For the first time in 45 years, the Penn State Nittany Lions will begin the season led by a man not named Joe Paterno. The Bill O'Brien era will begin with a matchup against the Ohio Bobcats of the Mid-American Conference.
Penn State comes into the game with plenty of questions in the wake of a tumultuous offseason for the program that included massive NCAA sanctions, and they will look to show their resiliency in the season opener against Ohio.
The Bobcats come into the 2012 season after a 10-win season in 2011 and should be one of the favorites to win the MAC.
Players to Watch
Matt McGloin, QB, Penn State
Penn State will go as far as Matt McGloin can take them this season. Despite the option of transferring to another school without having to sit out, McGloin chose to stick with Penn State for his senior season and his leadership will be crucial to their success this season.
McGloin is entering his third year as the starter and he'll need this season to be his best. For his career, he's completed a pedestrian 54 percent of his passes and has a quarterback rating of 118.34.
McGloin's role has been that of a game manager as a starter, but this season he'll need to be a playmaker, and that starts with the game against the Bobcats.
Tyler Tettleton, QB, Ohio
With Tyler Tettleton at the helm, the Bobcats have a chance to pull off the upset.
Tettleton is a do-it-all kind of quarterback that poses a threat to the Penn State defense through the air and on the ground. In 2011 he threw for over 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns while adding 10 scores on the ground with almost 700 yards rushing.
Tettleton's versatility and leadership must shine through if Ohio wants to come up with the huge win.
Bill Belton, RB, Penn State
Before the NCAA sanctions hit, the Nittany Lions at least knew that they had star running back Silas Redd to stabilize the offense. However, the sanctions were handed down and when Penn State players were given the opportunity to transfer without sitting out, Redd bolted for the greener pastures of USC.
Stepping in to replace Redd will be sophomore running back Bill Belton. Belton is a similar back to Redd—both stand at 5'10" and weigh around 205 pounds.
Belton has the opportunity to really carry this offense, and getting off to a good start will be crucial against the Bobcats. A strong running game will go a long way in setting up McGloin to make plays off of play-action.
Prediction: Penn State 20 Ohio 13
This should be an emotionally charged game as Penn State will look to begin a new era of Nittany Lion football.
Penn State desperately needs a win here, but they can't afford to sleep on the Bobcats. If McGloin can show improvement and make some plays in the passing game, it should be enough to keep the Bobcats off balance and control the tempo.
If the Bobcats are able to contain the running game, they will need a great effort from their defense to contain Tettleton and keep this offense under wraps.
Look for Penn State to establish a lead early and play keep-a-way from the Bobcats.