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July 12, 2010

An early look at the Big Ten: Penn State

The Penn State Nittany Lions

Location: State College, Penn.
Distance from Lincoln: 1,086 miles

Best way to get there: This will be the longest trip of the year for Husker fans, as Beaver Stadium is a whopping 18-hour drive from Lincoln. That means unless you're up for a full day (or two) of driving, flying is the only option. United, American and Continental airlines all offer flights from Omaha to State College, but all require at least two connections to get there. You could fly into Pittsburgh with just one connection, but it's a three-hour drive to State College after that.

Offensive scheme: Single back/3 wide

Defensive scheme: 4-3

Rivals.com past recruiting rankings: No. 12 (2010), No. 24 (2009), No. 43 (2008) and No. 24 (2007).

The Nittany Lions have three commitments for 2011, including a four-star, three-star and two-star recruit.

Penn State's history against Nebraska

Nebraska and Penn State have only met 13 times, but they've still managed to record games that will be remembered forever by both fan bases. The Nittany Lions hold a 7-6 all-time advantage, and their two most memorable wins came in 1982 and 2002.

In '82, quarterback Todd Blackledge led No. 8 Penn State on a 65-yard scoring drive in the final 1:18 to beat the No. 3 Huskers 27-24 in State College. Twenty years later in '02, unranked PSU manhandled No. 8 Nebraska 40-7 on national television. The loss essentially signaled the beginning of NU's fall from dominance for the next several years to come.

However, the Huskers got the last laugh, as they won the most recent meeting in 2003 with an 18-10 victory in Lincoln.

Why this game could be a potential rivalry

The head-to-head history between these two teams is probably enough to justify a rivalry in itself, but it was what happened off the field during one memorable season that officially seals the deal.

In 1994, Nebraska and Penn State were arguably the two best teams in college football. However, despite both ending the year undefeated, the Huskers played Miami in the Orange Bowl for the national championship, and Penn State had to settle for a Rose Bowl match-up against Oregon.

Obviously NU went on to beat Miami for its third title, even though the Nittany Lions crushed Oregon 38-20 and also finished with a perfect record. The way that season ended still boils the blood of Penn State fans to this day, and they would want nothing more than to get some revenge by knocking off the Huskers on a yearly basis.

Stars to watch for in 2011

The task of replacing record-setting quarterback Daryll Clark looks likely to go to sophomore Kevin Newsome. Despite throwing just 11 passes last season, Newsome is a dangerous threat as a runner, which may lead Penn State to gear its offense more around the running game for the next few years.

The Nittany Lions will have to find a replacement for talented running back Evan Royster when they meet Nebraska again in 2011, and junior Stephfon Green appears to be the top candidate for the job. Junior Derek Moye returns as PSU's top receiving threat, and he'll only get better by the time he's a senior in '11.

Though they lost a ton of defensive talent to the NFL this past couple years, the Nittany Lions always seem to find a way to reload, and should rank among the nation's best defenses like always both this year and in '11.


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