- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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We're whetting your appetite for the fall by offering early previews of every Big Ten team's opening opponent. Today, we take a look at Penn State, and few other fan bases are eager to talk about just football than the Nittany Lions' supporters.
Let's see what's in store when a familiar face from one corner of the Big Ten visits Beaver Stadium for Week 1 (and a team that might cause confusion for Brady Hoke):
Week 1 Opponent: Ohio
Coach: Frank Solich (eighth year, 108-59)
2011 record: 10-4 (6-2 MAC; won Famous Idaho Potato Bowl)
Returning starters: 14 (six offense, eight defense)
About the Bobcats: Former Nebraska coach Frank Solich has authored a successful second act at Ohio. The Bobcats won 10 games a year ago, including the first bowl victory in school history. Like at Nebraska, the rushing attack led the way, as the team averaged more than 200 yards per game. Penn State's biggest concern will have to be quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who threw for more than 3,300 yards and had 28 touchdowns last year (wouldn't Nittany Lions fans like to see those kinds of numbers out of their quarterbacks?). He's also the Bobcats' leading returning rusher, compiling 658 yards and 10 scores on the ground in 2011. However, Tettleton lost record-setting receiver LaVon Brazill, who was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts after a 74-catch, 1,146 yard season. Ohio wasn't great on defense last year but returns eight of its top nine tacklers and one of the MAC's top secondaries, led by Travis Carrie and his four interceptions a year ago.
Random factoid: Solich was 1-1 against Penn State as Nebraska's head coach, leading the Huskers to an 18-10 victory in 2003 after losing 40-7 the previous season.
Series with Penn State: The Nittany Lions lead 5-0. Penn State won the last meeting 35-16 in 1974.
Totally unscientific percentage chance Penn State wins: 89 percent. The odds of the Nittany Lions losing to a MAC team at home aren't usually very good. But Ohio should be one of the favorites to win the MAC and has some playmakers on both sides of the ball. Plus, it will be the first game for head coach Bill O'Brien, so the Nittany Lions might not be at their sharpest. Still, Penn State has a heavy overall talent advantage and figures to prevail if its defense can keep Tettleton in check.