No. 9 Ohio State and surging Penn State might be the class of the Big Ten at midseason, but neither team can win the conference title or play in the postseason because of NCAA sanctions.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The Big Ten won’t hand out a championship trophy to the winner of the Ohio State-Penn State game Saturday night, so bragging rights will have to do.
The ninth-ranked Buckeyes and surging Nittany Lions might be the class of the conference at midseason, but neither team can win the league title or play in the postseason because of NCAA sanctions.
Saturday’s meeting has turned into a virtual midseason bowl game, complete with a national television audience and plenty of hype. About 107,000 rowdy fans are expected to pack Beaver Stadium, which would be the first sellout of the season.
Welcome to the “Ineligi-Bowl.”
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“We only get the chance to lay it on the line 12 times, 12 Saturdays. So every game for us is a very, very big game,” Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said. “And we’re playing probably the best team in the Big Ten this week, with a great head coach in Urban Meyer.”
O’Brien and Meyer are in their first seasons at their respective, well-known programs saddled with NCAA sanctions.
Yet there are the undefeated Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0) and Nittany Lions (5-2, 3-0), playing another high-stakes conference game as if nothing has changed. First place in the Leaders Division is at stake.
“I assume it’s going to be, because it’s a night game, I’m sure the crowd will be nice,” Buckeyes senior tight end/receiver Jake Stoneburner said, tongue-in-cheek.
And yet so much has changed since the last time these teams met, a 20-14 victory for Penn State in Columbus on Nov. 19.
The Buckeyes then were led by interim coach Luke Fickell, who is coordinating the defense under Meyer.
That game was the one and only victory at Penn State for interim coach Tom Bradley, who took over a week earlier after longtime coach Joe Paterno was fired in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Bradley, the longtime defensive coordinator under Paterno, wasn’t retained when O’Brien was hired in January. Seven months later, a school already reeling from the aftereffects of the scandal was rocked again when the NCAA levied landmark penalties including a four-year bowl ban.
“I know there’s going to be some tough sanctions against them. I don’t really understand all of them,” Meyer said. “Penn State has great football players right now.”
Ohio State has a one-year bowl ban for a memorabilia-for-tattoos scandal during ex-coach Jim Tressel’s stint.
• John Wallace kicked a 30-yard field goal in overtime to lift No. 16 Louisville to a 34-31 victory over visiting Cincinnati after an attempt to ice the redshirt-freshman kicker went wrong for the Bearcats.
Cincinnati (5-2 overall, 1-1 Big East) got the ball first in OT but Terrell Floyd intercepted Munchie Legaux‘s floater in the end zone and the Cardinals (8-0, 3-0) drove 12 yards to set up Wallace.
Bearcats coach Butch Jones called timeout a moment before the field-goal attempt — and a high snap went through the holder’s hands. The next snap counted and Wallace put the ball through the uprights to win the game.
• Ex-Louisiana State standouts Tyrann Mathieu, 20, and Jordan Jefferson, 22, have been released from a Baton Rouge jail after their arrests on marijuana charges.
Mathieu, a Heisman Trophy finalist last year, played cornerback until he was dismissed from the team in August after reportedly failing a drug test. Quarterback Jefferson has been playing in the Canadian Football League.
They were released from jail early Friday, along with Derrick Bryant, a former backup safety. A fourth former player arrested in the case, Karnell Hatcher, remained in jail.