Paterno's Last Stand: Penn State in the Aftermath of Ohio State's Fallout

Pete DymeckAnalyst IJune 4, 2011

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 13:  Head Coach Jim Tressel of the Ohio State Buckeyes greets Head Coach Joe Paterno of the Penn State Nittany Lions at midfield following the Buckeyes' 38-14 win over the Nittany Lions at Ohio Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The last decade has been riddled with controversy as to when Joe Paterno was going to retire and who would replace him. 

Amid the turmoil in Columbus, the questions concerning Paterno have faded into oblivion as the new-look Big Ten appears to be completely up for grabs, thanks in part to the dismay at Ohio State. This is great news for Paterno.

The silence in Happy Valley is deafening. While Joe Paterno continues to submit no hints that he is planning to retire any time soon, the 84-year old head coach is still sludging through the offseason in his famed black shoes and white socks, pants still rolled up accordingly.

Hypothetically, 2011 appears to be Paterno's last stand. Bobby Bowden is now out of the way so he can no longer catch JoePa as the head coach with the most wins under his belt in FBS history.

The pressure from all of these years of whether or not he is actually retiring is no longer an issue since every member of the Nittany Lion Club, fan, and media member has acquiesced to JoePa's determination to remain the face of the Nittany Lions.

The controversy that swallowed Jim Tressel at Ohio State is not even a blip on Paterno's radar. It could have been.

In fact, Terrelle Pryor turned down the opportunity to be under Paterno's earnest tutelage in favor of Tressel because the Ohio State campus and surrounding area was more "urban" for Pryor.

Just imagine the possibilities for Pryor, Tressel, and Ohio State had Penn State nabbed the Jeannette native in recruiting.

Jim Tressel might still have his job. Ohio State may not be facing serious penalties from the NCAA. Terrelle Pryor might be a better citizen and Joe Paterno might have one more National Championship trophy to talk about.

Instead, Pryor's final season, which is already marred by a five-game suspension, is in jeopardy. The state of Ohio State football is in dire straits.

Jim Tressel lost his job and possibly any opportunity to coach major college football again. And still, Paterno is smiling, heading into 2011 with 401 wins in his rear-view mirror.

Questions do arise for JoePa when it comes to what is happening at Penn State, not out of it.

The Nittany Lions do have some question marks at quarterback. A competition is in place between Matt McGloin and Robert Bolden.

Both passers are sophomores heading into 2011 but this competition may not have even taken place had Bolden had his way and Paterno buckled under pressure from Bolden's father.

Bolden wants to transfer. He continues to repeat this but Paterno refuses to relieve him of his scholarship and allow him to transfer. Paterno believes in standing resolute to one's commitments.

It seems as if Bolden wants to leave because he is under pressure from his competition, Matt McGloin, but that is just random speculation. There may be more going on but we will never know.

Joe Paterno is old, but the old saying stands firm for him: loose lips sink ships.

Penn State is a ship that won't be sinking any time soon.

Regardless of the controversy and competition at quarterback, Paterno's last stand and last great hope for a BCS title run will begin in a couple of months.

He has one of the best running backs in the nation in Silas Redd. A group of spectacular receivers are returning. Losing Stefen Wisniewski on the offensive line may hurt, but Penn State does well replacing those players.

Penn State may have the strongest depth chart among its linebackers and safeties in the Big Ten. Cornerback and defensive line may be an issue early on, but the Nittany Lions always come through defensively. Paterno's defensive unit is one of the best annually, across the board.

Since 2005, Penn State has finished with at least 11 wins twice. They have had at least nine wins in each of those seasons but for 2010. Last year, they juggled two freshmen at quarterback while dealing with a record-setting running back in Evan Royster who had too many miles on his tires. 

For what could be Paterno's last stand to be successful, he must receive better-than-expected play out of whoever is quarterback, McGloin or Bolden. And then, Redd must live up to the hype and help the offense control the tempo of the game. 

The defense must continue to dig in and hold their own, too.

Altogether, Penn State returns seven starters on offense, seven starters on defense. The one player they lost who will be missed the most is center Wisniewski.

Wide receiver Derek Moye continues to look like the next Bobby Engram while running back Silas Redd is poised to put up Ki-Jana Carter-like numbers.

Defensive tackle Devon Still is a player to watch; he could be the next in a long line of Nittany Lions to be an All-American who can pummel opponents within the trenches.

Paterno's boys don't play a schedule that is too light in the loafers this year, either. Naturally, they open with a cupcake at home vs. Indiana State but get right into the thick of things as they do battle with Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide on Sept. 10. 

And then, from the weekend of Halloween through November, Penn State plays a murderers' row of in-house opponents: Illinois (home), Nebraska (home), Ohio State (away) and Wisconsin (away).

With a wide open race in the Big Ten, what appears to be Joe Paterno's last stand (if silence means anything) could be a surprising one. The Nittany Lions don't have many expectations this year, and that will only make them more dangerous.

A BCS bowl game is what Paterno needs to send him off happily. A national title would be even better. Neither are out of the question but the stars must fall in perfect alignment to make many a believer.

Therefore, the fallout at Ohio State could have positive repercussions for the other programs that have kept their noses clean.

There is nothing more that the Big Ten needs right now than a feel-good story. A great season that nobody expected out of the white helmets from Central Pennsylvania could do the trick. Especially if it is, after all, Joe Paterno's last stand.