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National college football advance

Happy encounter for two greats

Associated Press / September 10, 2011

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With his championship-winning résumé, Alabama coach Nick Saban hardly needs a pat on the back from a fellow coach to feel appreciated.

Joe Paterno might be the only guy who could get away with it.

Two of college football’s most successful and recognizable coaches meet today when Saban and the third-ranked Crimson Tide visit Paterno’s 23d-ranked Nittany Lions in Happy Valley.

At times this week, each man gushed about his counterpart as if offering a personal reference on a job application - especially Saban.

Saban has 130 victories over his 16-year career, while Paterno has 402 over a record 46 seasons. One of Saban’s victories came against Penn State last year in Tuscaloosa.

Where Saban does match up with Paterno is in national championships. Each man has two: Saban with LSU (2003) and Alabama (2009); Paterno winning at Penn State in 1982 and 1986.

Paterno is still recovering from injuries to his right shoulder and pelvis suffered when a receiver accidentally bowled him over in practice Aug. 7. Paterno said this week he was optimistic about a sideline return, though he was still in pain. He coached the 41-7 win in the season opener last week over Indiana State from the press box.

A sellout crowd of more than 108,000 had been expected, though Pennsylvania transportation officials have warned fans that travel to Happy Valley and central Pennsylvania may be difficult because of historic flooding from Tropical Storm Lee.

“Playing any team, but especially Alabama and with this crowd . . . it’s something you don’t really experience a lot in life,’’ Nittany Lions defensive end Jack Crawford said.

Ohio State announced that three players suspended for taking $200 at a Cleveland charity event this year will miss the No. 15 Buckeyes’ home game against Toledo today. Adding to the football team’s recent troubles, a statement by the NCAA indicated the university will face more scrutiny over the most recent rules transgression. The university said starting tailback Jordan Hall, starting cornerback Travis Howard, and backup safety Corey Brown won’t play today. The three already missed Ohio State’s game against Akron last week. Records indicated the athletes gave varying accounts for why they received the money and who they received it from . . . With Notre Dame in town tonight, Michigan is trying to make the first prime-time game at the Big House a spectacle. The school plans to distribute 100,000 maize pompoms, pay tribute to graduates who lost their lives on Sept. 11 a decade ago, and wear special legacy uniforms. The Irish will be sporting throwback white jerseys, gold pants, white socks, and white shoes, and a large shamrock will adorn their helmets for the first time in a half-century.