UNIVERSITY PARK - Students have already dubbed today's Penn State game against ranked division rival Ohio State as "The IneligiBowl."
With both teams atop the Leaders division in the Big Ten but ineligible to compete for the championship title, bragging rights are up for grabs - and support for the football team among students camped outside Beaver Stadium at Nittanyville has reached an all-time high.
Student support may be high, but businesses are seeing a mixed bag coming into today's game, with some generating more sales but others staying about the same for an Ohio State game.
Penn State freshman Sam Cipar takes a break from studying in his tent this week at Nittanyville in State College.
A record 1,200 students crammed into 144 tents have staked their claims to the small patch of concrete and asphalt outside of Gate A, waiting to be among the first to enter Beaver Stadium.
"It's obviously the biggest game of the season for us," Nittanyville president and Penn State senior Troy Weller said.
Speaking outside the Nittanyville officers' tent on Wednesday, Weller said Ohio State has always been a huge game for the Nittany Lions - but students showed up in force and shattered previous attendance records at the student-run tent city outside the stadium.
Penn State vs. Ohio State
Where: Beaver Stadium, State College
When: 5:30?p.m. today
"It's been awesome," he said. "This is exactly what we would have been doing two, three years ago."
The momentum coming off of last week's win against Iowa and rivalry against Ohio State helped create the buzz around today's match up, he said.
But the changes for Penn State football are undeniable. The appointment of new head coach Bill O'Brien before the start of the season and the loss of key players including Silas Redd and Anthony Fera have left their mark.
Even the very student group camped outside the stadium underwent a name change - shifting from "Paternoville" to the club's new name, "Nittanyville," in July.
But students have embraced those changes, Weller said - and the pride and support of Nittanyville remains the same.
Many also contributed the number of campers to the unusually warm weather - with temperatures hovering in the 60s and 70s, or to the momentum and excitement following a long-awaited victory against Iowa.
Senior Tom Roher camped out for former head coach Joe Paterno's 400th win against Northwestern in 2010.
Roher said he is confident the players on both sides will "go all-out" in today's game and that Penn State will come out on top.
"If anyone's going to give them a run for their money, it's Penn State," Roher said.
Excitement for the game - a stadiumwide white out event, has been building across campus.
The Family Clothesline has seen gear and clothing in support of the football team increase in popularity this year, spokeswoman Caroline Gummo said.
The company expects sales of white-out gear to be up ahead of today's game, and depending on the weather, hoodies, gloves, ponchos and other gear are usually solid sellers.
"We think it's going to be perfect football season weather," Gummo said.
But for some, the white-out and weather have no special bearing over business - and today's game is simply business as usual.
"We're preparing for a pretty typical Penn State-Ohio State football game," said James Purdum, general manager at Penn State Hospitality Services.
In his role at Penn State, Purdum oversees the university's two hotels - The Nittany Lion Inn and The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel - and said demand for rooms during home games is always high.
While both hotels were booked way in advance of this weekend, the excitement surrounding today's match-up has been steadily building, Purdum said.
"I think the win last week has just created more positive energy around the entire weekend," he said. "We've always loved our football around here. That's not going to change."
Purdum praised both the football players and coaches, including O'Brien, for their "remarkable" efforts and well-deserved recognition, he said.
"I just love the atmosphere, I love being a part of it," Purdum said. "It's good to see people come back. They're not just guests, they're friends and people we look forward to seeing and saying hello to."
But far removed from the amenities of the hotels, Penn State students have made do sleeping on the ground, with as many as 10 fellow students crammed in a tent.
Junior Brian Sanvido, a Nittanyville organizational officer, whispered Wednesday about possibly bringing a kiddie pool up to the stadium. And Thursday night, Nittanyville campers - Sanvido include, were spotted in the small pool, embracing the warm weather.
The excitement surrounding today's game is comparable to a bowl game for many students.
While the atmosphere in the stadium is usually loud, freshman Sam Cipar said he expected the energy to be even better during today's game.
Standing outside his tent, with the numbers "409" carved into a nearby pumpkin, Cipar said the excitement and fun of Paternoville ahead of the big game would be memorable.
"Every year I'll be doing this, for sure," Cipar said.
Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.