Planning for success: Penn State

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien went nearly an entire press conference without being asked -- or mentioning -- this week's opponent in Purdue.

The Boilermakers are surely on O'Brien's mind, but they certainly aren't in the forefront of many fans' or reporters'. Purdue's season has been one long blooper reel, a year loaded with mistakes and miscues that have resulted in losing to all but but one FBS opponent by double digits.

The first and only question that directly tackled Purdue involved how PSU will have the same focus against a team that -- to put it nicely -- has struggled mightily. The question came about 20 minutes into the weekly press conference.

"We don't have any problems focusing on Purdue," O'Brien said. "We respect Purdue. I think Coach [Darrell] Hazell is an excellent football coach. It's just his first year there."

The Boilermakers are one of the worst teams in football right now. Their lone win came against Indiana State, 20-14, in Week 2, and they're currently ranked No. 123 in scoring offense (11.8 ppg) and No. 112 in points allowed (37.2 ppg). Mark Schlabach ranked Purdue at No. 9 in this past week's "Bottom 10."

O'Brien and players have said they need to rebound after a tough loss against Minnesota. It's now or never to turn the season around -- so the Purdue matchup, in which PSU is a three-touchdown favorite, seems to be the perfect time.

"I would definitely say it's one of those moments during the season," linebacker Mike Hull said. "Our backs are against the wall. We need to finish strong these last three games."

The Nittany Lions are a mediocre team right now, but that's a level the Boilermakers are still aching to reach. Their defense has allowed five 200-yard rushing games, and the offense has scored two touchdowns in the last three games.

Hull believed a 6-6 season would be a disappointment -- and Penn State currently stands at five wins. If anything, Saturday's contest seems like a tune-up for a final two-game stretch against Nebraska and Wisconsin.

PSU should get to to six wins on Saturday. Then? It needs at least one more win to reach expectations this season. And O'Brien insisted his team wasn't looking past this week's opponent.

"Our guys are very focused on this game," he said. "With our guys, it's never a matter of focusing on who the opponent is. It has nothing to do with records or anything else. It's about playing the best football we can play and trying to get better from the mistakes that we made last week."