STATE COLLEGE -- His career as a full-time starter now at six games, Christian Hackenberg's freshman season already has reached halftime.
Penn State's 18-year-old quarterback has had more good times than bad while leading the Nittany Lions to a 4-2 record heading into a second bye week at the halfway point. And they'll follow up a 43-40, four-overtime victory over previously undefeated Michigan with an Oct. 26 trip to No. 4 Ohio State.
"I think we were going to (carry momentum) either way," Hackenberg said. "We're really focused as a team. That's a testament to the coaching staff and how we attack each day at practice.
"(The bye week) is even better. We have a couple more days to prepare, get a good game plan and get ready to go to a hostile environment and play a really good football team. I think it's more of a bonus for us."
Penn State's bonus has been Hackenberg's rapid development. He leads the Big Ten with nearly 279 yards passing per game, a figure that is 21st in FBS. He engineered a drive against Michigan that covered 80 yards and five plays in just 50 seconds to send the game into overtime.
"I can tell you that obviously any time you win a game like that -- with a drive like that -- it helps your confidence," O'Brien said. "It helps you the next time with your confidence the next time something like that comes up. I'm sure it helps in his development."
It was enough to earn Hackenberg Big Ten freshman of the week honors for the third time this season, something he prefers to take in stride. Instead, he credits teammates for overall success.
"Watching the replay gave me a lot of things to learn from, and it gave me a different view on it, I guess you could say," Hackenberg said. "In the heat of the moment, I really didn't understand how everything transpired, but once I sat down it made me really proud of our team and how we responded as a whole."
Hackenberg has responded to much of what's been thrown at him, especially the speed of the game -- typically a trouble spot for freshmen.
"Speed is something I wanted to focus on and try to make it happen as soon as I could," he said. "I feel pretty comfortable now, but it's an ever-changing part of the game with me."
There will be speed aplenty in Hackenberg's next opponent. Ohio State is 6-0 and 2-0 in the league.
"I'm looking forward to Ohio State," Hackenberg said. "That's a first for me. A lot of guys have played in pretty hostile environments and I'm going to be leaning on them for tips and when to use certain cadences and stuff like that.
"I'm happy where I'm at right now. I just feel like there's always room for improving every aspect."
LIONS' BIG TEN SCHEDULE SET FOR 2018, 2019: Penn State will host five Big Ten opponents in 2018 and in 2019 will host Michigan and end the season against Rutgers.
The Big Ten Conference announced the conference schedules for both years on Wednesday.
The Nittany Lions also will host old rival Pitt in 2019 in a non-conference clash to complete a four-game series.
The Big Ten will launch East and West Divisions in 2014, and in 2016 the conference will move to a nine-game Big Ten schedule. The Nittany Lions will be in the East Division with Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Rutgers. The West Division will include Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin.
Starting in 2016, every Big Ten team will play the other six schools within its division and also face three teams from the other division. Penn State will have five conference home games during even-numbered years and have four Big Ten home contests during odd-numbered years.
In 2018, the Nittany Lions will have a blockbuster home schedule, hosting Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin and Maryland, closing the regular season against the Terrapins on Nov. 24 for the second consecutive year. In 2017, Penn State will play at Maryland in the regular season finale for the first time since 1965. The Nittany Lions will visit Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Rutgers in 2018.
During the 2019 campaign, Penn State will host Purdue, Michigan, Indiana and Rutgers, welcoming the Scarlet Knights for the regular-season finale on Nov. 30. Rutgers will be the Nittany Lions' regular-season finale for the first time in program history. Penn State will travel to Maryland, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State during the 2019 season, which will include two bye weeks.