Paterno stories abound: As his 80th birthday draws nearer on Dec. 21, Joe Paterno remains vibrant and as mentally sharp as any of the bright young men who play for him. As the years mount, though, so do the stories about the legendary Penn State coach. Leading up to Saturday's game against the Nittany Lions, Purdue defensive lineman Ryan Baker was asked what it was like the only time he spoke to the man in charge of Penn State football for the last 41 years. "I remember when he gave me a phone call during recruiting -- I didn't understand one word that man said," Baker said. "He talked for 20 minutes, and I was just trying to get anything out of the conversation. I finally said, 'Sir, I really did not understand much of what you just said.' He said he gets that a lot because he talks soft and mumbles. I thanked him for calling and it was a good experience, but I got nothing out of it." During his weekly news conference, Paterno was asked if he does anything out of the norm after a homecoming game, such as Saturday's 26-12 victory over Illinois. He said there was a big birthday party for his son Jay, the Penn State quarterbacks coach who has been on his dad's staff for the past 12 years. Smelling a notebook item, the reporter persisted: Just how old is Jay? "I haven't got the slightest idea of how old Jay is," Paterno said with that jack-o-lantern grin. "Do you want me to be honest? I don't know how old he is. When you have as many kids and grandkids as I got running around the house, you don't really know how old any of them are." Write this down, Joe: Jay is 38.
Mario update: Michigan WR Mario Manningham, a Warren Harding High graduate, probably will not play this week at home against Northwestern, but coach Lloyd Carr said he expects him to return this season. The second-ranked Wolverines have remained unbeaten without Manningham, who had nine TDs and 527 receiving yards in six games, but their offense has not been as potent without him the past two weeks without him. He has been out because of knee surgery. "All I can tell you is that he's ahead of schedule," Carr said.
Reviewing reviews: Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is having second thoughts about the Big Ten's second look at plays. Initially a fan of video reviews, Ferentz is upset by a questionable call late in Iowa's 20-6 loss at Michigan on Saturday. With the Wolverines ahead 13-6 and driving, Michigan's Michael Hart fumbled the ball on a third-down play. Officials initially ruled that Iowa recovered but a review concluded Hart's knee was down, reversing the call on the field. Replays also appeared to show Hart was down at the Iowa 34, setting up fourth and 1. But after officials reviewed the play a second time, the ball was moved to the 33 -- giving the Wolverines a first down. "I was stoked up about it," said Ferentz, who sent a tape and a written report to the league office. "It was ruled a dead ball -- his knee hit the ground -- I don't contest that. The other part of the equation was where the ball should be spotted and what's the procedure to determine that?"
Premature burial: With Northwestern on top of Michigan State 24-3 at halftime last week, TV analyst (and former Ohio State coach) John Cooper said it appeared coach John L. Smith had lost control of the Spartans. Michigan State began the second half by giving up two more TDs, then ran off the last 38 points to mount the biggest comeback in I-A history to win 41-38. "I'd love to sit here and say there was never any doubt in my mind as a coach," MSU defensive line coach Derrick Jackson said. "But think the one thing that was really good to see as I sat in the press box was the demeanor of the team. It was always very positive. I didn't see guys with their heads down or finger-pointing. Those kids weren't going to let us lose that football game."
Quick-hitters: The Big Ten players of the week were Michigan State QB Drew Stanton and Ohio State QB Troy Smith, Ohio State DB Antonio Smith and Penn State LB Paul Posluszny and Penn State P Jeremy Kapinos. ... C.J. Bacher, the third QB to start this season for Northwestern, gets the call for the second game in a row against Michigan.