Thursday, October 25, 2007

By the Numbers: JoePa vs. Top 25

Seriously, I was born to be an ESPN intern.

Overall, Penn State is 4-9 vs. top-ranked teams in its storied history. Joe Paterno is 4-7 vs. #1 teams, and all of those wins were either on the road (at Pitt and ND) or in bowl games (Georgia and Miami-FL). Only one top-ranked team has visited Happy Valley ever in 122 years of football in State College -- ND in 1989. We lost that game, so JoePa -- and Penn State -- are 0-1 vs. #1 teams at home. So, this matchup Saturday against Ohio State is something special.

The stats on JoePa vs. the top 25:

Since joining the Big Ten (1993-present)

vs. #1 teams

  • 0-0 home
  • 0-2 away/neutral
  • 0-2 overall
vs. top 5
  • 1-5 home
  • 1-6 away/neutral
  • 2-11 overall
vs. top 10
  • 3-7 home
  • 3-8 away/neutral
  • 6-15 overall
vs. top 25
  • 15-10 home
  • 16-25 away/neutral
  • 31-35 overall
As an independent (1966-1992)

vs. #1 teams
  • 0-1 home
  • 4-4 away/neutral
  • 4-5 overall
vs. top 5
  • 7-6 home
  • 5-14 away/neutral
  • 12-20 overall
vs. top 10
  • 10-8 home
  • 14-19 away/neutral
  • 24-27 overall
vs. top 25
  • 17-12 home
  • 28-28-1 away/neutral
  • 45-40-1 overall
So, over his entire career, JoePa is 4-7 against #1 teams, 14-31 vs. the top 5, 30-42 vs. the top 10, and 76-75-1 vs. top 25.

It's funny how it seems like we played way more ranked teams away from home as an independent.

Things have slipped a bit since 1993. Although, we're still close to .500 against the top 25 since joining the Big Eleven. Still, JoePa hasn't beaten a #1 since 1990 in South Bend. But I think the home field advantage, especially in our independent years, is striking.

My fearless prediction, you ask? I really think it's anyone's guess. I'm serious. I think it depends on a lot of different factors, and they're really not stuff we haven't discussed before:
  • How will Todd Boeckman and the Buckeyes' offense handle the deafening crowd? This Buckeyes squad is much like the 2005 squad that rolled into Beaver Stadium. Fairly untested (the '05 squad had a lost to Texas in The 'Shoe by then) and haven't encountered an environment quite like this. Look for them to take a little time to get adjusted. This one will stay close into halftime, if not well into the fourth.
  • Penn State needs to limit turnovers. How many times have we said that the last few years? The turnovers have been the kiss of death for the Lions. Morelli has to have a career day and needs to make the big plays. The receivers need to step it up and really make some big gains. Which brings us to...
  • JoePa and the coaching staff needs to get creative. Running Kinlaw and Royster up the middle a lot is not going to move the chains at all. OSU will force Morelli to pass, and he has to limit the interceptions. Both Morelli and his running backs need to protect the football if JoePa decides to go conservative (wait, what do I mean "if"?!).
  • I think our D will handle Wells nicely, much like they took care of P.J. Hill at home two weeks ago. The defense, coupled with the raucous atmosphere, is what will carry Penn State in this game.
The end result? I already said this game is going to be close well into the fourth, only because I think it'll take OSU quite a bit of time to adjust to the atmosphere, if nothing else. The game starts with a few three-and-outs before things start to get rolling -- Penn State's O usually doesn't kick it into gear until the second anyway. It mainly depends which Anthony Morelli shows up and which receivers show up. D-Will needs to make people remember why he was the #1 recruit in the nation.

Obviously, defense will control this one, especially with showers lingering in the area. The field will be covered during the day and the rain may abate before kickoff. Each team will have two turnovers. Boeckman will throw two picks, Morelli tacks on a pick, and the Lions put one on the turf. As nervous as I am making a score call, I'll do it. I say Penn State escapes 13-10 in a classic slugfest. The Lions showed two weeks ago against Wisconsin that they're finally capable of winning the big games. But if we see Morelli revert back into the unsure, unaware QB that Penn State fans have been accustomed to booing, my prediction goes right out the window. But you have to think these guys are gonna be fired up.

Go State! Beat the Buckeyes!

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