Saturday, September 08, 2012

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Penn State should expect Wahoos, not yahoos

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by the "vile and cruel verbal treatment" Penn State players supposedly are going to get at Scott Stadium today: Don't buy it.

Q: UVa fans? Vile and cruel?

A: Those aren't my words. Those came from a story this week in The Philadelphia Inquirer about Penn State playing its first road game since the scandal. The exact quote: "The Lions could be in for some vile and cruel verbal treatment from some in the expected sellout crowd of 61,500 at Scott Stadium."

Q: Do you see that happening?

A: Not at all. I understand why the story line is out there (and not just in the Philly papers, either). Road games might in fact be more of a challenge for Penn State this year, because there are some people crazy enough to blame the players for something they had nothing to do with.

The problem is that nobody seemed to bother looking at the schedule. UVa is not going to be a hotbed of vile and cruel verbal treatment for Penn State.

Q: Why not?

A: It's a nonconference game, for one thing. There's no built-in hatred forged over years of these teams messing up each other's seasons. Fans are much more likely to dig deep into the insult bag if they've exhausted all the other jabs in recent matchups.

Secondly, I'm guessing Penn State will be well-represented in the stands, too. A lot of their alumni live within driving distance. The Lions will hear support as well as some hostility, but the latter is something any team expects when it hits the road.

Q: What will the game itself be like?

A: You've got to think the Cavs will be unleashing their rushing attack more this week than they did against Richmond, which stacked the box with eight defenders and forced Michael Rocco to throw. The Lions gave up three touchdown drives of 70 yards or more in the second half of their loss to Ohio last week. A lot of that was on pass plays, but look for UVa to try a different way to do the same thing.

Q: What should we watch for in the Virginia Tech-Austin Peay game?

A: Even though Tech could just try to trample the Governors in the ground game, I'd expect the Hokies to put it in the air quite a bit. Quarterback Logan Thomas admitted he wasn't very good in the opener; they'll want to get him feeling right heading into next week's trip to Pittsburgh.

Plus, the season-ending injury to receiver D.J. Coles increases Tech's motivation to throw to young wideouts such as Corey Fuller and Demetri Knowles to prepare those guys for bigger games.

Q: The Orioles are contention. How great is that?

A: Pretty great. Thursday night was the first time I've watched an Orioles game that mattered while drinking a Sam Adams Octoberfest (which usually goes on sale in August). Together at last.

Q: Are the O's a one-year wonder?

A: Possibly, but that's OK. Enjoy it even if they are. But the significance of their success this year - and that of Oakland - could affect the way teams put together their rosters in the future.

Q: How so?

A: Just as it looked like baseball was returning to the old days of speed, starting pitching and defense, you have two teams with manageable payrolls emerging because of two factors: power hitting and great bullpens.

The O's hit six homers against the Yankees on Thursday and were second in the majors (behind New York) with 176 entering Friday. The Athletics have eight guys with double-digit longballs. Even Washington - a team that rides the arms of its fantastic rotation - is third in the National League in homers. You could throw the contending White Sox (third in the AL in homers) into that discussion, too.

Bottom line: Power is more of a game-changer than it used to be, when utility players swatted 40 in a season.

Q: Comment of the week on the blog?

A: We have two, both regarding this week's theft of the letter "T" from the Lane Stadium facade.

First, from Bob H: "Newsflash: They have discovered Seth Greenberg got the 'T!' Oops, wrong sport. :) But he got his share of them while at VTâ? .."

Second, from Goldfish Cracker: "Stealing 'T's is child's play. At UNC-CH the student athletes have been stealing As and Bs for over a decade."

Q: Vile and cruel?

A: Nah, just funny.

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