Some gameday observations while suggesting Purdue will miss Joe Tiller:
Penn State's impressive performance in prime time against Illinois and subsequent leap to No. 6 in the polls has raised the expectations of the Nittany Nation.
People are outlining scenarios for a national-championship run, and that adds to excitement seldom seen since here 1994.
But as Lee Corso might say, ''Not so fast, my friends.''
Most preseason forecasts that called for the Lions to win nine or 10 games figured they'd win the first five. So the 5-0 race out of the gates is not unexpected.
What has been unexpected is the startling offense the Lions have assembled and the way the coaching staff seems committed to using it. Even when things sputtered early against Illinois, Penn State stuck with its spread-the-field ways and seemed even more determined to exercise its quick-striking ability.
Big Ten road opener
Penn State (5-0)
at Purdue (2-2)
Line: Penn State is a 13-point favorite.
Updated PSU injury/status report: WR Jordan Norwood and DT Ollie Ogbu (both hamstrings) are questionable. TB Evan Royster (shoulder) is probable.
That said, this season was always going to be defined on how the Nittany Lions fared on the road, and this month's ventures to Purdue, Wisconsin and Ohio State will ultimately determine how much of a factor Penn State can be in the chase for the Big Ten and/or BCS title.
To get there, the Lions will have to be a whole lot better on the road than they've been this decade, when they're just 14-25 in the other guy's house.
Granted, the majority of
those losses came from 2000-04 when the Joe Paterno empire appeared to be crumbling.
To his credit, Paterno has brought the program back from those depths. But though they've been a combined 34-9 the last three-plus seasons, the Nits' road record is just 8-7 during that time.
And even in some of their wins - Indiana and Temple last year, Minnesota in '06 and Northwestern in '05 - they haven't played particularly well.
Maybe this year is different. It looks like it could be. In their only road game, the Lions blew out Syracuse, 55-13, a game partially attributed to PSU's potential greatness and the futility of the Orangemen.
The October road in the Big Ten, beginning with a Purdue team that led Oregon 20-3 before letting the Ducks get away and now plays its conference opener in Tiller's last year, should be much more challenging.
n I can see both sides of the debate about the effectiveness of starting linebacker Josh Hull, the former walk-on from Penns Valley High School. For openers, Penn State football has a lot of success with kids like this who stuck with the program and eventually made a contribution. At middle linebacker? That's the rub and Hull's challenge. I do not know how good backup Chris Colasanti is or whether he should be playing more. This much is known: Colasanti, like Hull a great student, was one of only three true freshmen to play last year, and that information took JoePa by surprise when the latter was analyzing the Blue-White game on the radio. Paterno thought Colasanti was a redshirt freshman and was gently corrected by Steve Jones.
n Speaking of Jones, the Purdue game two years ago in West Lafayette marked perhaps his finest hour in broadcasting. With Penn State leading 12-0 and Purdue down to its last play, the Boilers tried a gadget that included a half-dozen laterals to players all over the field, including offensive linemen. Jones named every single Purdue player, an unbelievable demonstration of his vision and awesome memory. It's difficult to imagine any other visiting broadcaster could have made the same call. Someday, when Jones is feted or eulogized, this clip should be replayed.
n And speaking of braodcasters, Brent Musberger did a nice job campaigning for Jay Paterno to get an interview for one of the many Eastern jobs that are expected to open this year. How about Virginia? Al Groh has been hanging by a thread, and JayPa spent time as a graduate assistant there.
n Poor Pitt. On a night when the Panthers beat South Florida for their best win of this year and one of the better wins under Dave Wannstedt, the TV competition is Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He'll respond to brief comments and questions in Gameday.