Penn State Football: For Nebraska This Is New, For Penn State It Is Old
When Nebraska entered this past weekend there was an outside chance that the Cornhuskers could still play for the Big Ten title.
When Nebraska left this past weekend the chance was gone.
And so there is the challenge for Nebraska coach Bo Pelini; make these final two games of the season worth it. Certainly it's not hard to find a reason to get up and get going with Penn State and Iowa still left on the docket, but it's not difficult to feel down when a season's goal is lost either.
“We’re disappointed we aren't in the championship race anymore," Pelini said on Monday. "That’s always the standard here.”
But for Penn State, not being in the championship race has long been the way of life. For two straight seasons the Nittany Lions have started knowing that there is nothing to play for. Pride, the so called love of the game, and other intangible factors have been substituted for a shot at a conference title.
And that kind of thing has translated in different ways for each program. Penn State coach Bill O'Brien is hardly ever asked about motivation. The notion his team needed to be motivated is water long under the bridge. Pelini is only just now fielding these kinds of questions.
“We won’t approach these last two games any different," Pelini said. "These guys in the locker room are beat up, we’re still dealing with some injuries but we won’t approach this week any different. I always feel at the end of the day my job is to win football games. Regardless of what situation we’re in I don’t change how I approach the game.”
At the end of the day a team's eligibility for the post season won't win a game but Penn State is entering the eleventh of O'Brien's self-titled twelve one-game seasons and that's reason enough.
"Our team is enthusiastic," O'Brien said on Saturday. "They are proud. They love to play football. They love to play for Penn State. We don't have one problem with morale. And never have since I walked in the door here."
Maybe Nebraska doesn't either. But we won't find out if that's true until Saturday.