Huge point spread motivates Penn State
The talk of the Penn State locker room has shifted from the identity of the starting quarterback to a perceived national insult that running back Evan Royster said could motivate the team as it prepares to meet Ohio State on Saturday.
Coach Joe Paterno quickly eliminated the suspense and guessing games that marked the past two weeks, revealing Tuesday that Matt McGloin will make his second start of the season when the Nittany Lions travel to Columbus to play the Buckeyes.
Now, the issue is a lack of respect for Penn State, which is a 17 1⁄2-point underdog against the Buckeyes (8-1, 4-1), ranked seventh, eighth and ninth in the USA Today, Associated Press and BCS rankings, respectively.
When asked about the huge point spread, Royster made his feelings clear.
"We were talking about that (Monday)," Royster said. "It is kind of insulting. We have proven we can put points on the board and can win games.
"A lot of people will take offense to it, and it makes us work harder."
Penn State (6-3, 3-2) has scored 109 points during its current three-game winning streak against Big Ten rivals Minnesota, Michigan and Northwestern. In that time, McGloin, a former walk-on, has thrown seven touchdown passes after former starter Rob Bolden had only five in seven starts from the beginning of the season.
Paterno is pleased to see improvement — and a little moxie — from his team, which was knocked around by Alabama, Iowa and Illinois earlier this season. But he said locker room conversation will mean nothing Saturday in Ohio Stadium, where the Buckeyes are 57-5 since 2002.
"Talk isn't going to do anything," he said. "We have to play better than we have played all year. We have not done a good job on the road. Alabama was all over us. Iowa was all over us.
"We are trying to get better, and the team is trying to get better. I am pleased that they think they are, and they think they are going to be competitive against Ohio State.
"But we have to play the best game, by far, that we have played all year, just to be in it, or we will come home with our tails dragging. Ohio State is a little bit too good for just about everybody.
"You like to have kids talk with some confidence, but false confidence isn't going to do it."
The problem for Penn State will be solving the Buckeyes' defense, which is ranked third in the nation (behind TCU and Boise State) and allows an average of 234.2 yards per game.
Penn State's only edge may be the confidence gained since the team slipped to 3-3 after a 33-13 loss to Illinois on Oct. 9.
"We don't look at Ohio State as being any better than us," said Royster, who rushed for 346 yards in the past three games after totaling 388 in the previous six. "If we make the correct adjustments we can take advantage (of their blitzes), because sometimes they can run themselves out of the play and create some big gashes for us."