Spring practice for Penn State began on Friday and so the buzz is on about the upcoming football season. In a few weeks, on April 24, 70,000+ fans will descend upon Beaver Stadium for the annual Blue-White spring scrimmage. The scrimmage will include a family carnival and a new "idol" contest to identify Penn State's best musical talent. It's a good time for families - there is an autograph session with the players - and for anyone who wants to have an early look at new talent emerging on the football squad.
The game itself, frankly, is not all that exciting. How can it be, when Penn State simply plays itself, and there are limitations on tackling the quarterback and on the kicking game that are imposed to prevent injuries? I usually watch the first half intently, then get restless. But if it's a nice day, it's fun. It gets everyone into the mood for football. And whenever there is a turnover in players at key positions, there is a lot of speculation after the game about who we will actually see start in the fall. Rumors abound that Kevin Newsome may or may not be the starting quarterback this fall. That the position is wide open. So that will make it even more interesting. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2. A first this year.
For us, this is also the planning period for football. By May 1, we have to pay for our season tickets, and order away game tickets. By mid-May (traditionally right after I submit grades for the semester) we will book all our trips for the fall. A lot of heavy spending this time of year related to football...have to make sure the bank account is ready and also have to reassure my credit card company, when we book all our flights on one day, that they are in fact legitimate purchases!
The away game schedule this year is daunting at best but from our perspective exciting. We will travel to Alabama, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State, and to FedEx field in Washington D.C. for the Indiana "home" game. Alabama, Iowa, and Ohio State are on our top ten list of away game venues - awesome atmospheres and great fans. Minnesota has a brand new on-campus college football stadium, replacing the tired Humphrey Dome as its venue. We're anxious to experience its state-of-the-art amenities. Plus, Minneapolis is definitely a favorite city. Terry lived there for a while early in his career, so his local knowledge enhances our experience. FedEx Field in Washington D.C. is also a first for us in terms of new stadiums to visit. Plus, we can drive to both Ohio State and FedEx field. Avoiding air travel is always good!
The September home game non-conference schedule - Youngstown State, Kent State, and Temple - is disappointing at best. Youngstown State is our opener, and it's hard to imagine how this will help prepare us for an away trip to Alabama the following week. The rest of our home schedule is Illinois, Michigan, Northwestern, and Michigan State. A solid schedule that should fill the stands.
The schedule also includes a weekend off in mid-October - always a good thing from my perspective - but it does mean that we will be playing Michigan State at home on Thanksgiving weekend on November 27! That could be a very cold game. But it does shorten the long layoff between the end of the season and the bowl games for Big Ten football.
What else is exciting? Terry's six games from his 250th in a row. So, God-willing, that will occur on October 9th, at the Illinois game, the day before our 23rd wedding anniversary on October 10th. It is somewhat ironic that both celebrations will occur on the same weekend, but also very fitting, since our marriage has been defined in so many ways by our mutual love for Penn State football.
So...lots to look forward to in the upcoming season...let the speculation begin!