Ohio State's visit to Beaver Stadium next week is not just a hallmark game of Penn State's home schedule.
It also will be a significant recruiting opportunity for head coach Bill O'Brien and his staff.
O'Brien said last week that he expects 80-100 recruits to attend the game, which begins at 5:30 p.m. and should have the liveliest atmosphere of the season. Penn State will roll into the game vs. the unbeaten Buckeyes riding a five-game winning streak, including an impressive 38-14 dismantling of Iowa on Saturday night in Iowa City.
Players from Penn State's 2013 class, as well as prospects for 2014, will attend, and O'Brien wants them to see a show.
"Winning obviously helps," O'Brien said. "Kids can see that there's a good product on the field right now. Guys are playing hard. They're playing extremely hard, and we've got a lot of high-character kids. And when these kids are interviewed after games, I think that's a good thing for (prospects') parents to see."
O'Brien has said repeatedly that interest in Penn State has not diminished since the NCAA imposed sanctions last summer. The coaching staff took advantage of the four-game win streak that preceded last week's bye, spending three days on the road with recruits to spread the word.
O'Brien said his pitch has remained consistent since the summer: education, high-intensity offense and defense and a staff that can provide a path to the NFL.
"Penn State is a place where all your dreams can come true," O'Brien said on his weekly radio show, aiming the statement directly at recruits and parents.
Though recruits continue to show interest in Penn State, the coaching staff has to maintain a deliberate approach. The NCAA limited the 2013 class to 15 recruits (down from the maximum of 25), meaning Penn State has less room for normal attrition.
"Do we have to cross T's and dot I's more with a lesser number (of scholarships)? Of course," said Charles London, running backs coach and recruiting coordinator. "With 25 kids, six or seven might not pan out. We can't afford the luxury of having one-quarter of them not work out. We have to continue to do our homework, but the things we talked about when we got here in January and February won't change."
One area of significant interest will be the secondary. Position coach John Butler said the program is hamstrung this season by the lack of scholarship defensive backs (only six to start the season).
As a result, the defense has played a modified nickel package, using Mike Hull at middle linebacker and moving cornerback Adrian Amos to safety. Butler said "one of first things we have to do is solve this thing with recruiting."
"The biggest thing about the sanctions is that, when we recruit over the next four years, we have to make sure that (with) every kid we bring we can maximize his ability," Butler said. "As a coach staff, we've got to be able to get every single ounce of talent out of every single kid. We have no room for ever missing on a guy."