Scalzo: Predicting Penguins can be tricky

As someone who has predicted the Cleveland Browns would finish 19-0 for the last decade — and someone who lost $1.25 (equivalent to $85 for a non-journalist) to one of his co-workers last season when they couldn’t even win six measly games thanks to having something called a “Pat Shurmur” walking the sidelines — you might want to think twice before trusting my powers of prognosis.

But I feel pretty confident that I can beat Steve Ungrey of

Ungrey, who does game breakdowns for several FCS conferences, predicted that Dayton would beat YSU 27-20 in tonight’s game. Considering the line is 301/2 (and considering it took me 10 minutes of Googling just to find a website that has a line for the game), I’m going to say the Penguins win this one easily. Heck, I’ll even predict they’ll win next week, too, making it a clean sweep of non-scholarship FCS teams.

As for the rest of the year? Well, I said earlier this month that I thought YSU would go 8-4 or 9-3 and finish third in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. That still sounds good to me.

That said, two years ago I thought they’d finish 7-4 and make the playoffs. They didn’t, blowing a 17-point halftime lead in the season finale to a bad Missouri State team.

Last year, I said they’d go 8-3 and make the playoffs. They didn’t, going 0-for-October after a 4-0 start.

When I’ve asked players and coaches what went wrong last season, I’ve gotten references to bad chemistry, selfish play, overconfidence and looking past teams. That’s why we reporters were bludgeoned with “we’re going to take it one game at a time” quotes in Tuesday’s press conference.

I hate that quote. It’s kind of like Belleria’s motto “We sell taste one bite at a time.” I enjoy Belleria pizza immensely — and considering how much they advertised in our high school football preview, I’d like to encourage everyone to spend lots of money there — but what the heck does that even mean? That other companies sell it two bites at a time? Or every other bite?

You can’t play two games at a time. And considering three of the Penguins’ four losses were against playoff teams, I highly doubt they were looking past anybody. It’s just bland coach-speak, like saying, “We just need to get better every day” or “All our mistakes are correctable” or “We need to focus on what we can control.”

You want to know the real reason why YSU finished 7-4 last year? Because the Penguins weren’t good enough to go 8-3. Because the coverage and return teams were bad, the defense gave up too many big plays and the offense wasn’t explosive. Because they committed too many turnovers and didn’t create enough. Because they packed it in at the first sign of adversity against North Dakota State and South Dakota State and played awful second halves against Illinois State and Southern Illinois.

The Browns (probably) won’t go 19-0 and I may not even win back my $1.25 this season, but when it comes to YSU, I’m confident in this prognosis: If those problems aren’t fixed, the fate of YSU’s season will be all too predictable.

Joe Scalzo covers Youngstown State athletics for The Vindicator. Write to him at and follow him on Twitter @JoeScalzo1.

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