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Things I bet you didn't know about Penn State: They currently have the largest college football stadium in the U.S. (Beaver Stadium); when they have a "white-out" there ... it rocks; and the Penn State Nittany Lions (currently #6) are *finally* being recognized as a contender for the National Title.
Penn State Beaver Stadium "A Flashbulb"
Photo by Barbara Popek - click for 2048x1536 original
Of the five things that Stewart Mandel (senior Sports Illustrated writer) learned about college football teams last weekend, two of them involved Penn State:
Besides learning that Alabama's offensive line is overpowering, he learned that "Penn State is the class of the Big Ten" and my personal favorite, that "anything other than the 'White Out' isn't worth it".
Anything other than the "White Out" isn't worth it.
If I was a Circuit City employee trying to woo a customer into buying a $2,000 High-definition plasma television, the first thing I would show him is Saturday night's broadcast of the Penn State-Illinois game. Even seeing it for a third time, it was impossible not to be awed by the visual grandeur of Penn State's "White Out," which manages to turn a 110,000-seat stadium one enormous flashbulb. It's powerful, it's organized (right down to the block "S" in one corner) and, quite frankly, it's awesome.
Two words of advice to all the other schools trying to mimic it: Just stop. Seriously.
Beaver Stadium is currently the largest college stadium in the United States, with a seating capacity of 107,282. (It's only 1,000 seats larger than Michigan's "Big House", which will be even bigger, next year).
An interesting note of comparison: State College, where Penn State's main campus is located, has roughly a population of 38,000. The campus enrollment is approximately 43,000 students. Even if every student, teacher and State College resident attended a game, the stadium wouldn't be full.
In "Happy Valley", it's not so much as a game, as it is a religion. (Or is it just one big tail-gate party? Although, that's almost laughable, since I didn't see one "tail gate" during last week's game ... just big, expensive RV's!)
For more Sports Illustrated enlightenment and photos of Beaver Stadium, carry on ...
Penn State: Class of the Big Ten
Illinois was Penn State's "coming out" party. The media was skeptic about the offense, saying, "They haven't played anybody yet."
"Uh huh," I say, "Only the team that beat the highest ranked team."
#3) Penn State is the class of the Big Ten
I realize many of you feel this is akin to being dubbed the prettiest girl in Pittsburgh, but last we checked, at least one of this conference's teams will be playing in Pasadena, if not Miami -- and the Nittany Lions look more and more like they could be that team. I had been leaning toward Wisconsin, but the Badgers' offense leaves a lot to be desired. While Michigan's fourth-quarter surge ultimately did in Bucky, the seeds were sown when it failed to convert any of the Wolverines' five first-half turnovers into a touchdown.
In its first game against a ranked opponent (Illinois), Penn State showed exactly what the skeptics were waiting to see: An explosive spread offense with a plethora of weapons and a defense that wasn't exactly immune to big plays but produced enough turnovers (three) and key stops that the Illini couldn't close the gap. The Nittany Lions are the league's most complete team right now. Ohio State could soon reclaim that status with Beanie Wells back, but it's a lot to ask of a true freshman -- even one as talented as Terrelle Pryor -- to lead his team to a championship.
As a Penn State alumn, proud PSU football fan and admirer of Joe Paterno, it pleases me to see the press begin to give the team the accolades they deserve. At the same time, it makes me nervous. One of the things *I* learned last weekend, with 6 teams ranked in the top 25 losing, is that anything can happen on "any given Saturday".
I won't get to watch or listen to this week's game against Purdue. I know we're favored to win. I know that we've won the last two meetings. I know, I know, I know. Still ... I get nervous. Sometimes being favored isn't all it's cracked up to be. I just hope we don't beat ourselves or lose sight of "one game at a time".