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This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Wednesday, Nov. 2. Let’s get started.
Can Lions come up Rosy?
Penn State coach James Franklin repeated the word “Iowa” approximately a billion times during his regular weekly conference call with reporters on Tuesday, in hopes of tamping down the giddiness surrounding his program and getting everyone to focus on the task at hand.
Nittany Lions fans are nonetheless feeling pretty chesty over the four-game winning streak that has their team 6-2 and a surprising 12th in the first College Football Playoff rankings, which were released hours after Franklin’s presser.
That placement was celebrated on Twitter by the Evil James Franklin account with a photo of Kerry Collins, arguably the best quarterback in school history:
Indeed. To be exact pic.twitter.com/f7tZzQOwiF
— Evil James Franklin (@JamesFrankwin) November 1, 2016
So yeah, giddiness prevails, despite the fact that the Hawkeyes will almost certainly provide a stiff test Saturday night in Beaver Stadium. Even Mark Wogenrich of The (Allentown) Morning Call, one of the most reasoned observers on the beat, caught the fever, laying out a scenario that could land the Lions in the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 2008 season.
It starts with the supposition that Michigan will finish undefeated and beat Big Ten West champion Wisconsin in the conference championship game, vaulting the Wolverines into the national playoff. It also includes the idea that PSU, Ohio State and Nebraska will all finish 10-2 after Ohio State loses to Michigan in the final week of the season.
Wogenrich cites the Rose Bowl selection criteria:
Rose Bowl Game has sole discretion on replacement team, and will generally select highest-rated available team, but will take into consideration final College Football Playoff rankings, head-to-head competition, division champions and most recent Rose Bowl Game appearances.
Ohio State (No. 6), Wisconsin (No. 8) and Nebraska (No. 10) are all ahead of the Lions in the current CFP rankings, but Wogenrich writes that PSU’s upset of OSU might work in its favor. So too might the fact that Wisconsin has been to the Rose Bowl more recently than Penn State, having made it from 2011-13.
Then again, Nebraska hasn’t been to Pasadena since 2002.
Clearly, there is some work to do if this scenario is to play out. That begins this weekend, as Franklin – the real one this time – again emphasized on Twitter:
All that matters is Iowa, Iowa, Iowa! We NEED the stadium sold out & rocking on Sat night! #107kStrong will make a huge impact on the game
— James Franklin (@coachjfranklin) November 2, 2016
Putting a premium on ball security
Joe Juliano of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that one of the keys to the Lions’ turnaround is ball security. While they coughed the ball up 10 times during their 2-2 start, they have just two turnovers during their winning streak, and are plus-six in turnover ratio over that span. That includes a plus-four in last weekend’s 62-24 blowout at Purdue.
Quarterback Trace McSorley has been particularly miserly with the ball. He fumbled no fewer than eight times in the first three games, losing three, and over his first four outings also threw three interceptions. The most notable was an end-zone pick with 1:15 left at Pitt, ending the Lions’ spirited comeback.
But as Juliano notes, McSorley has not been picked off over his last 106 attempts, dating back to the Sept. 24 loss at Michigan. The QB addressed that during a conference call with Juliano and others Tuesday:
“That’s a big part, the preparation we’re taking into practice, really emphasizing ball security, not turning the ball over in practice, not putting the ball in jeopardy. What we’re doing in the film room, knowing (the opponent’s) looks and seeing things pre-snap that can help you post-snap, being able to recognize it, diagnose coverages and stuff like that.”
Franklin did not seem surprised by the Lions’ improvement:
“I’ve told you guys before, I think we work ball security more than any program that I’ve been a part of. We do it every single day in a drill, that’s the entire focus. I think that’s something that’s very, very important for us, no different than tackling drills every single day because those two things are just so important to your success.”
Praise for Paris Palmer
Pro Football Focus, which has twice honored Lions offensive tackle Brendan Mahon for his work this season, on Tuesday lauded another PSU tackle, Paris Palmer, rating him the nation’s second-best player at his position for his work against Purdue:
Palmer had a similar turnaround (to Ohio State’s Isaiah Prince, this week’s No. 1 guy) as he had his worst game of the season the previous week against Ohio State but he was an asset in the run game against Purdue and allowed only one hurry on 28 attempts.
Palmer came off the bench at left tackle in the second quarter of the Maryland game, when Andrew Nelson, the regular on the right side, was lost for the season to a knee injury and Mahon changed flanks. Palmer, who made 11 starts last season at that position, has remained in the lineup ever since.
Tim Frazier’s NBA season off to good start
New Orleans Pelicans point guard Tim Frazier, a Penn State product, has had an eventful start to his third NBA season. Dismissed last week as a non-entity by ESPN blowhard Stephen A. Smith (who then backtracked), Frazier has put up averages of 15.3 points and 9.3 assists while shooting 52.1 percent from the floor.
Yes, the Pelicans are 0-4, but Frazier has seemingly gone a long way toward establishing himself as an NBA player, after two uncertain seasons.
He also celebrated his 26th birthday Tuesday:
— NBA (@NBA) November 1, 2016