Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Ohio State heads to Penn State on Saturday as the underdog, trying to avoid a loss that would end its run of four consecutive Big Ten titles (won or shared) and four consecutive BCS bowl games.
The Buckeyes are the younger team, the more banged-up team, the team with more question marks and the lower-ranked team. Plus, their Big Ten road win streak is over, snapped in shocking fashion Oct. 17 at Purdue.
But one factor still favors the Scarlet and Gray: the calendar.
It reads November, and under head coach Jim Tressel, Ohio State owns November.
Tressel boasts a 23-4 record in November in eight previous seasons at Ohio State, never losing twice in the month and dropping only one game since 2004. Last year, Ohio State won its three November games by a combined score of 117-37. During the last four seasons, Ohio State has outscored its opponents 416-174 in November games.
"Coach Tressel puts it as, 'Septembers are for pretenders and Novembers are for contenders,'" junior linebacker Ross Homan said. "In order to be great, you have to be great in November. That's what you strive for, year in and year out."
Tressel picked up the catchphrase from former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce, whom he worked for in Columbus from 1983 to 1985. He has emphasized it to his team each season, particularly this one, as Ohio State plays a backloaded schedule that finishes with No. 11 Penn State, No. 4 Iowa and archrival Michigan.
The Buckeyes still can win the Big Ten and reach their first Rose Bowl since 1997 by sweeping the final three games.
"We hope that we're teaching every day, we hope we're evaluating the same whether we're winning or we're not winning," Tressel said. "We hope that there's progress and learning going on at all times. And if indeed that's the case, then logically you should be better at the end of the year.
"You hope to enter the month of November with a chance left at your goals."