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All Eyes on Penn State

A quick blurb in the ol' Altoona Mirror, bemoaning the uncertainty facing Penn State this year, sums up their offensive issues pretty well:

There's a possibility the Nittany Lions will start a  freshman quarterback and a more likely probability they'll end the  season with one at the helm. Concern surrounding the quarterback has to  be exacerbated by an offensive line that Joe Paterno himself admitted  Thursday, "We've got troubles there."

Regardless of how the season opener itself plays out, the San Jose  State game will have no real meaning aside from the possibility of injuries. Our players will face more difficult competition from the scout team leading up to the game than they will once the Spartans show up to Bryant-Denny on Saturday night. We'll name the score; that's not bragging, it's just reality. We're not Cal Poly or New Mexico State, and that's what it take to make the game legitimately competitive.

That Penn State game, though, could really tell the tale. I've always loved JoePa and the Nittany Lions, but with all due respect to them, I'm just  going to be blunt and say that if we lose that game, at home, we're in for a much longer year than anyone realizes right now. We would have to really make a lot of progress in a very short period of time for that to not be the case. Penn State will be coming in with a green (and likely unproductive) quarterback playing behind an offensive line with a lot of issues in his first big-time road  environment. You couldn't script a better situation for our, ahem, still-developing defense, and the fact that Penn State is trying to rebuild the linebacker corps cannot hurt our offense, which may very well have to carry both the defense and special teams for the early part of the season.

If we're legitimately near the level most think we will be in 2010, there is really no excuse for us losing this game, and if we somehow do lose this one, I'm afraid we're really going to be in for a rude awakening against Arkansas and Florida. If we've got the issues defensively that some fear we may have, Penn State is on down the list in terms of potency on offense. Arkansas, Florida, LSU, and Auburn will likely have more threatening offenses than the Nittany Lions, and both Ole Miss and South Carolina will likely be in the same general offensive ballpark as them. If Penn State can have success against us, that likely portends some very bad things to come. The brunt of the schedule comes quickly as the Nittany Lions turn back north, and while I do expect we'll improve over the course of the year on both defense and special teams, realistically there is only so much improvement you can expect to take place during the middle of the season, especially with just about every conference opponent on the schedule having the luxury of an off week to prepare.