After dropping the first two games of the season, Penn State has rebounded nicely, winning its past four consecutive contests, including two in-conference games.
The Nittany Lions looked primed for a disaster of a season following all the turmoil surrounding the university. The fact they are playing solid football right now is a serious testament to the excellent job that coach Bill O'Brien has done.
No other coach in the nation has faced nearly the amount of adversity that O'Brien has. From bowl bans to key players fleeing the program and everything in between, O'Brien has taken it all in stride and appears to have his program under control.
The fact that he has managed to handle all of these obstacles is enough in itself to make him the first-half coach of the year, but he has also really turned around PSU's offense.
After hanging an impressive 39 points on a solid Northwestern team, it's obvious that this offense has done a complete 360 from last year. O'Brien has effectively implemented his pro-style offense, and the job he's done with Matt McGloin has been phenomenal.
Heading into the year, many people were skeptical of McGloin and weren't entirely sure if he could handle O'Brien's complex system. But he's been great this year. A part of that can be credited to McGloin's maturity level and work ethic, but it also seems like O'Brien has connected with McGloin and gotten him to play some really effective football this season.
In the midst of all this, O'Brien has done a pretty solid job on the recruiting trail, which tends to be tough when your program is banned from postseason play for the next four years. The wins he's picking up this year are huge because, although the Nittany Lions are restricted from bowl play, the fact that this team is still competitive will avoid a complete recruiting letdown.
Now, of course, there are other coaches around the nation who have done fantastic jobs thus far. But when you take all things into account, it's hard not to proclaim O'Brien as the first-half coach of the year. The situation he inherited was unprecedented, and for the first time in a long time, there's a light at the end of the tunnel for Penn State's football program.