We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know – Monday through Friday – around the world of Penn State sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, wrestling, hockey, baseball or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.
This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Wednesday, Nov. 16. Let’s get started.
Fingers remain crossed about line situation
The big news involving Penn State on Tuesday was obviously the Nittany Lions’ climb from No. 10 to No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings, something that continues to be mind-boggling considering where they were a month into the season, at 2-2 and reeling.
They will remain among the nation’s elite only if they can block somebody, and as noted previously in this space, they are fast running out of big-bodied folk who can do just that. Coach James Franklin announced during his regular weekly news conference Tuesday that tackle Paris Palmer, who suffered an undisclosed leg injury early in last Saturday’s victory over Indiana, was done for the season (and thus his college career).
He is the third tackle lost for the season, following Andrew Nelson, the starter on the right side the first six games of the season, and reserve Chance Sorrell. Another tackle, Brendan Mahon, suffered a foot injury three plays into the Nov. 5 victory over Iowa, and was later admitted to the hospital for an undisclosed medical reason.
Franklin, forever reluctant to discuss the health of his players, would not comment Tuesday on whether Mahon had been released from the hospital, much less whether he might be available at any point in the coming weeks. Nor would the coach say whether guard Connor McGovern, who suffered yet another undisclosed injury late in last weekend’s victory over Indiana, might be able to play Saturday night at Rutgers.
McGovern was listed as the starter at right guard on the depth chart released Monday, though PSU’s depth charts don’t always jive with reality. His backup is listed as senior Derek Dowrey, who started the first four games this fall at that spot.
Whether McGovern plays or not, the Lions will open the game against the Scarlet Knights with their fifth line combination of the season. Ryan Bates, previously the starter at left guard, is expected to slide over to left tackle, with Steven Gonzalez making his first career start in Bates’ place. Chasz Wright is expected to make his second career start at right tackle.
Center Brian Gaia, honored this week by Pro Football Focus, is the only lineman to start every game in the same spot this season.
As noted by Joe Juliano of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Franklin did huddle with freshmen Michal Menet and Will Fries – a guard and tackle, respectively – and discuss the possibility of removing their redshirts. As the coach said:
“That conversation went really well. Both those young men and their families are perfectly comfortable with us doing whatever we have to do to win and put the team first.
“We are not, at this point, doing anything. Will Fries would be the guy that’s a little closer than Michal Menet, not from a readiness standpoint, but just our real need is at offensive tackle. So we’ll see how it plays out. You’d love to keep those guys as redshirts if you can.”
A peek at the bowl picture
Assuming the Lions don’t wind up in the CFP — which is still very much a longshot — they figure to earn a bid to a high-profile bowl game. ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach and Brett McMurphy examined the possibilities for every bowl Tuesday, and Schlabach has PSU against Auburn in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2, while McMurphy has the Lions opposite USC in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27.
The Tigers, 7-2 and in second place in the SEC West, had won six straight and risen to No. 9 in the CFP rankings before they were upended by Georgia last weekend, the wackiest of the season. No fewer than five teams in the CFP Top 10 were upset. That includes No. 4 Washington, beaten by the Trojans (7-3).
PSU is 4-5 all-time against USC, 1-1 in bowls. The Lions’ only meetings with Auburn were a 43-14 victory in the 1996 Outback and a 13-9 loss in the 2003 Capital One.
Meet ’neath that giant Exxon sign …
Penn State has always recruited well in the state of New Jersey. There are 16 players from the Garden State currently on the Lions’ roster, and eight likely will start Saturday. That includes all three linebackers — Jason Cabinda (Flemington), Brandon Bell (Mays Landing) and Manny Bowen (Barnegat) — and Mike Gesicki (Manahawkin), who has had a breakout season at tight end.
As related by John McGonigal of the Centre Daily Times, Gesicki said Tuesday he had received a text from his dad regarding tickets for the Rutgers game. And it said the following:
“If you can get 100 tickets, I can get 100 people to go.”
Gesicki, as a result, has been asking around, seeing just how many tickets he can scrounge up. Same for Cabinda, who said he has 10 tickets, but needs more. He would like very much if his coach at Hunterdon Central, Matthew Perotti, made it, as Perotti has long been a mentor to him and just recently stepped down after 13 years as head man.
Cabinda, who was actually born in California, said he seldom gets back to the state where he grew up, due to his many responsibilities at PSU. And he has only one thing in mind now that he’s returning:
“We’re going back to New Jersey, so we’ve got to put on.”
Throwback … Tuesday?
A Twitter account known as Evil James Franklin, reacting to PSU’s standing in the CFP poll, posted a photo of current assistant coach Terry Smith from his days as a wide receiver at Penn State from 1987 to 1991.
— Evil James Franklin (@JamesFrankwin) November 16, 2016
Also in the Land of 10
- ESPN’s Joey Galloway: Penn State should be in the College Football Playoff if it wins the Big Ten.
- Report: Former NFL offensive coordinator Greg Olson in the mix to become Purdue’s next head coach.
- Michigan State’s Miles Bridges “got his butt kicked” by Kentucky on Tuesday night, but will learn from it.