Defeating Ohio State gets even tougher for Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK -- Two weeks ago at his weekly news conference before the Michigan game, Penn State coach Joe Paterno was asked about not facing the Wolverines the next two seasons because of Big Ten expansion.
"I haven't thought about next year," Paterno said. "We don't play Michigan next year?"
If Paterno isn't sure about his 2011 schedule, he does know Michigan and Ohio State had open dates the week before their Penn State games this year.
"I think the Big Ten does a great job of scheduling," he said.
Penn State (6-3, 3-2), which has won three in a row after an emotionally charged, come-from-behind victory over Northwestern last Saturday, must get down to the business of playing Ohio State (8-1, 4-1), its opponent Saturday in Columbus.
Ohio State, which is No. 8 in the BCS rankings, has won the past five Big Ten titles and is in a four-team race for the conference championship with Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State.
Facing Ohio State in November may be the most daunting task in the Big Ten.
Since coach Jim Tressel arrived in 2001, the Buckeyes are 27-4 in November. The next-best November marks by a Big Ten team during that stretch are held by Iowa (20-11) and Penn State (19-10). Just two of Ohio State's four November losses under Tressel have been at home.
A three-touchdown deficit at home against Northwestern is one challenge. Falling behind early inside Ohio Stadium is another.
"I think that's what it comes down to: We have to put together a full game and we can't come out next week like we did this week," fullback Joe Suhey said. "We've got to have a fast start and build momentum throughout the game."
A two-loss Ohio State team entered Beaver Stadium last Nov. 7 as an underdog but controlled the game from start to finish in a 24-7 victory. The Buckeyes went on to defeat Iowa and Michigan to win the Big Ten title, and vanquished Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
Prior to this season, Paterno said: "I thought Ohio State last year was the best team in the country, at least of what I had seen."
He had seen Ohio State in November. The Nittany Lions have defeated the Buckeyes twice in the past five seasons -- splitting the conference title with Ohio State both times -- but are 0-2 against Tressel in November.
"We are definitely going to try to go to Columbus with the attitude we had in the second half (against Northwestern)," defensive tackle Devon Still said. "We are going to try to shock the world and beat Ohio State."
Notes: Linebacker Michael Mauti was selected Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week after recording a career-high 11 tackles and three tackles for loss against Northwestern. He shared the honor with Wisconsin cornerback Antonio Fenelus. ... Penn State's game against Indiana on Nov. 20 at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., will start at noon and be televised on the Big Ten Network. ... Tressel and fellow Big Ten coaches Bret Bielema of Wisconsin, Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern and Kirk Ferentz of Iowa are among 15 semifinalists for the Maxwell Football Club's first Joseph V. Paterno Award for Coach of the Year. Maxwell Club President Ron Jaworski said the award will recognize the winner for success on the field and in the classroom and community. ... ESPN's "College GameDay" show will originate Saturday from Columbus, Ohio.Additional Information:
Record of Big Ten teams in November since 2001:
Ohio State 27-4
Penn State 19-10
Michigan State 10-23