A first-time conference championship and a new member in Nebraska has Penn State fans anxious for the start of the 2011 football season.
With spring practice just around the corner, it's not too early to start thinking about the potential for the 2011 season. The quarterback position will be the most watched position battle in the spring as Matt McGloin, Robert Bolden, Kevin Newsome and possibly redshirt freshman Paul Jones fight for the starting spot under center.
McGloin took the Nittany Lion faithful on a roller coaster run to finish out the 2010 campaign after stepping in for Bolden. The true freshmen showed flashes of potential early on, but later relinquished the spot to McGloin after a spot start against Michigan.
The Scranton, Pa. native was at his best against the Wolverines, throwing for 250 yards and a touchdown in a 41-31 at Beaver Stadium. After McGloin's four touchdown performance against Northwestern, it appeared he would have a stranglehold on the position for the upcoming season. But an incosistent finish to the year, including eight interceptions in his last four games, has opened up the competition once again.
Of course following the bowl game loss to Florida, Bolden made headlines by stating he would be transferring but head coach Joe Paterno would not grant Bolden a release from his scholarship. Newsome also appeared as though he would transfer but later backtracked.
The only thing we do know for certain is that the Blue White spring game will have a lot of Penn State fans checking in.
If the Lions get consistent quarterback play from one of the four quarterbacks, they could be in line to fight for the "Leaders" division in the newly aligned Big Ten. Penn State is joined in the division by Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Purdue.
Lots of questions surround the six division members and most notably Ohio State after the suspension of five key members including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Now head coach Jim Tressel has also been suspended for the first two games of the year due to having prior knowledge of Pryor and his teammates selling jerseys and championship rings to a local tatoo parlor. The Buckeyes first Big Ten game will be against Michigan State, where the team will play without Pryor.
Penn State, who does not play Michigan or Michigan State, starts off its Big Ten slate on the road at Indiana and returns home for games versus Iowa and Purdue. The Lions then follow with matchups at Northwestern and home with Illinois before a bye week prior to the tilt with Nebraska.
With the final three bouts against Nebraska, at Ohio State and at Wisconsin, Penn State must take advantage of a favorable early conference schedule. Of course lots of things can happen between now and the end of November (see Ohio State), but the path for the Lions leading into the final month of the season could have the team in a close battle for the inaugural Big Ten title game.
If Penn State is to make a push to get to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Decemeber 3, the decision who will get the starting quarterback nod will have a lot to say about it. The pressure will be on to produce early in conference play.