Big Ten preview: Top defenses collide at Beaver

Also, Iowa looks to keep unbeaten streak alive as Northwestern visits with spoiler hopes.

by Marco LaNave

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno said he had some interaction with Ohio State sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor when he was the top recruit in the country in 2008, but Paterno said he never really thought that Pryor would come to Penn State. Paterno âÄî whose No. 11 Nittany Lions (8-1 overall, 4-1 Big Ten) will host Pryor and the No. 15 Buckeyes (7-2, 4-1) on Saturday afternoon âÄî said on Tuesday that he once had dinner with the Jeannette, Pa., native and his high school coach, and that he was impressed by the young athlete. âÄú[He had] tremendous poise, with all the attention he was getting. He handled it very, very well,âÄù Paterno said. âÄúIt didnâÄôt take much of a brain to realize how good an athlete he was if you watched him do anything.âÄù After committing four turnovers in a loss at Purdue on Oct. 17, Pryor has thrown three touchdown passes and just one interception in the past two games. He rushed for a combined 187 yards and passed for a combined 374 yards in home games against Minnesota and New Mexico State that the Buckeyes won by an 83-7 combined total. Only four Big Ten teams have a single rusher with more rushing yards than Pryor this season. PryorâÄôs counterpart on Saturday, Nittany Lions senior quarterback Daryll Clark , leads the Big Ten in pass efficiency, is second in passing yards and third in total offense. Clark is a native of Youngstown, Ohio, but Paterno said that the fact of two quarterbacks playing against teams from their respective home states will not affect their play. âÄúI donâÄôt think that comes into it,âÄù Paterno said. âÄúThey want to go out there and have good competition.âÄù Pryor and Clark will be preoccupied with the Big TenâÄôs first and second ranked defenses, respectively, on Saturday. Penn State and Ohio State rank fifth and sixth in the country in total defense, which suggests a game similar to Penn StateâÄôs 13-6 victory at Ohio Stadium last season could play out. It was the first win for Penn State in Columbus since it joined the Big Ten in 1993. Saturday will be the 300th game for Penn State at Beaver Stadium, where Paterno has a 216-40 record. It will also be the first time in eight years that the Buckeyes have not been ranked in the top 10 when visiting Penn State. The last time was the BuckeyesâÄô first year under head coach Jim Tressel in 2001. In that first meeting between the two coaches, Paterno became the all-time leader in coaching victories among Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division IA) coaches, breaking Paul âÄòBearâÄô BryantâÄôs record of 323 career victories. Paterno currently has 391 career victories , but he doesnâÄôt have a win over a ranked opponent this season. Saturday will give him that chance. âÄúI hadnâÄôt thought about it that way,âÄù Paterno said. âÄúIf weâÄôre playing a heck of a football team in Ohio State, weâÄôre going to try to play as well as we can and see if we can win it, period.âÄù Northwestern at No. 8 Iowa The Hawkeyes (9-0, 5-0) found another way to win last Saturday, scoring 28 fourth-quarter points against Indiana to preserve their perfect record. With a win against the Wildcats (5-4, 2-3), the Hawkeyes can eliminate half of the teams currently mathematically alive for at least a share of the Big Ten championship. Iowa is the lowest-ranked undefeated team in the AP Poll, behind non-BCS conference teams Boise State and Texas Christian. It canâÄôt be because of a weak schedule, as the Hawkeyes have defeated three teams âÄî two on the road âÄî currently ranked in the top 25 , and IowaâÄôs first nine opponents have the highest total winning percentage of any undefeated teamâÄôs opponents so far. Voters might be awaiting a statement by the Hawkeyes in their trip to Ohio State on Nov. 14, which would give Iowa the chance to claim part of the Big Ten crown if it can take care of business against Northwestern on Saturday. The game is slated for an 11 a.m. kickoff.