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Friends of the Blog: Penn State Q&A

Be nice to our Nittany Lion guests, Bill DiFilippo and treblaw.

Ohio State v Penn State Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

We started off our season preview series with a look at Wisconsin’s first opponent, the Penn State Nittany Lions, on Monday and now it is time to get the point of view from a pair of folks who follow PSU far more closely than we do.

Our first guest is Bill DiFilippo. He is the associate editor at Uproxx Sports and Dime Uproxx and he also contributes some to the Penn State blog, Roar Lions Roar. He believes that the USMNT is going to win the World Cup next year (they are) and that Italy is the finest country this planet has ever produced.

Here are Bill’s answers to our four questions!

Who is the PSU player to watch on offense?

In terms of the most fun, it’s Jahan Dotson, who plays wide receiver like he’s mad that the rest of college football does not view him as the best receiver in the sport. He’s a terrific route runner with vacuum cleaner hands and I cannot wait to see him against a really nasty Wisconsin defense.

In terms of most important, it’s Sean Clifford. He’s in his third year as the team’s starting quarterback with his third offensive coordinator in as many years. His flashes have been quite good, but during his low points, he’s been unplayable. Penn State can win in Madison, but it’ll all come down to how quickly Clifford can pick up new OC Mike Yurcich’s offense and whether or not he can prevent himself from making the kinds of mistakes that stem from him trying to do too much.

Buffalo v Penn State
Clifford to Dotson should be a lethal combo this year.
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Who is the PSU player to watch on defense?

I’ll pick [INSERT NAME OF DEFENSIVE END HERE]. Penn State’s pass rush last season was fantastic at getting to the QB right as he got the ball out of his hand, particularly early in the year when they started 0-5. They generated pressure, yes, but lacked the ability to get home and make the kind of monstrous defensive plays that can change the course of a game. Could [INSERT NAME OF DEFENSIVE END HERE] do that? I dunno, but your ability to do X on defense is dependent on Y — you can have the best secondary in the world, but if you cannot get home with your pass rush, it doesn’t matter. Penn State needs [INSERT NAME OF DEFENSIVE END HERE] to get home, and I’m cautiously optimistic he will.

Why will the Nittany Lions beat Wisconsin this year?

I don’t know if they will! If they do, my guess is it’ll be because Penn State does a nice job containing the Wisconsin rushing attack and making Graham Mertz beat them, which won’t be easy due to Penn State’s speed and talent in the back seven. On the other side of the ball, Penn State’s offensive line and crazy running back depth takes the pressure off of Clifford, who is asked to do just enough to get them across the finish line.

God, why is Ohio State just the worst?


Our next guest needs no introduction if you are in any way active on Philly Twitter but I’m assuming most of you reading this, uh, aren’ allow me to introduce treblaw! As you may have gathered from his Twitter handle, he is a lawyer and one of the funnier guys I follow on that hell site.

Treb is an avid Philadelphia and Penn State sports fan, drinks his beer hot, is a lover of multiple email sign offs in the same email and if you’ve ever seen someone online say something like “Trace McSorley hit me in the face with a shovel” it’s because Treb said it first.

Here are his answers on Penn State!

Who is the PSU player to watch on offense?

Jahan Dotson. He seems to get better and better each time out. Even though Ohio State absolutely took us to the toilet bowl in 2020, it is my deeply held personal belief backed by no data whatsoever that Dotson basically sent Shaun Wade so far to hell with a number of wild catches in that game that Wade tumbled to the 5th round of the draft. It was a stunner that he came back for this season, and I’m grateful he did. The guy just makes things happen.

Who is the PSU player to watch on defense?

Brandon Smith. He’s a physical freak, he’s on the Butkus Watch List along with 200 other linebackers and much is expected of him this year after that crapfest in 2020. He can look AWESOME, and he can look lost. It’s an interesting dynamic! He plays well, Penn State does well. He’s doesn’t, they don’t.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 05 Penn State at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Why will the Nittany Lions beat Wisconsin this year?

Sean Clifford firmly removes his head from his rear and puts 2020 behind him. I’m hopeful (an idiot?) that Mike Yurcich can blast Clifford with a magic-dust cannon, and get back to some of that 2019 success on offense. He cannot be jittery, make weird reads and toss the ball around like it’s a wet baby blanket.

God, why is Pitt just the worst?

I’m a legacy Penn State fan, born and raised, so I’m supposed to hate Pitt deeply. And I’ll be honest, I don’t hate them deeply. For most of my life, they have been irrelevant. For years, the lasting memory I had was LaVar Arrington ragdolling their punter TWENTY YEARS AGO, and that was basically it. Didn’t think about them much, didn’t get worked up about the Twitter creeps of their fanbase (I certainly cannot talk much with the abhorrent collection of Joebot weirdos unfortunately in the PSU ecosystem).

But I gotta say: Pat Narduzzi drives me up a wall. Mayo head with a crewneck sweatshirt. He’s a LinkedIn inspirational quote come to life who kicks field goals from the goal line. An absolute goof who thinks he’s much, much better than his track record shows. He’s why Pitt is the worst.