Hart-Less Paterno

By Adam Caparell - September 21, 2007


He was the No. 1 player in New York coming out of high school in the Syracuse area back in 2003, but little did Joe Paterno know the kind of player Mike Hart would turn out to be at Michigan.

"We didn't recruit him. He wasn't the tallest guy in the world and I don't ever really remember discussing him," Paterno said of Hart earlier this week as his No. 10 Nittany Lions get ready to face the running back and the Wolverines Saturday in Ann Arbor.

Back in high school, Hart was more than just a talented running back. CSTV's Tom Lemming had him among his top cornerbacks that year even after he established some pretty impressive national records: touchdowns in a career (204), most consecutive 100-yard rushing games (47), career 100-yard rushing games (47) and career points (1,246).

But all that wasn't enticing enough for Paterno to offer Hart a scholarship, or even pursue him for that matter.

"One guy didn't think he was fast enough," Paterno said. "If he has any weakness, maybe he's a 4.4 guy. But he fools you because he runs as fast as he has to run."

Paterno seems more than satisfied with his set of backs in Austin Scott and Rodney Kinlaw, but with the way Hart has run against the Nittany Lions the past two years, the coach - in his 42nd season leading Penn State - certainly wouldn't mind having him on his side.

Hart's rushed for 100-plus yards in Michigan's last two games against Penn State and the Wolverines have won eight straight against Paterno and nine of the last 12.

"Michigan's kicked our rears in for the five, six, seven, eight years now," Paterno said.

Penn State enters as three point favorite Saturday because Michigan is 1-2 after to two eye-opening and defense exposing losses to Appalachian State and Oregon to begin the season. But Paterno isn't selling Lloyd Carr's defense short, even if it was the reason the Wolverines lost their first two games quite handedly at the Big House.

"I think their defense is solid. They hustle," Paterno said. "Last year they kicked our rears in and a lot of them are back."

But are there really enough of them back to do it again?

Weekly Picks

Last Week: 3-2 | Season: 10-5

Michigan (+3) over Penn State
Joe Paterno has historically had his troubles facing Michigan. I think they continue this week for a couple of reasons. One, I think the Penn State secondary is vulnerable. They've allowed some yards against inferior opponents and Michigan certainly has the manpower to move the ball - especially if Chad Henne returns to the field which you figure he's going to. Second, Penn State's not going to hold the Wolverines rushing attack to 17 yards per game like they have against FIU, Notre Dame and Buffalo. The hype surrounding the Nittany Lions is a little premature if you ask me - they've played absolutely nobody as evidenced above. Those are three of the worst teams in Division I-A football and now they're finally on the road against a very good offensive team. Obviously, Michigan's porous defense is the big concern. Chances are they're going to get burned multiple times, but if they make a stop here or there - and force a few turnovers - then they've got the upset.

LSU (-16.5) over South Carolina
Too much talent, too much depth, too much defense. LSU has it all and the Gamecocks are out-classed in this one. Steve Spurrier is being realistic about his team's chances and let's just say he's not particularly optimistic. So that should tell you all you need to know. South Carolina has been very inconsistent throwing the ball around and they can't rely strictly on their running game because they're not going to carve out 186 yards like they've averaged in three games.

N.C. State (+7) over Clemson
Tom O'Brien has had pretty good success in his career over Tommy Bowden and he brought in Mike Archer as his defensive coordinator from Kentucky who did a pretty good job last December stopping Clemson's potent one-two punch of James Davis and C.J. Spiller. This also happens to be Cullen Harper's first road game. I may be reaching on this one because I was looking for one more upset on the board and I can't see any other Top 25 team going down.

Alabama (-3) over Georgia
I like momentum to carry over for the Crimson Tide. They're coming off their emotional come-from-behind victory over Arkansas last weekend and Saban's defense is more than capable of stopping that young Georgia offense. John Parker Wilson played pretty well last week and he can move the ball against the Bulldogs. Plus, Georgia's vulnerable against the run.

Arkansas (-6.5) over Kentucky
It's pretty simple here. Ketucky has to stop Darren McFadden and his band of running backs from controlling the the ball and limiting Andre' Woodson's opportunities. But I don't think the Wildcats can contain the Razorbacks running attack. Not with the front Kentucky features.

Posted by Adam Caparell at 02:31 PM on September 21, 2007
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