Tiller is to Hope as Basketball is to Grass

Tiller is to Hope as Basketball is to Grass

Homecoming in college football is overrated. Pegged as a time of reflection, joy and glory of years past, the reality usually contains a rainy tailgate, overpriced hotel rooms, the purchase of clothing which is hardly worn in the future and a slow Sunday drive home.

It’s the exact same experience as any other home football weekend save the parade down College Avenue – a spectacle only fully seen by those who camp out for front-street “seats” and those born with the height of The Great Khali. It’s really just not that interesting. Nor cool. Nor fun. Debbie Downer says hello, by the way.

The only portion of any homecoming weekend which actually matters is the final score. When Penn State takes the field at noon on Saturday against Danny Hope and the Mouse-Skate-Teers, the final score should never be in doubt. This particular Purdue team, much like many before it, defines the word “mediocre.” Joe Tiller built a decent program, but the minimal (on a grand scale) success enjoyed under him has not been sustained, mostly because of poor execution and substandard talent.

It won’t be the Nittany Lions’ strong play that will boost them to a win this weekend, but rather the fact that the Boilermakers simply can’t compete in the upper echelon of the Big Ten. When Nebraska began conference play as a full league member two weeks ago, it marked the unofficial beginning of the end for Purdue; the league is now too top-heavy to compete for a conference title for Hope or whoever succeeds him.

With four of the top 10 all-time college programs now separated into two divisions followed by now-perennial upper-tier teams Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State, plus a Ron Zook outfit which will compete for a division title once every three or four years, even in its best season, Purdue will always get left behind along with Minnesota and Indiana.

It’s a fact. Purdue will never seriously contend for a Big Ten title under the conference’s new alignment. It can’t happen and it won’t happen.

Taking all that in should make it even more frustrating if Penn State struggles to win. With the way this offense has developed now that the season is officially halfway over, it would surprise most if Paterno’s offense accumulated more than 24 points. There will be a game in the final six during which this fabulous defense doesn’t show up with its best performance and thus will need the offense to bail it out.

This offense bail out this defense? Not so much. There’s about as much of a chance of that happening as there is of me telling my friends that I once bought and thoroughly enjoyed the Girl You Know It’s True CD. (It was seventh grade – any chance I can catch a break on that one, fellas?) No, this offense is not ready for such a challenge, and the only reason for that is the two-man circus act being played out under center.

The receivers are ready. The running backs are ready. The offensive linemen – as witnessed against Iowa – are most certainly ready. However, the only remaining portion of the unit is also its most important. Imagine if this team had Daryll Clark. One can dream, right? With the most important part of the season yet to unfold, there is still time for Rob Bolden to make good on the potential he flashed at times last season. But Bolden now has weeks instead of months, days instead of weeks, hours instead of days; he must improve – substantially – and it must happen soon or he will lose his “job”.

Speaking of jobs, with all the hoopla surrounding Urban Meyer this past week, it would be both impossible and silly not to at least kick the tires on the issue. Would Meyer accept the job at State? Of course he would. But he’s stated publicly and privately that the surrounding nature of the way in which he’d succeed Paterno would need to be done in an orderly fashion and with the utmost amount of respect paid to the icon – that can be accomplished without question.

There are questions about Meyer’s longevity and, if this did come to fruition, how long he’d last. The guy won two national titles at Florida and could’ve literally named his own salary for the next 15 years before he simply burned out. Would that happen again in State College? Either way, most Penn State fans would probably answer that they’d rather have five years of Meyer as the head coach than not have him at all.

From the point of view of a Tom Bradley loyalist, it’d be very difficult to watch Scrap get passed over, but the politics surrounding such a delicate issue are apparent and understood. He has done so much for this program that nobody will ever know about. The hours Bradley has spent on recruiting alone are obscene. He once wrote over 30 hand-written letters to Justin King in a matter of weeks and has been responsible for so many of the top prep players who have come to State over the last 20 years. Not giving the reigns directly to Bradley would be akin to the retiring majority partner of one of the most successful law firms in the world denying his Harvard Law School son the title to all outstanding shares in the LLC. Good thing Paterno doesn’t have a son in his firm. Oh geez – here we go again.

However, to even discuss such an issue is ridiculous at this juncture. Obviously the decision – one which most have been waiting for since the second Clinton Administration – will be made by only one man. You know, the president of The Pennsylvania State University.

No, not Dr. Spanier. The real president.

For the time being, sit back and watch a victory over Purdue. It won’t be pretty, but it’ll be a win. With this team, a pretty win probably won’t exist. But ultimately, Bill Parcells was correct: you are what your record says you are. Heading into suburban Chicago next Saturday night, this team will be 6-1 overall, 3-0 in conference play and probably ranked in both polls as the stretch run will begin. Take it and roll with it.

Purchase this Penn State Homecoming Photo Tom Mairs photo of Old Main during Homecoming 2009