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Penn State Inbox: Detroit Edition

by on November 11, 2019 10:30 PM

DETROIT — Hello from the Detroit International Airport, or whatever this place is called, somewhere between the Delta Sky Club that apparently I’m not allowed in and the Chilli’s that does not have beer on tap today because the nitrogen core died, which sounds like a pretty serious thing for a Chilli’s.

What a time to be alive.

For the uninitiated to my particular plight, I was scheduled to fly out of Minneapolis on Sunday evening. This seemed like a very safe and normal thing for a person to do. I've never been to Minneapolis and wanted to take in the city before hitting the road so I booked a later (and cheaper) option out of town. I went and saw the Mall of America, which is the kind of commercial beast that makes you understand why we aren’t at the top of everyone's “favorite country list.” But I digress.

Then I got on my plane like a responsible traveler, and then the plane took off, and then it broke. Not all the way, as you can probably tell since I am not dead, but something that “made it hard to steer the plane on landing” wasn’t quite right, so we flew back to Minneapolis. We also, as you also might be able to guess, landed a little crooked.

And I missed my connection to State College in Detroit, finally landing in the Motor City sometime around two in the morning. I was then scheduled to fly out of Detroit back to State College on Monday afternoon.

But then it snowed, and the flight was delayed, and then it snowed some more and then the flight was canceled.

So what better time to answer your questions than right now, because it’s either that or continue to ponder my current situation while I wait to see if my next flight is going to leave the ground.

Does the "1-0 each week" mindset have any drawbacks to being “elite”?

I don’t think so. For one it’s hard to argue that the mindset has hurt Penn State the past few years. If anything the results speak for themselves. In terms of the losses, you don’t give up a key third down in fourth quarter because of messaging. Penn State still gameplans well in advance and has opponents in mind the offseason. You’ll recall James Franklin mentioning that the staff talked about losing to Michigan State and wanting to turn that trend around. Going 1-0 each week is a lot more about the present than anything else, that doesn’t mean Penn State isn’t prepared for what’s down the road before it gets there. You can do both things at once.

Will Franklin ever coach a team that beats Michigan and OSU in the same year?

It’s not impossible, but it’s also just generally rare. Penn State did it in 2008 and 1994. That’s it. Some of that has to do with the Michigan series only going back to 1993, but in general it’s a tough ask. With the scheduling the way it is, Penn State is going to get one of those teams at home and on the road every year. Really this question is “Can Penn State win the Big Ten East straight-up?” and there’s no reason to think that’s not the case. If nothing else I don’t see any reason Franklin is somehow less prepared to do it than anyone else.

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Which game do you think Penn State basketball will most likely win: vs. Maryland, at Ohio State or vs. Ole Miss

Not to say they’re going to win all three, but none of those are impossible. Ohio State will be the hardest of the bunch. Ole Miss is a neutral site game so those are always a toss up. With that in mind I’ll say Maryland especially since Penn State has played the Terps well at the BJC in particular.

Which player on the current Penn State football roster would make the best professional wrestler?

If we’re going from the brute strength and general intimidation factor, Robert Windsor is a pretty good choice. If we’re talking about who could work a mic and get the crowd to love him, Micah Parsons is your guy, especially when you consider his wrestling background. I’d also give Lamont Wade some love here, especially in a tag-team situation.

Which current PSU hockey player will be the next to score an NHL goal?

I don’t know anything you don’t, but Cole Hults seems to be setting himself up nicely. I think Evan Barratt is an easy answer, but he has things to prove in certain areas in order to get a chance. The question is more along the lines of who might even play in an NHL game next. Hults might be a good choice there, and even as a defenseman he’s not shy about shooting the puck, a bigger and bigger role in today’ league.

What's the most desperate food decision you've since departing Minnesota’s stadium on Saturday?

I’ve intentionally not eaten at the Burger King at the airport. Other than that I’ve done a pretty good job not eating poorly unless you count the free Delta Pizza (™) that we got during my first delay.

Top 5 places to eat in State College?

BRGR is pretty good, and new. The real issue, if we’re being honest, is that State College has a lot of bars but not a whole bunch of good food options unless you want a grease fire in your small intestine. Happy Valley Brewing is also good, and I never really go to Ottos but it has a good gyro. Local Whiskey also has the best lunch burger special in town. This may or may not be true because it’s the only burger special I know about. Nevertheless.

Who wins a national championship first? The football or hockey team?

Neither of them are easy but the odds are in hockey’s favor. The playoff is larger, and the parity in the sport is more favorable in a 16 team field that you could get big upsets. I think Penn State football would have a chance if it got in, but effectively the playoff is like having Ohio State on the schedule in back-to-back weeks and having to win both. You can do it, but are you ever really favored to?

Did Penn State’s defense have a bad game or were they exposed?

Yes and no. I think if you’ve really been watching Penn State’s defense it’s not a shock that this group has been prone to a big play here or there. That’s also true of every defense in the country, the thing with Penn State had been a fairly good rate inside the 30. It has been the peak of bend-but-don’t-break mentality. That doesn’t mean I expected to see Minnesota players so wide open, but I think Penn State picked its poison and got bit. I’m not a big fan of saying someone has been exposed, it’s fair to say this defense had a weakness exploited, but every defense has a weakness, it’s just a matter of how good you are at exploiting them. The Gophers did a good job.

Over/under on conference wins for Penn State hoops?

KenPom has them at 10-10 in conference play and that seems pretty fair. This team is going to lose games because it has to play in the Big Ten and nobody signs up to play Michigan State twice in the same year. This answer comes down to Penn State’s ability to win those close games it has lost in the past. If the Nittany Lions are getting over that hump 10 is a pretty fair mark. This team should be pretty good, question is if it’s that good every night.

Assuming Penn State ends up with 10 wins, what's the likely Bowl destination?

I’m so bad at bowl projections but somewhere in Florida appears to be the best guess. This will come down a bit to how the West shakes out. To me bowl games are a lot less about where you’re playing as they are who you’re playing. Certainly some bowls are better than others, but I don’t know that I really think of any non NY6 bowls as better or worse. I’m sure that I’m in the minority there. Just as long as its warm.

Favorite stadium to visit in the B1G that’s not Michigan/OSU?

Iowa is one of the few places that I tolerate night games for from my own selfish travel perspective. That place rocks, everyone should go to a game of note there. Minnesota was also really really cool. And if we’re being perfectly honest the Big House is famous and historic and cool for those reasons, but it’s kind of unremarkable in comparison to some other places.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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