Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Your College Football Weekend Primer: The Premature End of Penn State's Sanctions

With postseason eligibility restored and a full complement of scholarships available, expect James Franklin to return Penn State to prominence. But is it too soon after one of the worst scandals in American sports history?
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Well, that didn't take long.

In the summer of 2012, following the Jerry Sandusky scandal and cover up, Penn State's football program was banned from postseason play, including the Big Ten Championship Game, until 2017, and was hit with crippling scholarship restrictions that would allow it to only carry 65 scholarship players (20 less than other programs) and offer 15 players scholarships each recruiting cycle (10 less than other programs), also until 2017.

Things seemed ugly, and it was estimated by many that the Penn State football team wouldn't be fully stocked with scholarship athletes until the mid-2020s.

Well, forget about all that, because just over two years later, all of it is out the window.

The NCAA, which appeared to "drop the hammer" on Penn State in July of 2012 for enabling and failing to report a child rapist, has decided that the Nittany Lions have done their penance, whatever that may be (perhaps not enabling another case of systematic child rape in the last 26 months?), and will be allowed to participate in the postseason THIS YEAR.

Furthermore, scholarships will be fully restored to 25 available offers per season and 85 total by the start of next season. Way to go NCAA, you effectively penalized the worst scandal in the history of college, if not all American sports by making Penn State skip the Gator and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowls, and by forcing a pair of coaching upgrades.

I'm aware that all the perpetrators and enablers of these wretched deeds are either fired, in prison or dead, but there is something to be said for damaging the institution that provided so much cover for all of them for so long. When the NCAA initially buried Penn State, I thought it was the right move, because it sent the message to everybody at every other football factory in the country that some things are bigger than the game.

By dropping the sanctions, the NCAA has basically said, "just kidding. All you have to do is fire the people that committed the crime and the university is just fine. If anything, they'll do a bunch of specials about your return to glory and redemption on ESPN."

That, to me, is about as far from justice as you can get. So, while I have no problems with any of the current players or coaches at Penn State, it will be hard for me to ever have any positive feelings toward the Nittany Lion program again.

Game of the Week: No. 6 Georgia at No. 24 South Carolina

Getting back to more pleasant things, this game could be an SEC East elimination game, but that's only if you think the Gamecocks are still in the hunt. After an embarrassing opening night loss to Kenny Hill and somehow still lethal Texas A&M, South Carolina sort of bounced back with a 10-point home win over scrappy East Carolina.

The Ole Ball Coach and his boys can right the ship again Georgia, but the Bulldogs and running back Todd Gurley looked darn near unstoppable in a 45-21 opening weekend win over Clemson.

Look for South Carolina to try and dictate pace with their own bell cow back, junior Mike Davis. The powerful and explosive Davis was largely ineffective against A&M due to badly bruised ribs, but looked like his old self against the Purple Pirates, carrying 18 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

Still, if it turns into a grind-it-out affair, give the advantage to Gurley and the the rest of the Dawgs' talented backs, who combined to rush for 328 yards against Clemson in the opener. Georgia may be able to take a loss here, especially since it's a road game, and still win the East, but South Carolina is already in "must-win" territory.

Sneaky Good Game of the Week: East Carolina at No. 17 Virginia Tech

I mentioned those Purple Pirates earlier for their efforts against South Carolina, and their brutal non-conference schedule continues this weekend in Blacksburg. The Hokies are coming off what they hope to be a program revitalizing win over Ohio State in Columbus, but it will be all for naught if they aren't ready for ECU.

Pirate quarterback Shane Carden could end up being the break-out star of the week. While the Hokies did an excellent job against Ohio State's option attack (the Buckeyes average just 2.7 yards per carry), there were plenty of lanes open down the field. Luckily for VT, Buckeye quarterback J.T. Barrett only hit one of them, and made a few terrible decisions into coverage.

Don't expect the same from Carden. Unlike Barrett, the ECU senior is a seasoned vet, and when the Pirates are within a score, he rarely turns it over. Virginia Tech's best defense could end up being its quarterback Michael Brewer and its offensive line. If VT can control time of possession and take a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter, it would force Carden to play from behind, much like he did last week against SC.


But first, here is your Stone Cold video of the week.

Notre Dame (-28) vs Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis

This is the final meeting (for now) of these longtime in-state rivals, and I would expect Notre Dame to slam the door shut on this rivalry the same way they did with Michigan last week. The Irish are, surprisingly, pretty darn good again on defense, and Everett Golson has seemingly not missed a step at quarterback.

But this isn't as much about the Irish being good as it is the Boilermakers being an absolute clusterf**k.

Purdue is coming off a 21-point home loss to Central Michigan, and a 2013 season that saw them go 1-11, where Purdue's only win came against 1-11 FCS Indiana State. Oh, and that win came on a last-minute Purdue interception that sealed a six point victory.

Basically, Purdue is, by far, the worst major conference team in the country. Add in the fact that the Boilers are currently dealing with a mini quarterback controversy, that Notre Dame was the ONLY team they played close last year (VENGEANCE OF THE IRISH!), and that this is the final game in the series, set to be played at a neutral site on national TV…

Yeah, Notre Dame is going to be up 35-0 at halftime and win 49-3.

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