After Penn State's 39-28 defeat of No. 24 Northwestern at home on Saturday, several sports analysts took to Twitter to support O'Brien for coach of the year. After taking the job in January, O'Brien could only perform damage control after the NCAA hit the program with crippling sanctions in July in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Given the gravity of the sanctions - a 4-year postseason ban, reduction of scholarships, probation, vacating wins from 1998-2011 and a $60 million fine - the nine transfers Penn State lost isn't a huge number.
Penn State's 4-2 (2-0 Big Ten) record isn't too shabby either, especially when one considers its 0-2 start to the year, and now the Nittany Lions are receiving a vote in the AP Poll.
Other Big Ten coaches have taken note.
"[He's done just] like I expected him to," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "I think he's a good football coach and he's doing a good job, a really good job. We haven't watched them on film, but he just came into a tough situation and think he's handled it phenomenally."
O'Brien already has a strong case for at least Big Ten Coach of the Year, as the preseason powers in the conference have disappointed, except for No. 8 Ohio State (6-0). His toughest competition for that award at this point is likely Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, who has coached the Wildcats to a 5-1, 1-1 record, or Ohio State's Urban Meyer.
Fitzgerald, though he lost to O'Brien on Saturday and seemed to shout at him when O'Brien was yelling at an official, called O'Brien a "terrific football coach" and said he isn't really surprised Penn State has achieved this kind of success.
"From an outsider looking in, you could just sense and see the way these young men came together, and there was going to be an adversity that was given to them that would bring them together in that locker room," Fitzgerald said of the Lions.
Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin, who has averaged 249.8 passing yards per game under O'Brien's tutelage as opposed to last year's number of 130.9, has said he's one of the luckiest quarterbacks in America because he plays under O'Brien.
Whether he's bound for postseason accolades or not, O'Brien is intent on giving the credit to those who work under him.
"Having never been a head coach, it's kind of like drinking water out of a fire hose, so to speak. Something happens new every day and you just have to budget your time and do the best you can," O'Brien said. "We got a great staff here, a veteran staff that has done an excellent job of coaching these kids and that really helps when you're a brand new head coach . . . and I've said since Day 1 we have a great group of players here, just really high-character guys who practice and enjoy playing the game."