STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Whether it's the nonconference finale against Temple or the annual Big Ten prize fight versus Ohio State, coach Bill O'Brien promises Penn State will take no game lightly.
Not with the Nittany Lions' season ending in November no matter how well they do in the regular season.
"We only have 12 games this year, so every game for us is a very, very vital football game," O'Brien said Tuesday. "I would assume our players will come out with a lot of intensity. We've only got two more months to play."
It's little surprise then that Penn State returned to practice this week eager to get ready for Saturday's visit from the Owls. The Nittany Lions (1-2) took Saturday night to unwind following the 34-7 victory over Navy before moving on to the next task.
"I don't think you can ever relax," center Matt Stankiewitch said. "You practice like you play."
It's just mid-September, but the clock is already ticking on Penn State's season.
The NCAA's strict sanctions on the program for the way the school handled the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal includes a four-year ban from postseason play. Penn State is eligible to win the Big Ten Leaders division crown since that title is decided by regular-season games.
But the Nittany Lions wouldn't be eligible for the berth in the Big Ten championship game that comes with winning a division title since that is considered a postseason contest. They can't go to a bowl game, either.
O'Brien has tried to impress on his team that every game from here on to the Thanksgiving weekend season finale against Wisconsin is huge. Even the one against in-state Temple, which always looks at Penn State as one of its measuring-stick games.
Penn State plays the role of bully in this one-sided rivalry with a 30-game unbeaten streak. Temple last won in 1941, 14-10. But the Owls have recently come close. Last season, Penn State escaped Philadelphia with a 14-10 win after scoring with less than 3 minutes left.
"So I'm glad it's their Super Bowl, but this is a big game for us, like every single game this year," O'Brien said. "On November whatever, (this) season is over. So, this is a big game."
For the first time this season, they enter a game on a roll.
After two emotional losses to start the year, nearly everything clicked last week against Navy. Quarterback Matt McGloin and wideout Allen Robinson (Big Ten bests of 8 catches and 107 receiving yards per game) have become one of the conference's most prolific pitch-and-catch tandems.