Saturday's matchup between Nebraska and Penn State would have been a big deal, in the Big Ten if not across college football as a whole, even if the Jerry Sandusky scandal hadn't shaken the foundation of Happy Valley and felled Joe Paterno in a matter of days.
Now, whatever happens at Beaver Stadium will impact much more than the race to reach the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis.
First and foremost, there will be the acknowledgement of the victims of Sandusky's alleged, sickening abuses. Everyone who attends the game is encouraged to wear blue as part of a "Blue Out" in support of Prevent Child Abuse Pennsylvania and the university.
There will be cameras fixed on the sidelines, watching interim head coach Tom Bradley, a Penn State lifer, as he attempts to lead the Nittany Lions in JoePa's place.
There will be questions about Paterno—where he is, what he's doing, whether he's watching the game or not, what he would do in a given situation, how he's getting on after nearly 62 years as a coach in State College.
There will also be questions about Mike McQueary, the assistant who supposedly caught Sandusky in the act in 2002 and seemingly failed to do enough to spot or report it. McQueary will not be at the game and has been placed on administrative leave amidst a barrage of threats that have come his way in the wake of this scandal.
Many have been left to wonder why the axe did not also fall on McQueary's neck. It appears as though McQueary might be protected as a whistle blower, perhaps even to the extent that the state doesn't want the university to upset McQueary, whose cooperation as a witness will be valuable to the investigation of Sandusky's crimes going forward.
There will be thoughts of Urban Meyer, the ESPN analyst and former two-time national championship coach at Florida, who was scheduled to be in the booth at Beaver Stadium but will instead be with his family in the wake of his father's passing. Meyer has been mentioned as a potential full-time replacement for Paterno but has stated publicly that he's not interested in the job.
There will be the painful swirl of emotions among the Penn State players on the field, whose Senior Day has been sullied by the poor choices and inaction of their adult superiors. They will now be playing as much, if not more, for the victims of Sandusky's abuses as for themselves, for JoePa and for the university as a whole.
And, last and perhaps least in this case, between the grieving, the outrage and the sadness, there will be the excitement of a football game that would have been meaningful in and of itself. The 12th-ranked Nittany Lions will look to notch their sixth win over a Big Ten opponent in as many tries this season to move themselves one step closer to securing first place in the Leaders Division and the spot in the Big Ten title game that comes with it.
The hope, then, is that the joy of victory will serve both as a brief respite from the incredible pain and anguish that has enveloped Happy Valley and as an anchor of normalcy and stability amidst the chaos and the media firestorm that has come with it.
The hope, really, is that sport can still be a force for good, even after enabling pure evil.