Our good friend Kevin McGuire of the Examiner.com joins us to share his thoughts on today's Penn State-Nebraska game. For more of our game day coverage—from bomb threats to tears to candlelight vigils featuring Lavar Arrington—click here.
Penn State has been through one of the worst weeks a university could imagine for the most part, but on Saturday there will be a four-hour window to attempt to escape from the off-field scandal that has taken the nation by storm.
On Saturday, football will be played in Beaver Stadium. As if Senior Day is not an emotional enough time already, the impact and fall out of the sex abuse scandal linked to the university and football program sheds a dark cloud over what has been largely the most anticipated game of the Penn State season, against Nebraska.
The two most recent additions to the Big Ten (Penn State in 1993 and Nebraska this season) are paired up in a guaranteed crossover rivalry series under the structure of the new Big Ten, and today opens a new chapter in program history for both schools. For Penn State, enter new head coach Tom Bradley.
For the first time since 1949 a Penn State game will be played where Joe Paterno is not on the coaching staff. Just let that sink in for a moment.
Bradley has assumed the interim head coaching responsibilities following the dismissal of long-time program icon Joe Paterno, who has been tied to the Jerry Sandusky investigation by the state. His job will not be easy, as no man wants to be the first to take over on the sideline following a legend, and true icon for not just Penn State but also for the sport of college football. But he seems determined to allow the seniors and captains on this team to take the lead. He has said this is their team, and he is there for them.
As far as the game is concerned, understanding it is far down on the list of priorities this week, there is a good amount of importance riding on the outcome. A win brings Penn State one step closer to the Big Ten championship game. Penn State controls their own fate in the Leaders Division race, needing to win two of their final three games to clinch a spot in the conference's first annual championship game. For Nebraska, a win will help them stay in the thick of the Legends Division race as the Cornhuskers attempt to keep pace with Michigan State, who Nebraska has already defeated.
Penn State's players appear to be focused heading in to this game. It has been two weeks since their last game, so you get the feeling that after everything that has gone on in State College, this defense is going to be ready to hit some players in the other color uniform. Nebraska is also coming in to this game with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, obviously for different reasons. Nebraska was upset last week at home by scrappy Dan Persa and Northwestern. The loss dropped Nebraska from the top ten in the rankings and the win is perhaps more important for them than it is for Penn State.
Penn State, emotionally, could be drained in this game, but the character on this team is pretty resilient. They have battled different kinds of adversity all season, from a prolonged quarterback flip-flop, to digging deep for tough wins against on the road and finding the strength to pick up some revenge wins this season against Iowa and Illinois. They have earned the spot they are currently in. Now it is time for them to capitalize on the opportunity.
Penn State is certainly not seen in the same light as they once were, but these players have absolutely nothing to do with it. They should not be punished for what happened off the field. This game is for them, first and foremost.
It should be quite a day, to say the least.