No Laughing Matter

Connor and the Nittany Lions expecting a tough test from a Fighting Irish outfit on the rebound from a 33-3 home loss to Georgia Tech in the season opener.

The shock has subsided. Now it's time to deal with the fallout.

Penn State fans no doubt chuckled a little (or, more likely, a lot) when Notre Dame and Michigan lost their respective openers. The Fighting Irish fell hard, losing, 33-3, to Georgia Tech, while the Wolverines lost in stunning fashion to Appalachian State, 34-32.

But while they had nothing to do with the outcome of either game, the Nittany Lions can't help but get swept up in the aftershocks. They play host to Notre Dame this Saturday and will face Michigan in Ann Arbor in their Big Ten opener two weeks hence. Both opponents will be looking to atone for their season-opening pratfalls by upsetting a high-profile team on national TV.

“They're going to be hungry,” Penn State linebacker Dan Connor said. “They're going to want to prove to the entire country that they are among the top teams in the nation. You're not going to catch them off guard.”

The other effect those losses have had on Penn State is to diminish the magnitude of two of the team's marquee games.

Notre Dame comes to Beaver Stadium unranked and with serious questions all over the field, not just at quarterback, where true freshman Jimmy Clausen will be making his first collegiate start. Going back to last season, the Irish have lost their past three games by a combined margin of 118-41. The loss to Georgia Tech was the worst season-opening defeat in the program's history.

Michigan, meanwhile, will assuredly not return to the top five any time soon after falling to an opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA). Even if the Wolverines regroup against Oregon and Notre Dame the next two weeks, they're unlikely to climb back into the national championship picture and will probably have to content themselves with making a run at the Big Ten title, as they were predicted to do at the league's Kickoff Luncheon last month.

Michigan's quest for the Big Ten championship will begin against Penn State, a team it has beaten eight times in a row. The Nittany Lions expect the Wolverines to come out swinging, just as they do the Fighting Irish. Said Connor, “We're going to get their 'A' game. But I think we're up for any type of challenge like that.”

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