All eyes will be on Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia this coming Saturday afternoon when the Penn State Nittany Lions take on the Virginia Cavaliers in a can't-miss non-conference showdown.
The two programs have not met since November 2002 in Happy Valley.
The ACC's Cavaliers won their home opener over in-state rival Richmond convincingly in Week 1, while Penn State is clearly feeling the effects of the child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the football program to its core.
The Nittany Lions failed to score in the second half at home in their opener, losing to Ohio to kickoff the 2012 college football season.
Will they bounce back on the road in Week 2?
Here is everything you need to know for Saturday afternoon's Big Ten vs. ACC clash in Charlottesville.
Where: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA
When: Saturday, September 8 at 12 p.m. ET
Listen: 1450 AM (State College), 1070 AM (Charlottesville)
Live Streaming: Big Ten Network
Betting Line: Virginia (-10), according to Covers.com.
The unavoidable storyline heading into Saturday afternoon's matchup in Charlottesville is how Penn State will bounce back from their shocking home loss to Ohio last weekend. Although the Bobcats won 10 games in 2011 and returned a number of talented starters, most expected the Big Ten's Nittany Lions to come out with a hard-fought home victory.
The struggles will likely continue throughout the season, and that means the topic of discussion will be how Penn State is going to fare in conference play and how many games they can win in 2012. Unfair or not, little focus will be on Virginia in Saturday's game.
Who May Not Play for Penn State
*According to USA Today
CB Stephon Morris (Ankle), questionable for Saturday
RB Bill Belton (Ankle), questionable for Saturday
Who May Not Play for Virginia
*According to USA Today
LB Adam Caplinger (Knee), out for season
T Tim Cwalina (Heart), out for season
DT Marco Jones (Knee), out for season
S David Marrs (Knee), out for season
Neither Virginia nor Penn State began the season ranked in the Top 25. However the Cavaliers have the perfect combination of favorable schedule and talent to perhaps finish the season among the top teams in the nation. Of course, they will need to beat Penn State at home first in order to keep that goal alive.
For the Nittany Lions, last Saturday's home loss to Ohio signals they are in for a long season in 2012. I don't expect Penn State to challenge in the Top 25 rankings at all this fall.
What They're Saying
First-year Penn State head coach and offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien took on full responsibility for the Nittany Lions' struggles in their season opener (via The Centre Daily Times' Guy Cipriano):
We have to string plays together. We have to do a better job of coaching on offense and that starts with me. We have to get the defense off the field, and when the defense is on the field, they have to get stops. That starts with me doing a better job of coaching this football team.
O'Brien seems to be the perfect man to lead Penn State through a challenging season, and his attitude is certainly the right one heading into Saturday's game against Virginia.
Meanwhile, Virginia head coach Mike London had high praise for Penn State after watching some of their game against Ohio (via The Richmond Times-Dispatch):
We watched a little bit. They played against a 10-win team in Ohio. You could see elements of what Bill has brought from the Patriots, and the utilization of the tight end in the passing game. (Penn State's) players are good players. That's a team that won a bowl game last year.
London is smart not to take the Nittany Lions lightly heading into what could be a trap game for his Cavaliers.
Penn State Player to Watch
Sophomore wide receiver Allen Robinson had an awesome performance against Ohio last weekend. Robinson caught nine passes for 97 yards. As a freshman in 2011, Robinson caught just three balls all season long, which means he has grown tremendously over the summer.
Already it looks like Robinson has developed a trusting relationship with senior signal-caller Matt McGloin, who completed one-third of his passes to Robinson against Ohio. The sophomore has a soft pair of hands and a knack for getting open. You can't ask for much more than that.
Virginia Player to Watch
Junior quarterback Michael Rocco had a big day throwing the ball in Virginia's opener against Richmond last weekend. Rocco, who threw for over 2,600 yards and 13 touchdowns last year as a sophomore, completed 25-of-37 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown against the Spiders.
At 6'3", 225 pounds, Rocco is projected to be one of the ACC's top quarterbacks this season. He has a big arm and phenomenal accuracy that makes the Cavaliers one of college football's most underrated offensive attacks.
The key matchup in this weekend's showdown in Charlottesville will be the Penn State ground attack versus the Virginia run defense. The Cavaliers allowed just 28 rushing yards on 21 carries from Richmond in their opener. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions are averaging 4.2 yards per carry coming into Week 2.
With sophomore running back Bill Belton questionable for Penn State this Saturday, senior Derek Day, who has just 15 career rushing attempts, will have to turn out a remarkable performance in order for the Lions to keep Virginia honest on defense. In the end, I like Virginia to win this matchup easily, forcing Matt McGloin to beat them through the air.
On the Hot Seat
Although Bill O'Brien is in no danger of being fired after only two games as head coach of Penn State, he will certainly feel his seat heating up if he and the Nittany Lions can't escape Charlottesville with a win on Saturday.
Penn State's 24-14 home loss to Ohio in the season opener last week has many experts wondering if O'Brien's squad can win a Big Ten game this year. For me, the better question is whether the Lions will win a single game. Either way, the Bill O'Brien era in State College hasn't gotten off to a great start.
The Cavaliers boast a stellar passing attack, which currently ranks 11th in the nation heading into Saturday's matchup with Penn State. Considering the Nittany Lions surrendered 324 yards through the air to Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton in the opener, I expect Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco to exploit their secondary early and often.
Virginia 31, Penn State 17
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