Penn State (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) is already bowl-eligible, but the Nittany Lions need another victory to ensure a winning campaign, and league cellar-dweller Indiana (4-6, 0-6) looks like the best remaining opportunity to get it, what with No. 11 Michigan State (9-1, 5-1) coming to Happy Valley for the regular-season finale.
But the Hoosiers have been more than than pushovers, despite Saturday's 83-20 crushing by Wisconsin, and it's imperative that whoever Penn State's quarterback is plays well enough to put up big enough numbers against the Hoosiers' pillow-soft defense to neutralize IU's wide-open attack.
So, the spotlight again will shine on McGloin, the redshirt sophomore from Scranton whose hot streak noticeably cooled during those final two quarters in Ohio Stadium.
"He got a little careless with the football, maybe made up his mind where he was going to throw it and threw it right into the hands of the Ohio State kids," Paterno said of the first blotch on what was becoming McGloin's reputation as an unlikely cult hero. "But I expect him to start."
So does McGloin, who doesn't think a couple of passes that wound up in the wrong hands and the wrong end zone should be enough to erase his nine touchdown strikes since he took over for injured freshman Rob Bolden in the second quarter of the Minnesota game on Oct. 23. Bolden started 2 weeks later, against Northwestern, but was quickly pulled and replaced by McGloin, whose starting position now appears to be his to retain or to lose.
Besides, McGloin said, he and the other players shouldn't be held solely responsible for the dramatic shift in fortunes after the Nits seized a 14-3 halftime lead against the heavily favored Buckeyes and let it slip away. It's hard to be a gunslinger when the mandate apparently is to play it safe, to hold on to what you have instead of attempting to keep a good thing going.
"Everybody has games like they had last week," McGloin said of Indiana's historic loss to the Badgers. "Look at what happened to us in the second half [against Ohio State]."
A lot of people are doing just that, and trying to figure out what happened and whom to blame. And, as always, the quarterback is as convenient a scapegoat as a cause for celebration.
"In the second half, it seemed like we couldn't get anything going," McGloin acknowledged. "We got into too many third-and-long situations. That's something we stayed away from in the first half.
"I think we just get too comfortable sometimes. We got up big on Ohio State and when we came out for the second half, we got a little too comfortable. We tried to run the clock down. We pretty much played not to lose. We tried to hold on to a lead when we should have been playing as we did in the first half."
If that sounds less than complimentary toward offensive coordinator Galen Hall and quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, it's just Matt being Matt. What you see - and hear - is what you get. But his teammates seem to love his swagger, his love of the big play. Asked to describe the main difference between Bolden, a four-star recruit, and McGloin, who received no offers from big-time programs coming out of high school, All-Big Ten senior guard Stefen Wisniewski said Bolden plays with a "quiet" confidence, while McGloin has "crazy" confidence.
Hey, as Billy Joel once sang: It just might be a lunatic you're looking for, maybe most particularly in the huddle, where a relentlessly positive attitude espoused by the QB can be infectious.
Of those who have jumped off his bandwagon as fast as they jumped on, McGloin said: "I was waiting for it. But that's something you just have to look at and laugh. You find out who really believes in you right now, who really believes in this team right now.
"We're being faced with a little bit of adversity. How are we going to respond? I think we responded very well [Tuesday] at practice."
Penn State punter Anthony Fera is out indefinitely after having an emergency appendectomy yesterday.
Freshman Alex Butterworth is listed as the No. 2 punter on the depth chart for Saturday's game versus Indiana. While Butterworth is the assumed incumbent, a team spokesperson told the Daily News that an official release regarding Fera's replacement won't be made until later today.