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Penn State at Northwestern, JoePa on the Brink of Yet Another Record

Oct 22, 2011, 11:34 AM EDT

If Penn State is playing Northwestern, then another milestone victory must be on the agenda for the weekend.

If Penn State is playing Northwestern, then another milestone victory must be on the agenda for the weekend. In 2001 Joe Paterno tied Paul “Bear” Bryant for most 1-A coaching victories all-time with his 323rd career victory. Last year Paterno eclipsed the 400-win plateau with a wild come-from-behind victory against the upstart Wildcats.

Paterno will tie the legendary Eddie Robinson for second all-time in coaching victories in college football, with 408 wins. It will likely be the last major milestone victory for Paterno, who trails the active John Gagliardi of Division 3 Saint John’s University (in Minnesota) and his 480 wins and counting.

Penn State’s pursuit for the next milestone win for their own iconic coach will take place in prime time outside Chicago (7 p.m., Big Ten Network) in what will be the only prime time game of the season for the Nittany Lions, unless of course Penn State happens to play in the Big Ten championship game in December. This is the third consecutive prime time game for Northwestern, who enters the weekend riding a four-game losing skid.

Northwestern is pretty much a one-man show this season, with northeast Pennsylvania product Dan Persa doing all he can now to keep Northwestern in games the past few weeks. After missing the first three games of the season Persa has thrown for 700 yards and five touchdowns while completing over 71% of his passes each of the past three weeks. Penn State’s quarterback duo of Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin have combined for six touchdowns this season, perhaps proving that Penn State’s loss truly has been Northwestern’s gain. Penn State did not recruit Persa because he was deemed not to be a good fit for the team.

But with Northwestern looking to be a one-trick pony it looks as though it will play in to the advantage of Penn State, who has a defense that has been particularly solid this season. After a subpar performance last week in a win against Purdue, by the team’s own admission last week, the defense knows they cannot afford to have a repeat performance the rest of the way, including this weekend. Northwestern has scored over 30 points in three of four Big Ten games while the Nittany Lions have allowed more than 18 points just once this season, and that was to Alabama.

Getting to another historic win for Paterno may not be easy. Penn State has had some tight games in Evanston over the years. The 2001 thriller was just one of those classic games. And of course, the 2005 game remains one of the top moments in program history.

Will the 2011 game be added to the list of memorable Paterno, and Penn State wins?