Munson's Thoughts: Penn State

When Nebraska joined the Big Ten this season the Penn State game appeared like any other game on their schedule. Now, it's anything but. Gone is Joe Paterno after being fired by the Penn State Board of Trustees on Nebraska game week. Penn State brings in a lot of emotion and a perfect conference record while Nebraska is trying to recover from Northwestern.

There hasn't been a bigger constant in college football, ever, bigger than Joe Paterno. No one ever could have convinced me that this is how it would end for him either. That being said, I am not a sympathizer. He is not a victim and Penn State did the right thing.

Where anyone stands on the situation and how it's been handled is a moot point when it comes to the game. There will be emotion, I am not sure that there is a sport more emotional than football, and it's going to be physical.

Nebraska tries to get back to their winning ways against a team in Penn State that hasn't lost a game in conference play all season. Penn State is in the driver's seat for a birth in the Big Ten Championship while Nebraska needs to win out and hope that Michigan State somehow falters.

There are going to be some critical parts of the game that I will be focusing on this Saturday. Here are my top three storylines to the game:

1. Hostile environment: I have heard the stories from 2002 from people that went to the game. Happy Valley is a very difficult place to play. Nebraska, in what I would call it's only other tough away contest in Wisconsin, didn't fare particularly well in a tough in Madison. The environment would have been charged up already now add what happened on Wednesday night with the firing of JoePa and everything else that is going on? There are some extra logs on that fire for Nebraska.

2. Health of Burkhead: It seemed pretty clear to me out of the gate against Northwestern that Rex Burkhead either entered the game pretty banged up or was maybe actually slightly injured when he limped off early in the first quarter. Nebraska still went back to the Burkhead well all day long with 22 rushing attempts, after a 35 rushing attempt game against Michigan State. I listed it last week that Nebraska must find a way to work in the younger running backs. Ameer Abdullah was the only other running back to log a carry…and he finished with just one carry on the day.

3. Getting tough against the run: Nebraska showed against a guy like Kirk Cousins that they can pull it together and take away receivers and get pressure on a more of a pocket passing quarterback. Where Nebraska has struggled this season has been against quarterbacks with mobility and against offenses that choose to run right at them. It's possible that Penn State runs 45+ times against Nebraska on Saturday causing two things. It will keep Nebraska's defense on the field and Nebraska's offense off of it. That's a bad combination.

I felt good about the game and then "it" happened today. Call it a sign if you must. The fortune cookie in my meal, which I typically throw away, I for some reason, decided to open and get the fortune. The fortune read: Your Perspective Will Shift.

I had thought all long that Nebraska's speed to the edge and big play ability would give Nebraska enough firepower to find a way to outscore Penn State, a-la Ohio State this year. That was until I really considered these hard facts: Rex Burkhead is far from 100% healthy, Nebraska's three freshman running backs are talented but untested and Nebraska struggles against the rush.

I know that I called a win on the radio with Jake Bogus and Adrian Fiala on Wednesday, but my perspective has shifted. I am retracting on my earlier prediction of a Nebraska win. There is too much going on with this game and unless Nebraska is willing to bust out and make some big plays to score some points, but I think that Nebraska is going to struggle to stop the run on Saturday. Begrudgingly, I'll go Penn State 31-20.

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