Reloading Nittany Lions content to be underdogs

July, 28, 2009
7/28/09
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick wants to pass along a message to those who voted Ohio State as the Big Ten preseason favorite.

Thank you.

"I like being the underdog," Odrick said. "That sets up our storyline. Thanks. Appreciate it. We're here to prove that wrong."

Penn State and Ohio State shared the Big Ten title last season, but most acknowledged the Nittany Lions as the true champs. They beat the Buckeyes in Columbus on Oct. 25 and earned the Big Ten's automatic berth to the Rose Bowl.

When it comes to star power, Penn State eclipses Ohio State this fall. The Lions return first-team All-Big Ten quarterback Daryll Clark, the league's leading returning rusher in Evan Royster, two of the league's top linebackers in Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman and the league's top defensive tackle in Odrick.

Still, Ohio State looks like the safer pick as the favorite. The Buckeyes have dominated the Big Ten this decade and have consistently shown the ability to reload despite losing All-Big Ten and All-America performers.

Penn State's ability to reload isn't as certain, despite two league titles in the last four years. And after losing standouts at wide receiver and along both lines, the Lions need to reload.

Asked if Penn State still needs to prove it can reload like Ohio State, Clark replied, "Absolutely."

"We have the tools, we have the coaches, we have the players, we have the desire to be winners," he said. "That's the mind-set going into this year."

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