Joe Paterno Could Be Coaching His Last Game at Beaver Stadium

Mike MuellerContributor IINovember 23, 2010

Penn State will play a home game after Thanksgiving for the first time since 1998. It’s also the last chance for the Nittany Lions (7-4) to pick up a marquee win over Michigan State (10-1)

The Nits are 0-3 against BCS-ranked opponents this year and have been out-scored 86-20 in those games.

Enter the 10th ranked Spartans playing for a share of the Big Ten title.

The storylines are pretty obvious this week: Can Penn State burst the Spartans BCS berth? How will the Nittany Lion seniors respond in their final home game and who honestly cares about the Land Grant Trophy?

All of those topics are perfectly suitable to write about.

Too bad everybody will be writing about Joe Paterno.

Is this JoePa’s final game at Beaver Stadium? A lot of people think it might be.

Paterno is going to turn 84 next month and has shown signs of his age this season. His energy level seems to be way down from previous years and doesn’t seem as sharp in interviews. He has trouble hearing questions during press conferences and, at times, seems confused by some of the questions.

In Paterno’s defense, he rarely strings together two bad interviews and was on the money during his weekly press conference last week.

Paterno has a year left on his current three-year contract but after 45 seasons, what’s one more year right? That decision is ultimately up to JoePa (and rightfully so) but it will most likely depend on his health.

Paterno had "intestinal issues" over the summer and just picked up a new hip after the 2008 Rose Bowl. The grueling work and travel load of another season might just be too much to bear for the aging legend.

I’m not saying it’s a done deal, but what else does JoePa have left to prove? He eclipsed the 400 win plateau this season, has two national titles under his belt and is already in the College Football Hall of Fame.

If he comes back, Paterno will have another average team on his hands like he has this year. They won’t contend for a Big Ten or BCS berth and will most likely finish 4th or 5th again in the conference.

In the end, the only person who really knows when JoePa will retire is JoePa. He has always said and done things his way. He’ll bow out when he feels it’s right and won’t let anybody else make that decision for him.

It’s sad to think that one of the last true icons in college football will soon be stepping down. Whether that’s this year or next, it’s on the way and the questions will keep coming until JoePa finally puts that issue to bed.

Let’s just hope that’s later than sooner.