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Penn State Football: How to Win the Blue-White Game

by on April 15, 2018 8:00 PM

Penn State has a shot at winning spring football.

Attendance-wise, that is. Nationally.

Penn State should, at the very least, win the Blue-White Game.

For Saturday's scrimmage in Beaver Stadium (3 p.m. on the Big Ten Network), the Nittany Lions' bets on the playing field are hedged, of course, given that they are playing themselves. Barring a tie, Penn State should also lose, which would even James Franklin's B-W Game record to 5-5.

Blue is an overwhelming favorite, having won all four spring scrimmages since Franklin's arrival in 2014 by 37-0, 17-7, 37-0 and 26-0.

STORMY WEATHER TRUMPS GAMES

Here's where things stand off the field, in the stands:

Many of the big college football spring games are in and accounted for, with the exception of some SEC stalwarts and Nebraska, which is welcoming back prodigal head coach Scott Frost.

In the Big Ten, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Northwestern all cancelled their games due to bad weather. (As did Iowa State, West Virginia and Western Michigan.) Michigan State played its spring game in sub-30-degree temperatures and never thawed out sufficiently to release its official attendance figures, although turnout — Celsius or otherwise — was very low.

As was the case in Pittsburgh, where Pitt drew 8,089 to its spring scrimmage in Heinz Field. That's what they announced, anyway.

In advance of the Cornhuskers' game on Saturday (11 a.m. local kick, noon on BTN in Pennsylvania), powered by the return of Frost from Central Florida, Nebraska sold over 57,000 tickets the first six hours they were on sale in mid-February. They drew 78,312 in 2017, even though the Huskers lost four of their final six games in 2016 under since-fired Mike Riley. The Nebraska spring game attendance record is 80,149, set in 2008, Bio Pelini's first spring as head coach.

2018 ATTENDANCE LEADERS

Heading into the final weekend of intra-squad scrimmages across the college football landscape, Clemson is the clubhouse (complete with slide and mini-golf) leader in spring game attendance so far in 2018, with an estimated crowd of 55,000.

New head coaches have been a big draw elsewhere. Willie Taggart's Florida State spring scrimmage drew 53,974; Dan Mullen brought in 53,105 at Florida, where they introduced several fun elements to the game; and Jimbo Fisher welcomed 48,129 fans to the 102,500-seat Kyle Field at Texas A&M. Oklahoma, under second-year head coach Lincoln Riley, drew 52,102.

At Florida, Mullen had over 150 former players return and fixed it so two former Gators caught touchdown passes. At A&M, Johnny Manziel returned for a halftime flag football game and also returned a missed 60-yard field goal attempt.

Ohio State, which at the 11th hour bumped up its kickoff time on Saturday due to the threat of inclement weather, drew "only" 47,083 fans to The Horseshoe. The Buckeyes distributed 79,000 tickets as they blocked off over 18,000 seats due to stadium construction. Ohio State had led the nation in spring game attendance over each of the past three seasons, drawing 80,134 in 2017, a national-record 100,189 in 2016 and 99,391 in 2015.

On the SEC slate this Saturday: Alabama (74,326 in 2017), which may be playing without quarterback Tua Tagovailoa; Georgia (66,133 in 2017, following Kirby Smart's CJF-like #93KDay campaign); Auburn (45,331 in 2017); and Mississippi State (16,630 in 2017). Georgia freshman quarterback Justin Fields, who originally committed to Penn State, will be taking the field at Sanford Stadium for the first time during Saturday's G-Day.

At Mississippi State, new head coach and former PSU offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead — who succeeded Florida's Mullen — is ripping a page from his old boss's playbook and is looking to break the MSU spring attendance record of 35,367. On his Twitter page, Moorhead has been using the #SBW18 hashtag (Super Bulldog Weekend) with daily Tweets and various gimmicks to push attendance. You gotta like the JoeMo dad-joke humor on display below:

MEANWHILE, AT PENN STATE

Franklin is making his push for #107k for his own scrimmage on Saturday, Tweeting and reTweeting promos for the game seven times in the month's first 15 days. Still, his push hasn't matched his 2017 efforts, when he first took to social media on Jan. 3 to promote last year's Blue-White Game.

As it turned out, #71k turned out in Beaver Stadium in 2017. In Franklin's first season at Penn State in 2014, the Nittany Lions drew 72,000 for the exhibition game, followed by 68,000 in 2015 and 65,000 in 2016.

The record attendance for Penn State's Blue-White Game is 76,500 in 2009, which came on the heels of the Nittany Lions' 11-2 season in 2008, when they won a share of the Big Ten and played in the Rose Bowl.

Weather in Happy Valley on Saturday will be fall football-like, with a high of 56 degrees and partly sunny, according to AccuWeather.

That forecast saves Penn State from having to make a weather-related call as to whether to play the game, as has been the trend across the country during this unreasonable facsimile of a spring. Hard to imagine that the firm of Barbour, Esten & Franklin would ever call off the game, given its importance to the community and the program — especially with the new recruiting rules that allow official visits next weekend.

And for those of you who think a game played before 70,000-plus in the stands doesn't have an impact on those who are on the field, here's what Fisher had to say after the Texas A&M scrimmage, his first time in a game-like situation at Kyle Field since going to College Station in the off-season.

"It matters," he said. "When you go out there and make plays with the lights on, the scoreboard's on, people are cheering — you can't simulate that in any other way."



Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for StateCollege.com since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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