STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -Three nonconference games, three big wins for Penn State.
Now things start to get interesting.
Big Ten season is here and Penn State's first conference game is a doozy - Michigan this weekend at the Big House.
Nittany Lions receiver Deon Butler had barely caught his breath after Saturday's 45-24 win over Buffalo when the Michigan questions started coming.
``A team like Michigan, who we haven't beaten in a long time, I am definitely anxious to get out there and play,'' Butler said.
Long time? The Nittany Lions are 0-8 versus Michigan since 1996, when they last won, 29-17 in Ann Arbor.
``We want to go out there and send a message,'' said Butler, who had a team-high 72 yards on five catches Saturday. ``It would be nice to get that monkey off of our back.''
At least Penn State (3-0) heads into Michigan on a roll, having outscored its first three opponents, 135-34.
The Nittany Lions moved up two spots Sunday in the latest AP Top 25 poll to No. 10, though as coach Joe Paterno likes to say, they are far from a perfect team.
``I have to look at the tapes,'' Paterno said when asked to assess his team heading into Big Ten play. ``I don't know where we are yet.''
In the second half of the Buffalo game, the Bulls' offense poked holes in a Nittany Lions defense that had been a blue-and-white brick wall the first two games.
While Penn State was ahead comfortably most of the half, the 21 points scored by Buffalo in the fourth quarter were 11 more than what the Nittany Lions had allowed in their first two games.
Call the fourth-quarter letdown a wake-up call, linebacker Dan Connor said, after the defense didn't practice up to par the past week following the emotional second-game win over Notre Dame.
``We'll learn a ton from this game,'' said Connor, who had 12 tackles and a sack against Buffalo. ``As long as we can pick it up in practice, we'll definitely be ready to play in the Big House.''
The offense started slowly for the third straight game, failing to score against the overmatched Bulls until 6:29 of the second quarter. The Nittany Lions didn't settle down until Rodney Kinlaw came in at running back for Austin Scott, who fumbled twice in the first half.
As if beating Michigan doesn't generate enough talk in Happy Valley, the Nittany Nation is also buzzing about who should get the Lions' share of carries, Kinlaw or Scott?
Kinlaw led Penn State with 129 yards and a touchdown on Saturday. Scott had 116 yards and two scores against Notre Dame.
Paterno shooed away any talk of a tailback controversy.
``We have to have both of them,'' he said. ``They're both first string as far as I'm concerned.''
As in the first two games, the offense did roll up the points once they got on track on Saturday.
It helped to get 6-foot-5 tight end Andrew Quarless back after the 18-year-old sophomore had been suspended two games by Paterno for an off-field infraction.
``Like I have said many times, we did what matters at the end and won the football game,'' said quarterback Anthony Morelli, who threw a career-high four TDs, including two to Quarless. ``We can always work and get better.''
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