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TCU Baseball vs Penn State: Q&A With Black Shoe Diaries

We sat down with the Black Shoe Diaries to talk baseball, Big Ten weather, and Christian Hackenberg. Also, they don't like Baylor, either!

Melissa Triebwasser

No many TCU fans have a lot of connection to the Big Ten, especially when it comes to baseball. Can you tell us a little bit about what B1G baseball is all about - what are the crowds like, what kind of baseball is played, who the big dogs in the conference are?

Despite some who would like to split hairs on this point, the Big Ten is generally accepted as one of the top football and basketball conferences. It is decidedly not one of the best baseball conferences. No sport is more susceptible to the whims of weather than baseball, and it is simply very difficult to create sustained success at schools where you cannot play a home game for the entire first month of the season. Wisconsin has not even had a baseball team since 1991. Without sustained success, it can be difficult for some teams to maintain decent fan support. As far as the big dogs in the Big Ten, Indiana has been the most consistent performers in recent years. Meanwhile, Minnesota has vaulted to the top of the conference seemingly out of nowhere.
With TCU stepping outside of conference play this weekend to face an unfamiliar foe, we thought it best to sit down with the people that know Penn State best - the esteemed writers of Black Shoe Diaries. Dan Smith of the site was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about the Nittany Lions.

TCU and PSU do not have a long history together; in fact, it's hard to find a previous series between the two schools in baseball. With that being said, is there any buzz for this series in Happy Valley? Do people have much thought, either way, about the Horned Frogs back east?

This series is taking place on graduation weekend, so there will be larger than usual crowds in State College. That always brings in some extra foot traffic. Add in the pleasant surprise of Penn State being above .500 and I imagine you will see a larger than usual crowd for this game. But I cannot say that it has anything in particular to do with TCU. As it is probably for you guys as well, Penn State fans are only really familiar with TCU through its football program. It's certainly not a negative feeling, though (I would say the Texas school most resented by Penn State fans right now would be Baylor, but that is a discussion for another day). (*** editor's note: that day can be any day actually)

The Frogs have struggled in their last two series, but still come into the matchup with the Nittany Lions as a ranked opponent. PSU is off to a really good start this year, solidly above .500 and hanging around in the middle of the standings. What has been a strength for the team in 2016, and what is a weakness that TCU might look to exploit?

PSU's lineup seems pretty top heavy - four guys appear to carry the offense, and the team as a whole bats around .260. Give us a couple names to watch out for this weekend, and if there's one guy who can spur the Nittany Lions to an upset win, who will it be?

I'm going to answer both of these questions at once, because they sort of go back to the same point: Penn State's strength is its pitching, and its weakness is its lineup. The Nittany Lions have a young, stable rotation and a couple very good relievers. If they can build a lead, they will be confident that closer Jack Anderson and reliever Dakota Forsyth can hold it down.

But building that lead will be the bigger challenge. When the offense arrives, it's been good, but when it doesn't, the team is susceptible to being shutout. Still, the top of the order is pretty solid: shortstop Jim Haley and outfielder Greg Guers and Nick Riotto are probably the three key guys, and the right side of the infield with Connor Klemann and Willie Burger have been coming along as well.

TCU has been an explosive offensive team, but struggled against the power arms of Texas Tech at home this past weekend. Are the Penn State pitchers hard throwers, or more finesse guys? Is there anyone in the bullpen that can blow a fastball by a hitter?

Penn State's pitchers don't throw particularly hard, so this matchup favors the Horned Frogs. The only unusual thing you will see is that the closer Anderson is a submarine pitcher.

Does the team have any weird traditions or rallying cries that could end up with water being splashed on opposing cheerleaders?

State College has a longtime tradition of overcast and rainy days, so I cannot promise that more people won't get wet.

The time honored tradition of any Q&A is the prediction, so here we go: who wins the series and is either team looking at a possibility of a sweep this weekend?

TCU is the ranked team, and Penn State is having a nice season but is not by any means elite. So the threat of a sweep is there. But I will say Penn State takes one game in this series, because I'm a bet hedger from way back.

Lastly, do you want to make any predictions as far as what kind of pro QB Christian Hackenberg becomes for the Jets? If the over/under on number of regular season passes he throws this year is 25, what are you taking?

I will take the over, I have a hard time imagining things going smoothly for the Jets and that likely means Hackenberg playing before they want him to. And while I am terrified of what Chan Gailey will do to Hackenberg, I am still an unrepentant homer who believes he has the ability to become a good pro. His downfield accuracy goes in and out, but his short throw issues are the product of the current Penn State coaching staff fouling up his footwork and calling a terrible offense. There has been significant turnover for Penn State football's offensive coaching staff this offseason, and the failures of the last two years have a lot to do with how they failed Christian Hackenberg. He may never turn into anything, but I don't take the last two years as evidence that he can't play. This was way more than a bad offensive line, it was a failure on nearly all levels of coaching.

Thanks again to Dan (@sharpalright on twitter) and the good folks at Black Shoe Diaries. Be sure to check them out!