McGloin, Robinson Have Eyes on the Record Book As Penn State Meets Indiana

McGloin, Robinson Have Eyes on the Record Book As Penn State Meets Indiana

Anytime Penn State and Indiana get together, the culture clash is as clear as day.

Penn State is a football school and Indiana is a basketball school. Indiana is currently the top-ranked men’s basketball program in the country and Penn State will look to improve to 16-0 all-time against the Hoosiers in football this weekend. Penn State has owned the series bragging rights since starting the series up in 1993 when they joined the Big Ten.

While Penn State has taken firm control of the series, there have been many close calls and scares. Indiana just has a knack for giving Penn State the fits and has a tendency to scrap together some late scores as well, making some games appear closer in the box score than it may to the eyes. Will that be the case this weekend?

Penn State is coming off a physically demanding game at Nebraska, one that was marred by controversial officiating and saw Nebraska come from behind to send Penn State home with a tough loss. They will have to put that behind them in order to ensure they can end their regular season on a winning note. Fortunately, the numbers seem to favor Penn State this weekend.

The Hoosiers are the bottom of the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing 32.2 points per game and a near-league worst 41 touchdowns (Illinois has allowed 42). These number were inflated a bit last week when Wisconsin racked up 62 points on Indiana, but the Hoosiers have allowed 30 points or more six times this season, and 40 points or more in four of those contests.

Indiana gives up a lot of yards on the ground, so expect Penn State to focus on the run early and often. Wisconsin gashed Indiana for 564 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns last week. Indiana has allowed 200 rushing yards or more five times this season.

Of course, Penn State has been more of a passing team under new head coach Bill O’Brien and are ranked ninth in the Big Ten in rushing. While running the football could shift the focus in the offensive game planning this week, don’t expect Penn State to stop throwing.

Quarterback Matt McGloin continues to rewrite Penn State’s record books, now 75 yards away from passing Tony Sacca for second on the school’s all-time career passing list. (He will get no higher than second place, trailing Zack Mills by 1,417 yards with just two games left in his career). McGloin is also two touchdown passes away from tying the school record, trailing Daryll Clark’s career record of 43. With one more 200-yard passing game, McGloin will also break a tie with Mills and Kerry Collins for the most career 200-yard passing games, with the next being his 17th. McGloin already owns the school mark for 300-yard passing games, with five.

The former walk-on has certainly left an interesting mark on Penn States football program, with his mouth often getting him in to some hot water. Such was the case this week, when his postgame comments about the officiating in Nebraska left Penn State to not make McGloin available to the media. Instead the media were offered third string quarterback Shane McGregor.

Penn State has lost their second leading receiver, Kyle Carter, to a season-ending injury, but Allen Robinson will still be a key target in the final two weeks. The sophomore currently leads the Big Ten in receiving with 786 yards and eight touchdowns on a Big Ten-leading 63 receptions. It has been a while since Allen Robinson has scored a touchdown though -- the most recent was almost a month ago in a road win at Iowa. Robinson has been kept out of the end zone three straight games, two of which have been losses (Ohio State, Nebraska). Could this be the week he snaps that scoreless streak?

Robinson still has a chance to become just the third player in Penn State history to record at least ten touchdown catches in a single season since joining the Big Ten in 1993. Bobby Engram did it twice (1993 and 1995). The other name may cause some readers to cringe, but Joe Jurevicius was the last Nittany Lion to do it, nabbing 10 TD  catches in 1997. Robinson’s next catch will also break a school record for most receptions in a single season, currently shared with O.J. McDuffie and Engram.

Will it be a record-setting day for Penn State? Regardless, a win will clinch a winning season for Penn State in a year some may not have expected to end that way. There are still plenty of challenges ahead for these Nittany Lions, but Indiana does not look like one of them.

Once ridiculed in Philly, Terry Francona is 4 wins from Cooperstown

Once ridiculed in Philly, Terry Francona is 4 wins from Cooperstown

If Terry Francona wins four ballgames over these next nine days, he is going to Cooperstown.

And not as a visitor.

Francona sits at the helm of a Cleveland Indians team that has so far rolled through the postseason, winning eight of nine games as it opens play Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs in a World Series that is filled with compelling storylines.

Of course, the biggest storyline is the “Lovable Loser” angle.

Both clubs long ago became punch lines for their failures. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and their shortcomings have been blamed on everything from the curse of a billy goat to black cats to too many day games at Wrigley Field to Steve Bartman. The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948. They were so notoriously synonymous with losing that Hollywood made a couple of movies about them. Well, sort of.

With four more wins, one of these teams will shed the Lovable Loser tag forever.

And if it’s Francona’s Indians, he will forever be honored with a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. You can bank on it. That’s where managers who win three World Series end up.

Time flies.

It was 20 years ago this week that the Phillies hired Francona for his first big-league managerial job. He was 37 at the time. He’d managed at the Double A level with the Chicago White Sox and been on the Detroit Tigers’ big-league coaching staff. Loaded with personality, smarts and the experience that came with growing up in baseball family (his dad played 15 seasons in the majors), being the best college player in the nation at the University of Arizona, and, probably most important, having been humbled by the ups and downs of 10 injury-riddled years as a big-league player, Francona was considered an excellent managerial prospect when the Phillies hired him. But he never deluded himself. He knew he got the job because the Phillies were rebuilding, because they were going to be young and bad for a while and he had the personality and youthful resilience to deal with it all. “If the Phillies were ready to win, they would have hired Jim Leyland or somebody like that,” he used to say.

Francona took over a 95-loss team in Philadelphia. He managed the club for four years, never had a winning season and was jeered out of town with slashed tires after the club lost 97 games in 2000.

