College Football Overtime (cont.)
During an interview ESPN first aired Friday night, Tom Rinaldi asked Penn State assistant coach Jay Paterno for his reaction to the Big Ten removing his father's name from its championship game trophy. Said Paterno: "Let's get there and win it and put it back on. ... We'll bring a nice yellow post-it note and we'll stick it right back on there."
With the furor over the Jerry Sandusky child molestation allegations and Penn State's gross mishandling of the situation still fresh and the story developing daily, it's hard for many to separate the individuals under scrutiny and those who merely coach and play for Penn State. People are entitled to their suspicions, but neither interim coach Tom Bradley nor any other current assistant was mentioned in the grand jury report (several vehemently denied prior knowledge of the alleged 2002 shower incident in interviews with Rinaldi), and certainly the players had nothing to do with it. On top of the Sandusky fallout, the players learned this week that recently dismissed coach Joe Paterno is suffering from treatable lung cancer.
With all that in mind, I couldn't help but feel happy for the Nittany Lions following their 20-14 win at Ohio State, Penn State's first victory of the post-Paterno era. Next week, the Nittany Lions (9-2) visit Wisconsin (9-2) for a shot to go to Indianapolis and break out that post-it note.
Perhaps uplifted by getting out of scandal-torn Happy Valley, the Nittany Lions seemed to have an extra spark Saturday, racing to 20 first-half points in part by breaking out the Wildcat, which they apparently had been practicing all season. Receivers Bill Belton and Curtis Drake took snaps, and Stephfon Green ran for a 39-yard touchdown out of the formation. When Jay told his ailing father of the team's plans this week, he reportedly replied: "It's about time."
"It was a nice wrinkle that we needed," said Bradley.
While there's finally some reason to smile in State College, things are bleaker in Columbus, where Ohio State has now lost five games for the first time in a decade and will be a heavy underdog this week against archrival Michigan despite winning the past eight meetings. Depending on what you read, Urban Meyer has either agreed to or will soon agree to take over as head coach sometime after Saturday's game, with the NCAA Committee on Infractions' looming penalties the one potential stumbling block. Buckeyes fans need only look to the school that just beat theirs for some perspective.
"A game is a game," said Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin. "Whether we win or lose out there, it's not going to help [Joe Paterno's recovery] out at all. But it definitely made him feel good that we went out there and got a win."
A lot of people have a lot of negative feelings toward the man right now, and understandably so, but all can agree on one thing: May he have a speedy recovery.
LaMichael James averages the most yards per game. Montee Ball is the touchdown machine. Trent Richardson is the human highlight reel.
But the nation's leading rusher as measured by actual yardage is Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey. With a season-high 214 yards on 37 carries in Saturday's 31-21 win at North Texas -- a game that made the Hilltoppers (6-5) bowl eligible for the first time -- Rainey now has 1,468 yards on the season, two ahead of Virginia Tech's David Wilson.
But he's closing in on a more notable feat. If he gains 32 yards in WKU's season finale against Troy, Rainey will become just the eighth player since 2000 to post back-to-back 1,500 yard seasons, a feat previously achieved by LaDainian Tomlinson, Steven Jackson, Ray Rice, DeAngelo Williams, Garrett Wolfe, Darren McFadden and James.
That's some distinguished company.
Mini-previews for three of this week's big games:
Arkansas at LSU, Friday (2:30 p.m. ET): You don't often see this for a game between No. 1 and No. 3: LSU opened Sunday as a two-touchdown favorite. Either the Tigers really are the second coming of 2001 Miami, or Vegas doesn't believe Arkansas is the third-best team in the country. I'll go with the latter.
Penn State at Wisconsin, Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET): If not for a Hail Mary, the Badgers might still be in the thick of the national title discussion -- but they'd still need this win to reach Indianapolis. Penn State's defense is capable of slowing down Russell Wilson and Montee Ball, but can its offense do enough to get by?
Notre Dame at Stanford, Saturday (8 p.m. ET): Many a player has wrapped up the Heisman by playing either for or against the Irish. USC's Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart were the most recent examples to use the Thanksgiving weekend showcase as a closing argument. Andrew Luck could follow in their footsteps.