UNIVERSITY PARK -- The expansion soap opera, which changes seemingly by the hour each day, has members of the Penn State football team excited about playing some new and potentially marquee opponents.
"It's fun to be able to get other teams in your conference to challenge yourself and see where the Big Ten is," PSU linebacker Nate Stupar said.
Stupar, a State College native, was in attendance at Beaver Stadium on Sept. 14, 2002 when Nebraska visited, drawing a record crowd of 110,753. If Nebraska announces today, as expected, that it will be joining the Big Ten, PSU fans can get used to seeing a lot of the Cornhuskers for possibly decades.
In that 2002 game, Nebraska came in ranked No. 8 and got smoked by the Nittany Lions, 40-7.
"It was at night, and it was a ridiculous game," said Stupar, who was 14 at the time. "It was awesome.
"Just knowing they're coming into the Big Ten, they're going to add a lot. It's going to be fun because it brings a different style of offense, and it's just fun to play a different school like that in your conference."
Joe Paterno has been forced to cancel a couple of public appearances recently because he's been battling intestinal issues, but he has been around the team.
"He's always around, man," quarterback Kevin Newsome said. "He's always making sure we're doing the right thing and working hard. You can't miss Joe for a long period of time. He'll be around. He'll check on you."
The Big Ten ultimately could end up with Notre Dame or Texas, too.
"Ohhh," Stupar said while grinning. "Notre Dame, that would be awesome. Just knowing you're playing an elite team -- Notre Dame and Texas have always been elite teams -- and putting that in the Big Ten will give us some status.
"A lot of people bash the Big Ten, and they praise the SEC and the Pac-10. Just getting those other teams would actually boost our prestige and hopefully, finally, get us respect."
Nearly three dozen PSU football players took part in a Special Olympics event on campus Thursday, along with other athletes from additional sports.
Receiver Brett Brackett said he and his teammates have been following the expansion news and talking about it a bit in the locker room. He's aware of the enormous changes that could take place in college football and said, "I don't think we really even realize what could possibly happen.
"I have confidence it won't be anything bad," Brackett added. "If anything, it will make things more competitive and make college football more exciting. It will get some of these rivalries renewed or even create more rivalries."
Such as Penn State versus Nebraska.
"I think it's a good fit," quarterback Kevin Newsome said of the Cornhuskers. "I'm excited. We have a new team in the Big Ten, I'm excited."
Not just any team, either. Nebraska has a storied history that includes five national titles, including one in 1994 that angers Penn State fans. The Lions went undefeated behind an explosive offense led by Kerry Collins, but they were overlooked as voters chose to give then-Nebraska coach Tom Osborne his first national championship.
Osborne is now the Cornhuskers' athletic director and part of the decision-making group leading the move to the Big Ten.
"I really have no comment on this," Osborne told The Associated Press on Thursday, one day before his school's board of regents meets to discuss switching conferences. "I'm not saying we're gone or not gone. Until we have a definite decision, I'm not saying anything else."
It's possible Nebraska could decide not to bolt from the Big 12 to the Big Ten, although that seems unlikely at this point.
"Any time you can add a prestigious program like that into a big-time conference that I feel is already one of the best conferences in the country, it just gets very exciting," Brackett said. "Having the opportunity to go down to Lincoln, Neb., and play almost annually, I wish I was a freshman again and wish I had the opportunity. That would be amazing."
Even if they didn't want to follow the expansion news, the PSU players still would be reminded by others.
"My friends came to me and said, 'Hey, how do you feel about Nebraska and someone else joining the Big Ten?'" Stupar said. "I'm like, 'Yeah, it's cool,' but we have our 2010, 2011, 2012 schedules already booked. So it really doesn't affect me."
True, the upperclassmen won't be around to see the expansion teams come onto the schedule -- that will take a few years -- but they know the decisions that loom will greatly affect their alma mater in the future.
"I'm a Penn State fan, and I will be all my life," Brackett said. "If that happens adding teams, I know I'll be down at those stadiums watching those games cheering on Penn State."
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.