UNIVERSITY PARK -- Bring 'em all on, Penn State's players say.
The schedule this season is intriguingly brutal for the Nittany Lions, who very well could play two No. 1 teams and will have three games against preseason top 10 squads.
Following a jayvee opponent in the opener, Penn State has a chance to shock the college football world if it can knock off No. 1 and defending national champion Alabama on Sept. 11.
"I'd love that," defensive tackle Devon Still said. "I think about that every single day. I just can't wait for that date to come."
Later, in week 10, a trip to Columbus could find Ohio State holding the No. 1 ranking. If Alabama falters in SEC play, the Buckeyes -- who have a favorable schedule the first nine weeks -- can move up a spot from their preseason perch at No. 2.
There's also a trip to Iowa in week five, and the Lions should be at least 3-1 when they face the Hawkeyes, who enter the season ranked 10th.
Sept. 4.....Youngstown State
Sept. 11.....at Alabama
Sept. 18.....Kent State
Oct. 2.....at Iowa
Oct. 23.....at Minnesota
Nov. 13.....at Ohio State
Nov. 27.....Michigan State
*--At FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
"This has been one of the toughest schedules that we have seen here at Penn State in a while," linebacker Bani Gbadyu said. "So we take that as a challenge, and we're up for it."
They're up for talking about it, sure, but in four weeks their play will have to do all the talking.
"We're in a great position to maybe go out [to Alabama] and really bring attention to this program and to this school," Gbadyu said.
It's doubtful to happen, though, because the Crimson Tide likely will be favored by nearly two touchdowns. But think about what a win in Tuscaloosa could do for PSU.
The Lions are ranked 14th in the USA Today coaches poll, and a road win at 'Bama likely would propel them into the top five. Then, believe it or not -- and despite having no experience at quarterback -- Penn State would be in the early national championship picture.
"I love it," Still said of the opportunity at Alabama. "I'm pretty sure the rest of the team feels the same way.
"I like going into games as an underdog because people don't expect a lot from us. But we just want to go out there and prove that we can play with any team in the country."
Can they? Probably not. My pick for week two: Alabama 37, Penn State 13. Just too many questions at quarterback, so the offense won't sustain drives and the defense will wear down.
My pick for the season: 8-4, with losses to Alabama, Ohio State, Iowa and one more conference opponent -- perhaps either Minnesota or Michigan.
But hey, the opportunity is there. And with great opportunity comes the chance for a great season.
"We play three of the top 10 schools in the country," Gbadyu said. "You can't ask for anything better than that."
Except, of course, for winning those games.
It's just too bad the Lions don't have a better team this season to capitalize on the schedule, since going undefeated against this slate would guarantee a spot in the national championship game.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. He can be reached at 949-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.