Northwestern vs. Penn State: Brutally Honest Game Preview

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Joe paterno

The last time I caught up with Legendary Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno, it was at Big Ten Media Day where he was being harassed by questionable reporters asking him inane and downright ghoulish questions about his health.  He was being told “you look tired,” and “are you tired?”

How about you just shut the hell up and let the man do his job. And try to look like you’re at least competent at doing yours. I think Paterno knows better than you do if he’s healthy or not, rested or not.

On the other side of the 2:30 pm kickoff national televised game in the Big Ten, we have Northwestern leader Pat Fitzgerald, the youngest coach in the conference. But just like JoePa the oldest coach, he’s “a lifer.” Or one day he should be. Every college football program should have a “lifer,” a guy that coaches at the same school forever. Synonymous with the school, a statue is erected of him on campus.

Fitz has enough purple pride to be that guy.

NU cheerleaders

By Paul M. Banks

Northwestern Synopsis: Fitz also played his college ball at NU, so he’s blood is indeed purple, and he’s the perfect candidate to become Northwestern’s Paterno. Moving on to today, Fitzgerald finally found a 100 yard rusher in Mike Trumpy last week. Ah there’s nothing like the Hoosier defense to cure what ails ya! With an improving ground game, NU should see less pressure on QB Dan Persa, and that should help them immensely over these last four.

With its 20-17 win at Indiana (again NU never blows anyone out ever), Northwestern is now bowl-eligible for a fourth consecutive season, and the fifth time in the last six years. (Note: NU was bowl-eligible in 2007 with a 6-6 record, but did not play in a bowl game due to the fact that there were a Big Ten-record 10 bowl-eligible teams.) Since 1995, the year the program “came of age” is you will, NU has posted 10 seasons with six or more victories.

Penn State Synopsis: It took longer than expected, but senior tailback Evan Royster is the all-time leading rusher in PSU history. This actually is a very impressive record when you consider all the great backs that have played in Happy Valley. I had a great conversation with Curt Warner, the man Royster supplanted, about it this summer. He actually shares my vision for playoffs in college football.

This lions teams is rather unremarkable and mediocre, especially by State College standards. So the main story this season is….JoePa’s last go-around? Maybe!

Paterno is seeking win No. 400, he picked up #399 last week over Michigan. He’s in his 45th year at PSU and ranks first among all FBS coaches in career victories. People wondered why he came back these past couple years, and #400 is probably the reason why. What else does he have left to prove? He’s accomplished everything else, so this will probably be it for him. I’m going to miss him at Big Ten Media Day. His time at the podium is always one of the highlights.

Guys you’ll see Saturday eventually playing on Sundays:

For the Nittany Lions, Guard/center Stephen Wisniewski, Royster obviously and CB Dan Lynn. On the Wildcats, LB Quentin Davie and superback (tight end/fullback hybrid) Drake Dunsmore

Prediction to be taken with a grain of salt (actually make that a whole truckload of salt):

NU 31, PSU 27 (Banks’ 2010 record 13-3…plenty enough to win the NFC North)

Northwestern carries a six-game road winning streak to Saturday after having posted victories over Iowa, Illinois, Vanderbilt, Rice, Minnesota and Indiana. The six-game road winning streak is NU’s longest since 1931. Since the start of the 2008 season, Northwestern has won a Big Ten-best 11 road games. NU is 8-2 in Big Ten road contests during that span.

Hard to see that changing on Saturday, especially since this game is the best match-up on paper for NU this year. Northwestern’s strengths and positional advantages work better versus Penn State than any other opponent. But of course, the Cardiac Cats will still keep it close.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He is also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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