Was Terry Francona a great manager in Philadelphia? Nope. Few people are great out of the gate in any line of work. But Francona had little chance to succeed in those Phillies years. There wasn’t close to enough talent on the field. The club was going through a sloooooow rebuild and the organizational focus in those years was probably more about getting a new stadium than putting a winning team on the field.

Francona was committed to becoming a successful manager when he left Philadelphia. That’s why he didn’t want to take a year off after he was fired. He wanted to stay in the game, stay in sight. He took a job in the Indians’ front office, then a year later was back in uniform, first as a coach with the Texas Rangers, then as a coach with the Oakland A’s.

In the fall of 2003, Francona interviewed for managerial jobs in Baltimore and in Boston. At the time, reporters in Baltimore asked him about the possibility of getting a second chance to manage.

“It would be like getting a mulligan,” Francona said.

The answer infuriated some in Philadelphia.

It shouldn’t have.

Francona’s use of the word ‘mulligan’ showed self-awareness, humility and accountability. It showed that he knew he had hooked his first chance into the woods, that he had made mistakes, that he’d learned from them and was ready to tee it up again. Francona’s use of the word mulligan showed how human he was and that is a priceless quality in the art of leading a group of men through the ups and downs of seven months of baseball and getting them to lay it all out for you night after night. Joe Torre had that quality. Charlie Manuel had it. Joe Maddon, the man Francona beat out for the Boston job and now squares off against in the World Series, has it. Francona has it. Just look at the way he kept the Indians believing after injuries wounded their starting pitching.

Of course, all of these aforementioned managers have or had talented players. That ultimately is how you win. Just ask Torre, who was dismissed as a loser until George Steinbrenner gave him some talent. Torre led it beautifully and ended up in the Hall of Fame.

Francona got his second chance to manage in Boston in 2004 and quickly led a talented group of players to a curse-busting title, that franchise’s first World Series championship in 86 years.

He won another in 2007.

He has managed 12 seasons since leaving Philadelphia and the growth experience that it provided. He has won 90 or more games in eight of those seasons. Yeah, he has had good players. But he’s led them well. And he’s done it particularly well this month, maneuvering his bullpen pieces like a master chess champion.

The World Series is upon us and it should be a good one as baseball’s two Lovable Loser franchises vie to end decades of frustration.

And 20 years after his managerial odyssey began with many losses and much ridicule in Philadelphia, Terry Francona, already a big winner in his career, has a chance to punch his ticket to the ultimate winner’s circle, the Hall of Fame, with four more victories and another World Series title.

Forget Torrey Smith, Eagles should go after Alshon Jeffery

Forget Torrey Smith, Eagles should go after Alshon Jeffery

The Eagles offense has lacked a consistent deep threat since 2014, a role Torrey Smith could potentially fill. Smith's career 17.2 yards per reception are second only to DeSean Jackson among active players, so it makes sense vice president of football operations Howie Roseman would contact the 1-6 49ers about the wide receiver's availability.

The problem with Smith is he's a bit of a one-trick pony in that regard. Even when the 27-year-old could benefit from competent quarterback play, he wasn't a star. In four seasons with the Ravens from 2011 through '14, Smith averaged 53 receptions, 898 yards and 7.5 touchdowns. That kind of production might look good on the Eagles, especially if the price is right, but it's just adding yet another No. 2 receiver to the mix.

Not like, say, if the Eagles were to trade for Alshon Jeffery. CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora was just throwing the idea out there, noting that Roseman is always working the phones and the Bears are 1-6 as well. That being said, if the Eagles are going to trade for a receiver at this point, they might as well go for the guy who could actually solve their problem.

There are concerns, of course. First and foremost, Jeffery is a free agent at season's end, although the Eagles could begin ironing out a contract extension immediately, and if all else fails, the franchise tag would be at their disposal while they work out a new deal. And while he hasn't missed a game yet in 2016, the fifth-year veteran continues to be nagged by injuries, which is certainly something to monitor.

But when healthy and part of an offense that's firing on all cylinders, Jeffery looks like a transcendent talent. In 2013, his second season in the league, he racked up 89 receptions for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns en route to the Pro Bowl. His follow-up campaign only went for 85 catches, 1,133 yards, 10 scores, but that still bests any year Smith has ever had in the NFL. Last season, Jeffery managed 54 catches for 807 yards and four touchdowns despite only playing in nine games.

As you can tell from the numbers, Jeffery isn't merely a deep threat. The 26-year-old can get down the field with 4.4 speed, then use his 6-foot-3, 218-pound frame to box out defenders. With that size advantage, Jeffery has also proven to be a weapon on short and intermediate routes, as well as in the red zone, which has been another trouble spot for the Eagles.

Jeffery is going to waste in Chicago. With Brian Hoyer at the helm for most of the first seven games, the wide receiver has 32 catches for 520 yards, but no touchdowns. Regardless, that's still on pace to put him over 1,000 yards quite easily, and with Jay Cutler returning from injury this week, Jeffery will have a chance to showcase his talents for a potential trade.

Should the Eagles be on board? The price no doubt will be steep. Then again, they would be getting a known quantity, unlike if they tried to find their solution in the NFL draft, and unlike Smith, a nice complementary receiver, Jeffery is the kind of wideout who has proven he can absolutely dominate at this level under the right circumstances.

Pairing Jeffery with Carson Wentz sounds like it could be the right circumstance to me.

I don't normally get behind this kind of sensational trade conjecture, but going big on Jeffery is more logical to me than Smith. One is a bandage, the other a game-changer. The cost would be great, both in terms of draft picks and the new multi-year deal the Eagles immediately would want to award Jeffery. The risk could be so worth it though when Jeffery and Wentz both become perennial Pro Bowlers.