STATE COLLEGE - Who would Penn State fans rather have as head coach, Bill O'Brien or Urban Meyer? And how about at quarterback: Matt McGloin or Braxton Miller?
For many, if not the vast majority, the answers last fall would be different from the answers now.
A year ago, Meyer was the free-agent coaching star with two national titles under his belt, and Miller was a star-in-the-making. Meanwhile, O'Brien was an unknown, and there were some PSU fans - believe it or not - who still favored Rob Bolden over McGloin.
It's remarkable how the Nittany Lions' five-game winning streak has changed perspectives concerning O'Brien and McGloin.
It was no secret to the Lion players that Meyer was rumored to be a leading candidate for the Penn State job last year. The rumor spread so far as to suggest Meyer had purchased a house in Boalsburg.
"We definitely heard the rumors. ... You never know what's true and what's not," PSU defensive tackle Jordan Hill said.
Hill even remembers seeing Meyer at a couple of practices last year, although a Penn State spokesman pointed out in a tweet that Meyer was working as an ESPN/ABC analyst for the Iowa game in early October.
Who knows what the future holds, but as of now it's hard to imagine Meyer or anyone else doing a better job than O'Brien under the tough circumstances at Penn State. Meyer's team is undefeated and ranked No. 9 by the AP, but O'Brien is the one receiving national coach of the year endorsements.
Meyer, 48, also already has retired from coaching - twice - first coming back to Florida after a health scare in 2009 and then resigning again from the Gators following the 2010 season because of family and health concerns. It's debatable that he would have been able to physically and/or mentally take on the massive challenge of helping rebuild Penn State's image the way O'Brien has.
Meyer is an Ohio native, as is Penn State running back Michael Zordich, who said fans in that state are "extremely excited, and they should be" to have Meyer as the Buckeyes' coach.
"Urban Meyer's a great coach, and he's proven," Zordich said. "He's proven that at Florida and everywhere else he's been, he gets it done, and it's been working for Ohio State so far. They have every right to be excited. Ohio feels very strongly about Ohio State, and that's always going to be that way."
Zordich also heard the rumors about Meyer potentially coming to Penn State.
"But we have Coach O'Brien here now," he said, "and we're very happy with him as our coach."
Miller, just a sophomore, is a Heisman Trophy candidate and could be one for the next two years, as well. But it's debatable if he's even the Big Ten's best quarterback.
McGloin has a strong case in that discussion. He leads the league in passing yards per game (255.4), is second in TDs (14) and has only two interceptions while completing 62.5 percent of his throws.
O'Brien had a humorous moment during his press conference Tuesday when a reporter began asking him a question about McGloin and mentioned that he's not a dual-threat quarterback.
"What are you talking about?" O'Brien said with smile while raising his hands in the air. "Were you at the Northwestern game?"
He was referring to McGloin scoring on a touchdown run against the Wildcats, although the quarterback has caught a lot of flak for a very unathletic-looking dive into the end zone.
McGloin might not look pretty running the ball, but he's excelled through the air.
"You learn to realize that he knows what he's doing, he understands the game and he can get that done," Zordich said. "I wouldn't go as far as calling him an athlete, but I'll give him credit for that."
Miller, who did practice Tuesday and is expected to play Saturday after suffering a neck injury last week against Purdue, is a great athlete at quarterback. He leads the Buckeyes with 959 yards rushing and has 10 TDs on the ground, to go along with 11 TDs and five interceptions through the air. He's completing 58.7 percent and averaging 173 yards per game.
Defensive tackle Jordan Hill pointed out Miller runs a lot of the same running plays Tim Tebow did while playing for Meyer at Florida.
Penn State plans to "emphasize someone spying on him at all times," linebacker Gerald Hodges said.
While McGloin's lack of running prowess probably would prevent him from being able to run Meyer's offense at Ohio State, it's questionable that Miller - or anyone else in the Big Ten - could run O'Brien's complex, pass-heavy offense at PSU as effectively as McGloin.
"He's got great pocket awareness," O'Brien said of his quarterback. "What we've tried to do with Matt is teach him about pocket awareness, and Matt's done a good job of that.
"He's climbed the pocket when he's supposed to. He's moved ever so slightly when he's supposed to. And the number one thing for a quarterback is to be able to do that and keep your eyes downfield and complete the ball and not see the rush."
Bench on bench
O'Brien curiously decided not to play freshman backup quarterback Steven Bench despite having a 38-0 lead at Iowa. Bench has appeared in just one game, at Virginia when McGloin was briefly injured, so the Lions have virtually no experience at backup quarterback.
"I felt like Iowa was still in the game," O'Brien said. "Maybe I could have gotten Steven in. But I think Steven realizes that we're trying to win the football game, do what's best for the football team at that point in time. So I stuck with Matt throughout the whole game. And if we have a chance to put Steven in at some point during the year, then we'll do it.
News and notes
Hill called this the biggest game of his career for several reasons, including his last whiteout at Beaver Stadium and last against the Buckeyes. "The situation we're both in and how good of a season we both are having, in my opinion it's the biggest game for us," he said. ... Receiver Eugene Lewis has been playing the Miller role on the scout team in practice for PSU. ... Asked what the players who transferred out of PSU are missing out on, Hodges said, "Missing out on a tight family with a lot of love in it." ... Freshman LB Nyeem Wartman (knee) is healthy and practicing again and will play if needed, O'Brien said, making it unlikely he'll seek a medical redshirt.