PSU Football: Paterno wary of brushoff by BCS

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Joe Paterno has had five perfect seasons in his 42-plus years as Penn State's coach.


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Game: No. 3 Penn State (9-0) at Iowa (5-4).

When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

TV: WTAE.

Of note: No. 1 Alabama plays at No. 15 LSU 3:30 p.m. Saturday (KDKA), while No. 2 Texas Tech plays No. 8 Oklahoma State 8 p.m. Saturday (WTAE).


But the Nittany Lions have won only one national championship in those five seasons, taking the title in 1986 with a 12-0 record.

Four other times, Paterno and Penn State have come up empty.

The Lions were 11-0 in 1968 and finished second to Ohio State in The Associated Press poll. They repeated another 11-0 season in 1969, but were No. 2 behind Texas.

Penn State was 12-0 in 1973 but ranked No. 5. The Lions were 12-0 once again in 1994, but ended up No. 2 for the third time in the Paterno era, this time to Nebraska.

Paterno and Penn State are hoping to dodge a similar predicament this season.

The Lions are 9-0 and ranked No. 3 in the latest Bowl Championship Series standings heading into Saturday's game against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.

However, if No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Texas Tech finish unbeaten, Penn State could be shut out of national championship contention for the fifth time under Paterno.

"If we can win the next three games and have a chance to play a good team in a bowl game and we win that one, I would be disappointed that our kids hadn't gotten that chance, as I was in '94," Paterno said yesterday on his weekly conference call. "In '94, the problem was not me personally, it's a question of a bunch of kids that do everything you ask them to do and then at the end, they don't get what you think they deserve.

"... I don't have an Achilles' heel and I can't hang myself. I'm not about to have somebody come along and shoot me, that kind of thing. We're going to play football as well as we know how to play, and hopefully, things will turn out well for us."

Paterno, 81, has been an outspoken critic of the BCS and long has been in favor of a playoff system.

"Is it the BCS or the BSC, I don't know," he said. "They're going do what they're going to do. It won't make any difference what I say or comment on. I'm telling you what I'm concerned about. I'm concerned about Iowa. Period."

If the Lions finish 12-0, Paterno may change his tune, especially if a one-loss team were to pass Penn State.

"Three weeks from now, who knows, I may jump off Rec Hall," Paterno said, jokingly.

BCS analyst Jerry Palm said earlier this week that he believes both Alabama and Texas Tech -- now 9-0 -- will lose, and the Lions will play Florida for the national championship Jan. 8 in Miami. The Gators (7-1) are ranked No. 5 in the BCS.

Wide receiver Deon Butler believes Penn State would match up well with any of the top teams from the SEC or Big 12.

"Obviously, they're great football teams," he said. "You sit back and you watch them and you realize how good they are. ... But we've seen film of ourselves and we know our own capabilities. You're definitely confident in playing teams like this and you fear no one.

"I think this team has definitely built itself up and built this character, that we're not afraid to play anyone, no matter how highly hyped they are, how good they actually are."

Paterno, whose Lions also won a national title in 1982 after finishing 11-1, believes the Big Ten gets a bad rap. He was quick to point out that Penn State has beaten Tennessee of the SEC and Texas A&M of the Big 12 in its past two bowl games.

Ohio State. however, was blown out by SEC powers Florida and LSU in the past two national championship games.

"I think we're playing pretty good football in the Big Ten," Paterno said. "I don't know what games outside of the Ohio State-Southern Cal game that we have not been competitive. I know the athletes that are in our league and I think it's a tough league. Is it tougher than 'X' league, tougher than 'Y' league? Who knows?"


NOTES -- Starting quarterback Daryll Clark is expected to play against the Hawkeyes. He sustained a mild concussion in the Lions' win against Ohio State Oct. 25. "I think he'll be fine Saturday," Paterno said. ... Penn State is off to its best start since 1999.


Ron Musselman can be reached at rmusselman@post-gazette.com .


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