The Anti-Chip? Bill O’Brien Won’t Name a Starting Quarterback Yet for Penn State

The Anti-Chip? Bill O’Brien Won’t Name a Starting Quarterback Yet for Penn State

Hey, Nittany Lion fans: college football season is only 11 days away, which is eight days closer than the Eagles’ Monday night opener in Washington. Yet after today, the Birds have a starting quarterback, and Penn State still does not.

Of course, Bill O’Brien is in a little bit different of a position than Chip Kelly. PSU’s head coach is trying to decide between Tyler Ferguson, a junior college transfer who was leading the competition thanks to his experience, and Christian Hackenberg, perhaps the more heralded blue-chip freshman. O’Brien doesn’t have the luxury of seeing how both kids respond in a preseason game, either.

Heading into his second season in Happy Valley, O’Brien was reluctant to make a decision on his signal callers little more than a week out from their first game against Syracuse. The reality is he’s probably going to want to see both of them in action early this season, as reported by Rich Scarcella on his Nittany Extra blog:

“It’s very close,” O’Brien said before practice. “I told the team yesterday. They’re two of the best young quarterbacks I’ve ever coached. Tyler’s 19 years old and Christian’s 18.

“I’d say by the end of the week we’ll make a decision on who will start against Syracuse. I would say that both guys would play this year. I think both guys need to be ready to play this year.”

Such a situation – both quarterbacks receiving playing time – is a lot more common in college, especially early in the year when coaches haven’t had a chance to see how guys maintain their poise when playing in front of 110,000 fans. The first game could go a long way toward a final decision though, so who gets the first crack at it will have a big opportunity.

“The guy who’s the starter is gonna play the majority of the snaps,” he said. “Whoever the backup is will be a young guy who needs to get his feet wet a little bit. Why not play him a series here or there to get him into a major college football game and let him get his feet wet?”

>> O’Brien puts off naming starting quarterback [Reading Eagle]
>> Tyler Ferguson leads QB race [AP]

Sixers merchandise sales on the rise along with win total

Sixers merchandise sales on the rise along with win total

Between recent wins and Joel Embiid’s All-Star push, fans are buying their Sixers gear.

According to Fanatics.com, a sports apparel website partnered with the four major sports, the Sixers rank fourth among all NBA teams in total merchandise sales over the past seven days. The Warriors, Cavaliers and Bulls are ahead of them.

Joel Embiid was the fifth-best selling player over that period. His popularity has risen during his enthusiastic All-Star campaign, which included celebrity shoutouts and an outpour of social media activity. Embiid is now up to 553,000 Twitter followers.

The Sixers have ranked in the league’s top 10 of merchandise sales since the beginning of the 2016-17 season. They hold the largest year-over-year increase during that time frame in the NBA this season.

In September, Ben Simmons ranked in the top 10 of NBA players in merchandise sales since draft night.

Sales from the Sixers' and NBA's official online stores are included in these statistics.

Sixers clicking just in time to face surging Raptors on Wednesday

Sixers clicking just in time to face surging Raptors on Wednesday

The Sixers are clicking just in time to face their toughest competition in over a month. The Raptors (28-13) come to Philadelphia as the Sixers have won six of their last eight games by holding one another accountable and taking each outing step-by-step.

“You feel like the group is coming together,” Brett Brown said. “You feel like all the work that we have put in is starting to pay dividends in relation to a solid foundation.”

The Raptors sit second in the Eastern Conference, just one and a half games behind the Cavaliers. The last time they met, the Raptors beat the Sixers 123-114 on Dec. 14 at the Wells Fargo Center.

A lot has changed since then, especially the rotations. Brown started Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together against the Raptors, an experiment that waned out after six games. The Sixers have found a formula to winning with an established starting lineup and a consistent second unit, with the added experience of Gerald Henderson and Nerlens Noel. They will be tested Wednesday as both Joel Embiid (illness) and T.J. McConnell (wrist) are questionable.

“When you look at this team, it’s a lot of talent but we didn’t play as a team,” Ilyasova said of the start of the season. “Now we come together. I think it’s all about the chemistry, we trust each other.”

The Sixers are looking to carry over the momentum of a 113-104 victory over the Bucks in Milwaukee on Monday. They got a test of All-Star caliber talent against Giannis Antetokounmpo, whom they held to two points in the second half. The Sixers will have their hands full with the backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry (22.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists) and DeMar DeRozan (28.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists).

One key to countering talent like that placing an importance on accountability. The players are not letting each other off the hook for mistakes on the court, regardless of who the opponent is.

“I could see it over the past couple weeks, guys coming out here and being more vocal on both ends of the court,” Noel said. “If one guy messes up, you’ve got to let him know so it won’t be a recurring thing. With that, guys are taking steps in the right direction, both leadership roles because everybody on this team can be a leader in their own way.”

The Raptors come in on a four-game winning streak.