Penn State vs. Nebraska: Nittany Lions Will Walk out of Lincoln Victorious

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 27: Running back Carlos Hyde #34 of the Ohio State Buckeyes is pulled down by Penn State Nittany Lions defenders in the fourth quarter at Beaver Stadium on October 27, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. The Ohio State Buckeyes won, 35-23. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It's payback time, sort of, for the Penn State Nittany Lions football team.

Last season, in a game that many—myself included—didn't think should take place, Nebraska walked into Beaver Stadium on the heels of Joe Paterno's dismissal and the disgusting details of the Jerry Sandusky scandal not even a week old to take on a stunned Nittany Lions squad.

While Penn State fought valiantly, it ultimately fell, 17-14—a loss that cost the team a shot at the Big Ten Championship.

Now the Nittany Lions, ineligible for postseason play, walk into Memorial Stadium in Lincoln with nothing to lose and the opportunity to return the favor, putting an end to Nebraska's B1G Championship aspirations.

It's not going to be easy, as Nebraska's dual-threat QB, Taylor Martinez, is incredibly difficult to defend against. He accounted for 365 yards from scrimmage (160 passing, 205 rushing) and four touchdowns last week against Michigan State.

Linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti will need to be at the top of their games for the Nittany Lions to contain Martinez, because that's all you can really hope to do—stopping him outright isn't a realistic option.

But you can force him to make poor decisions with the ball, evidenced by the two interceptions he threw against the Spartans.

Against a Penn State defense that allows only 17.1 points per game—the 14th-lowest average in the nation—one turnover could be all it takes for the Nittany Lions to gain the advantage.

It's not going to be a cakewalk for the Huskers offense, either.

On the other side of the ball, Matt McGloin is completing a career-high 62.5 percent of his passes and has 18 touchdown passes to only three interceptions on the season. Nebraska's defense, for its part, is very strong against the pass, allowing 156 yards per game through the air.

The bottom line is this: Penn State needs to play a flawless game to beat Nebraska on Saturday.

But for its seniors, this is their bowl game. A win here might not result in the Nittany Lions winning the Legends Division, especially with Ohio State still unbeaten, but it keeps them alive and gives them something other than pride to play for.

It gives them hope for the future.

That's what this game is about, what this entire season has been about—setting a tone for the future in Happy Valley.

Penn State will strike the right chord on Saturday in Lincoln.