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The State Of Penn State Heading Into Big Ten Play

With Big Ten play breathing down the necks of the Penn State Nittany Lions, quarterback and offensive line concerns still plague the squad. However, a favorable schedule could see the Lions on the verge of greatness heading into November.

There were many questions heading into the season for the Penn State football team, and with four games under their collective belt and eight conference matchups awaiting them, the Nittany Lions still have some issues to work out.

Is a two-QB system really so bad? The battle at quarterback was the most talked about topic heading into the season, and neither player has done enough to separate himself from the other. Matt McGloin won the most recent battle, going an impressive 14-for-20, with 220 yards passing and three touchdowns en route to a Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week Award. Rob Bolden, on the other hand, has had his share of ups and down. He appears to have a higher upside when he's playing well, but he consistently stares down primary receivers and doesn't escape the pocket well. So is it really worth it to continue to have the "Who should start?" debate each week, or do the coaches have it right with a two-quarterback system?

Silas Redd can be really good, when he's allowed to be really good. Redd has 303 yards on 62 carries in 2011, good for a respectable 4.9 average. Against Eastern Michigan, one of the weaker defenses Redd will see all year, the speedy sophomore was only able to amass 48 yards. The current state of the offensive line's run blocking is cause for much concern, as the defenses in the Big Ten won't be as easy to push around as Eastern Michigan or Indiana State. The pass protection has been decent thus far, especially last week against EMU, but something about run blocking has given the line fits. There are some talented linemen waiting in the wings, so hopefully the leashes are kept pretty short on those players who don't carry their weight.

Joe Paterno should stay in the press box. It's blunt, but it's also the best option for a man who will turn 85 in December. He started on the sidelines against Eastern Michigan, but moved upstairs for the second half after admittedly feeling some pain. However, if Joe is going to stay in the box, the playcalling structure and structure needs to be worked out. There have been too many missed calls resulting in timeouts or delay of game penalties. Give those coaches on the field the freedom to coach the players, and leave the game of "whisper down the lane" out of the game of football.

Anthony Fera should probably longsnap and hold, as well. After a miserable first three weeks, the kicking game looked downright good against Eastern Michigan. Fera, sidelined for disciplinary reasons, returned to the field and saw action on kickoffs, punting, place kicking and anywhere else he was needed. He is listed as the starter for punting and kicking heading into conference play, and that's the way it should stay.

The State of the Big Ten. The early part of the conference schedule is moderately friendly to Penn State. Prior to the bye in Week 10, the Nittany Lions will face Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, Northwestern and Illinois, respectively. None of those games are shoo-ins (well, Indiana probably is, as they just aren't a good football team this year). Anything worse than 4-1 out of that will be a disappointment for most fans, with 5-0 being the expectation. Coming out of the bye week, a different story emerges. Nebraska comes to town on November 12, followed by trips to Columbus and Madison to end the season. Penn State could (and should) be 8-1 heading into the final three games of the season. To have any chance of playing in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game, the Lions need to play better than they have in their 2011 out of conference slate.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.