Penn State vs. Illinois: Why the Lions Can Actually Win the B1G Leaders Division

Ian Berg@@ShugJordanPkwyCorrespondent ISeptember 29, 2012

Sep 29, 2012; Champaign, IL, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Matthew McGloin (11) hands the ball off to running back Zach Zwinak (28) during the third quarter against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE

The Penn State Nittany Lions are standing tall at 3-2 with their first conference win of 2012 in the bag. Illinois took a beating in Saturday’s 35-7 loss to the Nittany Lions.

I was wrong a month ago when I said Penn State would be better off with a death penalty. I was right when I said it is time to move on and rally behind this staff and players. Penn State can win the Big Ten Leaders Division in 2012.

It has been amazing to watch this season unfold in Happy Valley. When the season started with two tough losses, it seemed like Penn State was doomed for a four-win year, if they were lucky.

The past three weeks the Nittany Lions have turned the corner winning three straight, and in convincing fashion.

Matt McGloin has been the heart of the offense going 83-of-140 for 1,006 yards on the season. McGloin has also tossed nine touchdowns and only two interceptions.

When Penn State has needed plays and leadership, McGloin has stepped up to the plate.

Penn State hasn’t done it all with offense; the Nittany Lions are ranked No. 24 in the country in scoring defense through four weeks of play. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof has done some good things after the first week meltdown against the Ohio Bobcats.

Speaking of that loss, Ohio is a 4-0 team right now who could run the table with no ranked teams ahead of them. The loss to the Bobcats doesn’t look so bad right now, surprisingly.

Penn State returns home to face Northwestern, and then travels to Iowa before hosting No. 14 Ohio State at home. The Ohio State game is setting up to be a division leading battle on October 27.

Early in September, the Big Ten announced that Penn State and Ohio State could both compete for a division title. The fact that they both are driving toward just that is definitely a surprise.

As the fifth game of the season is now put away, the Nittany Lions are undefeated in the conference and set up to contend for the Leaders Division title. Penn State fans are rallying behind their team and the Penn State players are out to prove they belong.

Northwestern will be a tough contest next week, as will games at Nebraska and at home against Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is a team that stands at 3-1 and could battle for the Leaders Division, as well. Right now, the best football is coming out of Columbus and State College.

Even with the sanctions and restrictions that have been placed on the program, the Nittany Lions continue to play for Penn State pride. With the development of the offense and strong effort defensively, Penn State can be a division contender this year.

It has been a fun show to watch unfold.