Monthly Archives: December 2015

Georgia Bulldogs to Out-Roar Nittany Lions in 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl?

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The Penn State Nittany Lions will take on the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl at Everbank Field in Jacksonville, Florida early on Saturday, January 2. The matchup represents a pairing of two squads who had much lofty hopes heading into the 2015 season.

Penn State will come in at 7-5, and the Bulldogs come into the early-January bowl with a respectable mark of 9-3. Georgia started 2015 with a stacked fleet of talented running backs, only to lose Heisman Trophy-favorite Nick Chubb to a gruesome knee injury in a mid-October loss at Tennessee.

The squad rebounded admirably in the weeks since, going 5-1 to complete the season, highlighted by a historically embarrassing loss in The Swap against the Florida Gators on Halloween. The Bulldogs finished the year with the eighth-ranked defense overall and the first-ranked defense in all of college football against the pass.

These impressive statistics make it a bit more puzzling as to why longtime head coach Mark Richt was unceremoniously dismissed following the final game after a decade and a of solid service in Athens. He quickly landed in Miami, where he will be the head coach of the Hurricanes moving forward. The Bulldogs recently promoted Kirby Smart to the coveted position.

Penn State had a season to both forget and remember. The 2015 campaign featured a five-game winning streak and a very impressive 39-0 beat down of Illinois on Halloween, but they lost at Temple to begin the season and finished out the year 0-3 against Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State.

By the numbers, this game will match Penn State’s anemic 103rd-ranked overall offensive “attack” versus Georgia’s 74th-ranked offensive “assault.” For two squads known for stockpiling athletes on the advancing side of the football and churning out huge point totals against non-conference opponents, these marks are surprising on both fronts. A lot of points have been scored so far this bowl season, including a handful of games that eclipsed the Las Vegas total point prediction by a dozen or so. The smart money is on this one staying below 50.

How will this one unfold? Everything points towards the Georgia Bulldogs being able to control the time of possession and put Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg in a lot of third and long situations. If the Junior is indeed entertaining ideas of heading to the professional level next year, he will have to have a very strong game on Saturday order to give himself a chance of getting drafted in the top few rounds.   Prediction: Penn State 18 Georgia 26

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Penn State Fires Engineer of Anemic 2015 Offense

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Following a 55-16 defeat at the hands of the Michigan State Spartans and a year littered with frustrating underperformance, the powers that be at Penn State decided to part ways with offensive coordinator John Donovan.

The 41-year-old New Jersey native came with head coach James Franklin from Vanderbilt in early 2014. When playcalling is questioned and point totals are not as high as they should be, it is often the offensive coordinator who is the first to feel the heat. Such is the situation that unfolded in Happy Valley, and the Nittany Lions are currently in the initial phases of a search for quality replacement.

Whoever takes over will likely not have the benefits of Christian Hackenberg at quarterback, as the Junior will almost certainly declare for the 2016 NFL Draft following this season. In a way, this creates a blank slate for the new coordinator to turn the page and move forward while putting his fingerprint on the program immediately. In another sense, it is a huge loss that is going to be almost impossible to replace leading up to another daunting 2016 regular season schedule.

A look at this year’s team and this year schedule provide some clear evidence as to why a change needed to be made.

From a statistical standpoint, the Penn State offense was nothing short of embarrassing in 2015. They ranked 100th overall running the ball at 135 yards-per-game and 79th through the air with just over 200 passing yards-per-game. Hopes were high going into the year that Hackenberg and the rest of the stars would allow the team to compete for a Big 10 trophy, but their 4-4 conference mark put them nowhere close to that.

A frustrating loss to a Temple squad that turned out to be far better than expected kicked off the season. Hackenberg looked tentative, confused and aside from the first few drives of the game, Penn State showed no punch. Five straight wins had everybody excited and the fan base back on board, but a 38-10 loss at Ohio State was a clear indication that the program was a cut below the elite squads they so desperately hoped to join this year.

Three consecutive losses to end the season, including scoring only 16 points against Michigan and Michigan State on consecutive weekends, was clearly the final straw. Here’s hoping the squad gets the best candidate in the fold, and soon.

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