Penn State outside linebackers Sean Lee and Navarro Bowman are in the top tier of Big Ten linebackers, if not nationally. One would think that in their last year together, they would dominate offenses and wreak havoc upon opposing quarterbacks.
Problem is, through six games this year, they've played a total of three snaps together.
Midway through the first quarter against Akron this year, Bowman left the game early with a groin injury. When he returned to play three games later, Sean Lee was then on the sidelines with a headset, reminiscent of his contributions last season, when he was out all year with an ACL tear in his right knee.
Halfway through Penn State's third game against Temple this year, Lee sprained his left knee and hasn’t been allowed by the coaching staff to compete since then.
Lee has been eager to get back into action, suiting up the past two games, telling coaches and media alike that he's in shape to play, should the Nittany Lions need him.
They haven't so far, beating Illinois 35-17 away from home and crushing FCS team Eastern Illinois 52-3.
They might need him today.
Reserve linebackers Bani Gbadyu and Nate Stupar have stepped up big for Penn State this year, joining Josh Hull in maintaining the Nittany Lions' stout defense and Linebacker U prestige.
This Saturday, however, Penn State fans may get a feel of what the Lions' first team defense is really all about, pending Sean Lee's durability.
The remainder of Penn State's schedule includes two tough games in Michigan against the Wolverines and Spartans, as well as a showdown against the Buckeyes at home.
With the Nittany Lions' offense finally coming together and showing some efficiency, a successful season depends on the defense's ability to stop the Big Ten power offenses, particularly led by Tate Forcier of Michigan and Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State.