It's 29 days since the Rose Bowl, 86 days until the Blue-White game and 217 days until the opener on Sept. 5. Does that mean it's too early to talk about next season's schedule? Nah.
Penn State released the 2009 schedule and while most hardcore Lions fans pretty much knew the slate by heart, yesterday marked the official announcement. Some had hoped that the opener -- rumored to be Akron -- would turn into a more attractive opponent. Say, one with a pulse. But it was not to be. Penn State's four non-conference foes all had losing records last season. Eastern Illinois managed a 5-7 mark at the Division I-AA level. Egad.
To put it bluntly, the schedule is pathetic. The Lions have eight home games against four on the road and only two Beaver Stadium tilts quicken the pulse. Ohio State visits on Nov. 7, Iowa on Sept. 26. The rest is dunk: Akron, Syracuse, Temple, Eastern Illinois, Minnesota and Indiana. I can't wait to hear Joe Paterno defend this schedule. Actually, I can hear him already. Here's a look at the first four games of the schedule (the final eight to come) along with an educated guess of what Paterno will say about the opposing team the Tuesday before:
Sept. 5 Akron: The Zips of the MAC have faced Penn State three times prior (all Lions' victories). They finished 5-7 last season and lost their final three to games to Buffalo, Ohio and Temple. Hey, at least it isn't Coastal Carolina. Joe's take: "People seem to forget Akron clobbered a decent Syracuse team last year and almost beat Cincinnati. Ahhhh, if we're not careful we can licked."
Sept. 12 Syracuse: The Orange come to Happy Valley for the first time since 1990. Will anyone care? The good news for Syracuse is Greg Robinson is out as the head coach. The bad news: the players he recruited are still there. Joe's take: [New coach] "Doug Marrone is from the Bronx. I'm from Brooklyn, ya know? It's gonna to be a Noo Yawk State of Mind."
Sept. 19 Temple: 0-25. That's the Owls' record against Paterno. Enough said. Joe's take: "You guys are underestimating Temple. If that DiMichele kid didn't get hurt early last year there's no way we would have won by 42. DiMichele ... yeah, we had him, but he wanted to play baseball. He was a tough Pittsburgh kid. I used to have a few girlfriends from Pittsburgh, ya know?"
Sept. 26 Iowa: Last season's debacle in Iowa City will get a replay in the build up to the Lions' first true test. By my estimation Penn State lost more than just a game and the national championship that day, it lost Pat Devlin, too. Joe's take: "I should have anticipated needing the wind in the fourth quarter. I should have burned at least one of my timeouts as Iowa marched down the field on Bradley's soft defense. I didn't do a good job that day. How come you guys didn't ask me these questions last year?" [Because us sportswriters were just as guilty of not doing our jobs. -- JM]
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