The usual allotment of entertaining goodies await college football fans in Week 9 of 2012:

– Notre Dame cast in the starring role on national TV opposite a quality opponent.

– A Big East unbeaten pitted against a squad capable of beating it.

– Kansas State fed some more overrated fodder.

– The SEC set to stage the top two matchups of the weekend.

A little addition to the mix this time, though … the Big Ten actually will join the fun.

Suffering one of its most lifeless campaigns, the conference offers one dandy at dinnertime this Saturday when unbeaten Ohio State, ranked eighth but ineligible for BCS recognition, visits Penn State.

In sparing a regurgitation of the nightmare endured in Happy Valley throughout the last year, how about we look at the reality of right now – the Nittany Lions are 5-2, having won five straight, and they stand at 3-0 in the conference’s Leaders Division, trailing only the Buckeyes, who check in at 4-0 (8-0 overall). With most of the country expecting an immediate downfall with the program, PSU instead has risen to the challenge and, quite frankly, made a mockery of anyone who questioned its talent.

In short, the Lions – chief among them QB Matt McGloin (1,788 yards, 14 TDs passing and only 2 picks) and WR Anthony Robinson (47 catches, 563 yards, 8 TDs) – are thriving in the progressive offense implemented by new coach Bill O’Brien, and the entire team is buying into his never-quick, super-tough, be-accountable attitude.

With all due respect to bigger defensive names across the country, such as Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o, it’s unlikely anyone on that side of the ball has had a bigger impact throughout a program than PSU senior LB Mike Mauti, who leads the Lions with 65 tackles and three interceptions (with returns totaling 125 yards). He is that classic “heart and soul” figure desperately needed for a successful outfit.

As if PSU’s ability to have an impact after being decimated weren’t enough to entice people to check out this contest, consider Ohio State, which brings in hobbled Heisman contender Braxton Miller and the movie star of coaches, Urban Meyer, into Beaver Stadium for this 5:30 kickoff.

One of the nation’s leading ground gainers, Miller provides the Buckeyes with the type of dual-threat weapon OSU fans always expected Terrelle Pryor to be. Without him, they’d have two, perhaps three losses, at this point. Even with him, they only won by the hair of their chinny chin chins the past two times out, barely beating Indiana in regulation (52-49) and then needing OT to handle Purdue (29-22).

Expect another White Out at Penn State, and quite possibly another statement by the Lions that they refuse to just fold the tents and give up – this year, or for the remainder of their penance.

In other key matchups:

Cincinnati (5-1) at No. 16 Louisville (7-0) – This one deserves mention, because of the aforementioned: the Bearcats are capable of knocking the Cardinals from their unbeaten perch on Friday night. Question is, will they be able to rebound after having Toledo do the same thing to them just last week?

No. 14 Texas Tech (6-1) at No. 3 Kansas State (7-0) – Tech is a trendy pick. Words to the wise: Avoid it. The Red Raiders have pulled off some massive upsets against Oklahoma last year and West Virginia this year. The Wildcats present something those other two never did, though – defense, a very, very good defense.

No. 11 Mississippi State (7-0) at No. 1 Alabama (7-0) – Well, that unbeaten run sure was fun, wasn’t it, Bulldogs? The shame is, State has its first opportunity to show everyone what it can do, and it has to do it against the nation’s best team. It’ll probably drop like a rock in the polls after this one, and shouldn’t.

No. 5 Notre Dame (7-0) at No. 8 Oklahoma (5-1) – Why does it seem like the Sooners present less of a challenge for the Irish than Stanford or Brigham Young did the last two weeks, in South Bend no less? Beating up on Texas and Kansas just doesn’t carry the same cachet it once did.

No. 2 Florida (7-0) at No. 10 Georgia (6-1) – Just a little deductive reasoning here. Since Georgia got smashed by South Carolina, and Florida later handled the Gamecocks, it seems that the Gators should roll. Don’t bet on it. This rivalry, dominated so long by Florida, has really evened out the past couple years.