The hea(r)t of summer has hit Happy Valley, raising both temperatures and tempers. Fans are already getting heated up for the Alabama game, and the Nittany Lions' young linebacking crew is on the hot seat.
We don't mean to add any fuel to the fire, but here are some choice Penn State football nuggets, hot off the presses...
ALABAMA: HOT TICKET
The Penn State ticket office is sold out of its allotment to the Penn State-Alabama game on Sept. 11 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Single tickets to home games in Beaver Stadium are scheduled to go on sale at 10 a.m. on Monday, July 26, at 10 a.m. As of Wednesday, the office had not announced which games were still available.
If you are late getting started and want to make the 14-hour and 30-minute, 914.4-mile trip to see the Nittany Lions play the defending national college football champions, don't call the Tide ticket office. They're sold out too.
A ticket office spokesman at Alabama said tickets for the game were sold at a face value of $85, the same price for 2010 'Bama home games against Florida and Auburn. Alabama prices its home football games on a sliding scale (hear that, Penn State?). Its lowest priced ducat for 2010 is the Nov. 18 game against Georgia State, a first-year team, coached by former Alabama coach Bill Curry. Those tickets go for $45.
"Your best bet for the Penn State game," drawled the guy in the 'Bama ticket offfice, "is to try StubHub or eBay."
Ticket prices for the game on StubHub range from $311 to $1,500. Some Alabama fans are offering to trade two tickets to the 2010 for two tickets to the 2011 game in Beaver Stadium.
ALABAMA: HOT WEATHER
That Sept. 11 game is set for 6 p.m. Central Time, and it's fixin' to be plenty hot. The game will begin under the late afternoon sun, with the entire first half sure to be over 100 on the field, The entire contest will most probably be played in hot and humid temperatures, sure to be a challenge for both players and coaches.
According to AccuWeather, the average high that day in Tuscaloosa is 89 degrees, with a low of 67 degrees. The heat may impact the Lions more, since they'll be less accustomed to it, and because deep reserves will be important. Penn State's backups are less experienced than Alabama's, which will hurt when the teams frequently rotate players in and out of the game.
LINEBACKERS: THE HEAT IS ON
The loss of the Nittany Lions' top three linebackers from last season is tremendous. That's not news. But the overwhelming full-scale overhaul Lions' linebacker coach Ron Vanderlinden has to do is still staggering.
Vanderlinden, in his 10th season as the head tutor at Linebacker U, has only 21 percent of his tackle-production back this season, based on the top three returning 'backers.
In 2009, it was a very healthy 73 percent – and it would have been far more (81 percent) had Sean Lee's numbers from 2007 counted. And in 2008, even with the loss of Dan Connor, the Nittany Lions' top three returnees accounted for 59 percent of the team's tackles the previous year.
Vanderlinden may get the least amount of credit of any Penn State assistant coach. The former linebacker coach at Northwestern and head coach at Maryland developed PSU linebackers Paul Posluszny, Dan Connor, Sean Lee, Navarro Bowman, Josh Hull and Gino Capone. Gino Cappone? That's right. As a middle linebacker, Capone was second-team All-Big Ten in 2002 and the team's leading tackler in 2003.
Here's a look at the breakdown of gains/losses of tackles for the Nittany Lion linebacking corps over the past three years:
Lost from 2009: 295 tackles – Josh Hull (116), Navarro Bowman (93) and Sean Lee (86).
Back: 78 tackles -- Bani Gbadyu (37), Nathan Stupar (31) and Chris Colasanti (18); Michael Mauti, who may start, did not play due to an injury in 2009.
Lost from 2008: 75 tackles -- Tyrell Sales (75).
Back: 207 tackles – Bowman (106), Hull (75) and Mauti (28); Lee was injured and did not play in 2008.
Lost from 2007: 145 tackles -- Dan Connor (145).
Back: 204 tackles -- Lee (138), Sales (50) and Hull (18). Note: Bowman was back from 2007, when he got 16 tackles in nine games, but was not in the top three returnees, so he didn't make my comparative totals.
Sophomore wide receiver Curtis Drake got into an argument early Sunday outside of McDonald's in downtown State College. His adversary? Incoming freshman basketball player Taran Buie.
Buie, who moved to State College last year and played on the State High basketball team, is the younger brother of Nittany Lion basketball star Talor Battle.
According to State College Borough police, the two were cited with the intent to cause a public inconvenience and were observed throwing punches and shoving one another.
Drake's name, if you recall, was thrown out by Joe Paterno in January as a possible candidate to play quarterback. A signal-caller at West Philadelphia Catholic High, Drake played wideout as a freshman in 2009 and caught eight passes for 98 yards, five in the final three games. He also threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless in the Michigan State game and ran four times for 26 yards.
No disciplinary action has been announced for either player, but you would think they're on the hot seat for sure.
HOT NEWS ABOUT JOEPA
Although he returned home to State College last week, when he was at his beach house in Avalon, N.J., earlier in July, Paterno attended a small fundraiser for the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. It was held at the home of the owner of the Utz snack foods empire. A guest at the affair said Paterno was on his "A" game, both witty and sharp.
And while Paterno did not make it to South Bend, Ind., for the induction of Lion great Curt Warner last weekend, he did take a plane trip last weekend. The Penn State coach flew to Philadelphia to see his eye doctor on Saturday, then returned to State College the same day. Pilots of the plane reported that Paterno was in good health and good spirits.