Team preview: Penn State

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(All information as of July 1, 2005)


Even 343 wins haven't made Joe Paterno immune to criticism. After a few lean years, Penn State fans stand divided in two groups: One believes Paterno is a relic no longer capable of directing a top-notch program, the other remains insistent that Paterno has earned the right to leave on his own terms.

The loyalists -- perhaps now in the minority -- could have the last laugh this fall, provided a veteran team rebounds from last year's 4-7 debacle. While Penn State had no players selected in the NFL draft for the first time since 1991, a primary reason was that so many starters returned to school.

The returnees should have ample motivation to improve on a disappointing 2004, which started with a 48-10 win over Akron before spiraling. In week two, Penn State committed five turnovers in a 21-7 loss at Boston College. A 37-13 thumping of UCF included another six turnovers and hardly put the Lions back on track heading into Big Ten play, where Paterno's squad proceeded to lose six straight games.

First came a 16-3 loss at Wisconsin, where quarterbacks Zack Mills and Michael Robinson went out with first-quarter injuries, forcing third-stringer Chris Ganter into a futile situation. Mills returned the following week for a 16-7 loss at Minnesota, where he threw for 250 yards but had several passes dropped.