The Big Ten Leaders Division is up for grabs and it's right there for the taking. In the wake of the sex scandal at Penn State it remains to be seen if the Nittany Lions can "man up" and win their next two games that have huge Big Ten Championship implications.
Penn State (8-2, 5-1) missed a huge opportunity last week coming up short against the Cornhuskers. If the Nittany Lions would have been able to come up with a win Saturday then all they would have had to do to clinch the Leaders Division was beat Ohio State. Not an easy task, but that seems more viable than having to win at Ohio State (3:30 p.m. ABC/ESPN) and at Wisconsin which is what they have to do now in order to head to the Big Ten Championship game.
Here's the scenario in order for Penn State to win the Leaders division and head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship.
The game against Ohio State at the moment doesn't necessarily have to equal a win. The only way Ohio State can win the division is if they beat Penn State and Wisconsin loses to Illinois this weekend. Ohio State has three losses in the division and Wisconsin has two. Penn State can clinch the division with a win and a Wisconsin loss this weekend and also if they win out. Even if Penn State loses this weekend to Ohio State, it can capture the division with a win at Wisconsin. Despite the loss last week, the formula is simple just win. If that happens, the Nittany Lions are headed to the Big Ten Championship.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, could ease the pain of the sex abuse scandal at Penn State more than a trip to Indianapolis. Before that can happen however, a miracle must occur.
That miracle is Matt McGloin needs to play the quarterback position at a much higher level. It's no doubt that McGloin is the lesser of the two evils on the depth chart for the Nittany Lions, but he just doesn't posess the ability to create big plays down field. I often here fans say "Is this the best player that we can get to play quarterback at Penn State?"
Fans that don't pay that much attention to recruiting don't realize that Rob Bolden and Paul Jones were four-star recruits coming out of high school. Jones can't get his act together academically and Bolden obviously is mentally having issues. Bolden showed promise last season, but as I have mentioned in previous columns he has really struggled to do much of anything on the field this season.
Seeing McGloin play in person on numerous occassions has led me to believe he doesn't have the arm strength to be the quarterback Penn State needs him to be. Last week against Nebraska, McGloin had Derek Moye open down the field a handfull of times and could not get him the football simply because he doesn't have the ability to.
The reasoning behind Moye not receiving the ball was because when McGloin rolls out it probably takes about 20 or 30 yards off his deep ball. So fans may ask, "Why is McGloin starting?" McGloin starts for one reason. He has the best grasp of the offense and mentally gives the Nittany Lions the best chance to win. It's too bad that successful quarterbacks need to be both mentally and physically gifted, a luxury that the Penn State offense does not have at the moment.
Probably one of the most hated of Penn State's rivals in the Big Ten is Ohio State. A win at Columbus could also help ease the sorrows of the Penn State fan base and I would love to say that the Nittany Lions should win this football game. The problem is Penn State playing at Columbus doesn't fair well for the Nittany Lions.
Ohio State is no doubt down and Penn State needs to kick them while they are. The Buckeyes come into this match-up with a young and inexperienced quarterback. True Freshman Braxton Miller (134-712-9 TDs rush, 118-201-1545 yds-10 TDs-7 int pass) has the ability to run and throw the football, but as of right now is better at running it. He is similar to Illinois QB Nate Scheelhaase and Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez in that respect, both of whom were kept under wraps for the most part by the Nittany Lions' defense.
The Ohio State rushing attack is solid ranking 27th in the country gaining about 202 yards per game on the ground. The Penn State defense has been good defending the run this season only giving up 119.5 yards per game. The Ohio State defense is a little better at defending the run giving up just 119.3 per contest. One would imagine that whatever team does better in the passing game today would have the best shot at winning the ball game.
It's evident that Ohio State isn't as much of a brute force as it has been in years past. They have also had to deal with a ton of controversy over the last year, including the firing of their head coach and the suspension of a number of key players. The fact remains that they're vunerable and so is Penn State.
In spite of their vulnerability, however, the Nittany Lions can still do something that nobody gave them a shot to do play for a BIg Ten championship. If the Nittany Lions can win these next two games, especially with the Sandusky mess hanging around their heads, they will have definitely earned their title game berth,.
I mentioned in the column following the Illinois game that this Nittany Lions team above all things had character. That was just before news of the Sandusky scandal hit. If there was ever a time to use that attribute it would certainly be right now. Penn State has always been about success with honor and I think that saying should be revised until honor can be restored. This team's message moving forward should be success with character and a win at Columbus could definitely help make that point.