UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State and Ohio State have interim coaches and have been dogged by off-the-field scandals this season.
The Nittany Lions still are reeling from the firing of coach Joe Paterno six days ago amidst a child sex abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
The Buckeyes have minor issues by comparison, but they have been under NCAA investigation for nearly a year since players traded memorabilia for tattoos, leading to the ouster of coach Jim Tressel.
Despite all the distractions, when No. 21 Penn State (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) and Ohio State (6-4, 3-3) meet Saturday in Columbus, there will be plenty at stake. The Lions still sit atop the Leaders Division.
"It's still Ohio State-Penn State," interim coach Tom Bradley said Tuesday. "One thing I want to emphasize right now. This is all about the players, this is about our team, this is about their team. It's still football, a great atmosphere ... playing at the Horseshoe. It doesn't get any better than that.
• Game: No. 21 Penn State (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) at Ohio State (6-4, 3-3), Columbus, Ohio.
• When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
• TV: WTAE or ESPN.
"It's going to be an exciting game. We're both fighting for the title so there's a lot on the line, and it will be a very spirited match regardless of what's going on outside."
Bradley said he called Ohio State interim coach Luke Fickell this spring. Fickell returned the favor Monday.
"When Luke called, he asked how I was doing," Bradley said. "I kind of chuckled. He knew what I meant because he went through the same thing. I know Luke. He's a heck of a good person. He's a friend of mine. I've recruited against Luke. We've been on the road together.
"He said laughing, 'At least I got my start in May.' "
Fickell said he called Bradley out of respect.
"Whether we're competitors on the field, we're still human beings at heart and know how difficult every different situation is," he said. "I just wanted to communicate with him a little bit."
Bradley and Fickell discussed the teams making a gesture to remember the child abuse victims before kickoff Saturday, similar to what Penn State and Nebraska did this past weekend.
"There probably will be a little handshake or something just to make sure we all understand it's a tough time," Fickell said. "We want to make sure people in the stands know there are some different things going on outside the football game."
Bradley said he received a text message of support from former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, whom Bradley recruited at Jeannette High School. Pryor, who now plays for the Oakland Raiders, was in the middle of the investigation that cost Tressel his job.
Fickell could only shake his head when asked what it would be like to take part in a Penn State-Ohio State game not involving Paterno or Tressel.
"You never know what the world is going to throw you and that's a part of life," he said.
Bradley said he has been assured by Penn State officials that the Lions will accept a bowl bid, if offered, but there is expected to be resistance from some bowls.
"The guys on this team didn't have anything to do with any of this that's surrounding them," Bradley said.
Bradley also said he was saddened that Paterno's name was removed from the Big Ten championship trophy Monday.
"I just think it's another part of a tragedy that's occurring," he said.
Bradley said he was too busy preparing for the game against Ohio State Monday night to watch former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky's interview with Bob Costas on NBC-TV, during which Sandusky denied the allegations against him.
Bradley succeeded Sandusky as defensive coordinator in 2000, but he declined to answer a question about his relationship with Sandusky.
"I'm not going to go there," Bradley said.
NOTES -- Bradley said Silas Redd (collarbone, sternum) will not have any contact in practice this week, "but I'm expecting him to be able to play Saturday." ... Matt McGloin will be the starting quarterback until further notice. ... Bill Kavanaugh has been promoted to wide receivers coach and also will serve as recruiting coordinator while Mike McQueary remains on administrative leave. ... Bradley said he would work with kicker/punter Anthony Fera, who also was previously coached by McQueary. ... No Penn State players will be made available to the media this week.
Ron Musselman: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rmusselmanppg.