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Mr. Nice Guy Did Not Board The Plane To California

Not that anybody should be particularly surprised, but Joe Paterno sent a clear message to his team that Fun Time is over and Game Time is upon us:

Because a few Nittany Lions committed minor transgressions, the Penn State coach temporarily demoted a few starters. Defensive end Aaron Maybin, center A.Q. Shipley and guard Rich Ohrnberger were wearing second-team jerseys at practice Saturday.

According to the team, Maybin missed the Lions' event at Disneyland on Friday; Shipley and Ohrnberger were late for a breakfast.

Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said Maybin's demotion was related to practice.

"I think Coach wanted to make a point," Bradley said.

Maybin was scheduled to participate in yesterday's news conference, but he was a scratch and safety Mark Rubin replaced the redshirt sophomore. Maybin, a first-team all-American, will be available to talk with the media tomorrow.

None of this will affect anyone's playing time.  Meanwhile, remember L.A. Times writer Chris Dufresne, who wrote this masterpiece after the Ohio State game?

Penn State kicked a field goal, and then Ohio State did.

Ohio State tacked on another, and then Penn State missed one.

And then, late, an Ohio State quarterback fumbled, and before you knew it people were pulling Penn State’s backup quarterback out of a goal-line pile that resulted, with 6 minutes 25 seconds left, in the game’s only touchdown.

Joe Paterno, relegated to the Ohio Stadium press box, looked down from high above, with Woody Hayes possibly peering down from even higher.

What tension, what drama, what a job by the chain gang moving those sticks… . what in Helena was that?

It was Penn State 13, Ohio State 6, that’s what it was.

And you wonder why no one wants to see the Big Ten Conference champion back in another national title game.

Well, Chris is back with a brand new invention.

The Big Ten is 8-9 in Bowl Championship Series games since 1998 and hasn't claimed a Rose Bowl win since Wisconsin plucked mediocre Stanford after the 1999 season.

You know who gets dragged down in this holiday Big Ten muck and mire?  The Penn State Nittany Lions, who have actually won nine of their last 11 bowl games and their last three.

Here's a shock: The last time Penn State played in the Rose Bowl, on Jan. 1, 1995, it won to cap a perfect season.  Coach Joe Paterno is 23-10-1 in bowl games.

Can't match Southern speed?  Three years ago, Penn State beat Florida State in the Orange Bowl.

Can't hang with the SEC?  Two years ago, Penn State defeated Tennessee in the Outback.

Sharing the Big Ten's reputation with 10 other teams hasn't been easy, or perhaps fair, to Penn State.

Of course, Dufresne is singing a different tune now that USC is shut out of the BCS Championship Game, but his point regarding PSU needs to be repeated on a constant loop.  Besides, is an 8-9 record in BCS games a sufficient reason for the national media to heap ungodly amounts of scorn upon a conference?  Sure, nobody's proud of it, but...

There's a weird dynamic when it comes to comparing conferences, especially with respect to the bowl season.  The Big Ten is favored in exactly one of its matchups -- South Carolina is a slight underdog to Iowa.   If the Big Ten was favored in six of its seven matchups and went 4-3, that would be a disappointment by any reasonable metric.  So without wading too far into the soft bigotry of low expectations, would it not be a successful bowl season if the Big Ten won three games? 

It's understood that the perception of conference strength is drawn from the top of the ticket, but Penn State and Ohio State remain substantial underdogs in their matchups*.  If the Big Ten can split those games and pick off two or three other victories, the bowl season will have been a success, even if the final tally is three wins and four losses.  Given the point spreads in the lower-tier bowls, three or four wins could even be considered a tremendous success. 

* - Although the spreads in each game seemed to have ticked down approximately two points since the opening lines were posted, which is mildly interesting.