O’Brien’s honeymoon at PSU is over. Times are going to get tougher even with the scholarships being reinstated. College football is hard. Winning ain’t easy and having any sort of disadvantage hurts.
But O’Brien should be prepared for this. He knew what he signed up for. He knew what he was up against. He should get used to the local media questioning why he threw the ball 50 times with a freshman quarterback in his first B1G road game ever against an Indiana defense that ranks as one of the worst in country at stopping the run. His defense was abused and looked inept to handle anything that Indiana threw at it. They looked unprepared, they looked lost and they looked out coached.
The shine is officially off O’Brien and that could ultimately be a good thing going forward for this program. He became the poster child for talking heads when they discussed “great college coaches” in the offseason. I’m not here to say Bill O’Brien isn’t a great coach; I just felt like people needed to slow their roll. O’Brien inherited a bad situation with a stacked team loaded with senior leadership last season. He rocked that decent season and used potential “greener pasture” jobs to get a nice pay raise in the offseason — after one season! This is where we are with the current world of college coaching salaries.
O’Brien and his staff are going to really have to earn that paycheck this season. The heaps of praise and national notoriety that followed him for the last year are now going silent. The football world was quick to judge O’Brien on his great start at PSU and that led many to consider him one of the best coaching candidates in the country. O’Brien is going to leave a body of work at PSU and it will be much easier to judge what kind of program he’s built and can lead once he actually builds one.
Northwestern needs to avoid the hangover. Northwestern looked like the cream of the Legends division last weekend under the lights against Ohio State. At times, the Wildcats looked like the more explosive offense in comparison to the high powered Buckeyes and they looked like they will have the opportunity to play themselves into a rematch for the B1G title. They need to avoid the hangover and letdown last week provided and get back to work preparing for a very tough road game at Wisconsin. This one won’t be easy but Northwestern is the better team and the only reason to not pick them is that this match-up is at Camp Randall. I see an overwhelming amount of experts picking the Badgers this weekend based on that fact. After seeing both teams play several times this year, my money’s on Northwestern.
Michigan State needs to build off their road win at Iowa and not overlook Indiana. In the past, it’s been easy to overlook the Hoosiers on the grid iron but this isn’t your typical Indiana team. However, they’ve been about as inconsistent as you can get and this will be the Hoosiers first road game of the year. Michigan State is going to be the best defense they face all season and the Spartans are looking to build an offensive identity around newly named starting quarterback Conner Cook. The Spartans will run the ball at will on the Hoosiers and win comfortably.
Nebraska packs its bags for the first time this season. What better place to visit than West Lafayette, IN? Purdue is not a good team this season and should provide no more than a small speed bump in the road for the traveling Cornhuskers. Nebraska has way too much on both sides of the ball and even with some unsettlement at quarterback, they will cruise to a victory over lowly Purdue.
Michigan runs over Penn State to remain undefeated. This game will be close but only because Michigan can’t seem to get out of their own way recently and the fact that they will enter a hostile environment they haven’t seen the likes of this season. How will they react? After watching the Penn State defense last week, I think they will react pretty well. Wolverines have enough to get a W in Happy Valley.
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