Coach pleased with Lions’ preseason work

Opponent: Syracuse (8-5 in 2012)

Kickoff: Saturday 3:30 p.m., MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

Television: ABC

About the Orange: Have new head coach, Scott Shafer; now playing in ACC instead of Big East; have two players vying for starting QB job; school dropped Orangemen nickname in 2004, although many still mistakenly call them that

Last time vs. Penn State: The Lions won, 28-7, at home in 2009 and have won four in a row in the series after last losing in 1988

Line: Penn State is a 7-point favorite; over/under is 52

Smart way to start: O’Brien began his news conference in different fashion Tuesday. Rather than jumping right into questions, he provided an injury report first and said he will continue to do that each week, like NFL coaches usually do. He then gave an update on the quarterback situation, saying he would not be naming a starter, which undoubtedly would have been the first question he would have faced.

Better prepared: To think that O’Brien was the national coach of the year in 2012 is incredible since he had never been a head coach and was dealing with unprecedented adversity. He should be even better at his job now that he gets to be just a football coach. “This time last year was a blur,” he said. “I was trying to do as good a job as I could with our staff to keep our team together and get them ready for the first game. Hopefully, personally, I’ve done enough in the offseason to really study what we do, how we practice, how we lift weights, how we condition, how I call plays, what we’re doing on defense and how to improve our special teams. Hopefully you’ll see some improvements.”

Productive preseason: O’Brien was impressed with how the players handled the past few weeks. “I believe we had a very productive training camp,” he said. “I believe our guys came back, and they understood the expectations, they understood the system on both sides of the ball and on special teams. Did we have great days every day? No, but I don’t think we had any bad days. We might have had a bad play here or there or a bad series here or there on both sides of the ball, but I don’t believe we had any bad days.”

Balanced but flexible: Like most football coaches, O’Brien wants to be balanced on offense. But he’s not going to marry that philosophy if the situation in the game calls for something different. “We can’t go into the game and think we’re going to win throwing 60 balls, but if we have to throw 60 passes, that’s what we have to do,” he said. “If we have to run the ball 50 times, then that’s what we have to do. We can’t go into the game and have our minds locked in on this is how it’s going to go.”

Funny way to finish: As he was leaving the media room, O’Brien joked that the dress code for the press conferences should be changed. He laughed and said it should be a golf shirt and sweat pants, which is what he was wearing.

– Compiled by Cory Giger