Penn State players call Northwestern game a 'must-win'

The Nittany Lions roll into Saturday's game against No. 24 Northwestern (5-0) on a three game winning streak. Penn State can beat a ranked opponent at Beaver Stadium for the first time since 2008.

If Penn State wins and Ohio State loses, the Nittany Lions (3-2) would take Leaders Division lead.

Oh, and it's homecoming weekend. 

"It’s absolutely one of the biggest games I’ve played in," junior linebacker Glenn Carson said. "It's a must win."

Running back Bill Belton called it a big game that brings big opportunities. But is it a must win?

"Yeah," Belton said. "It is."

The Nittany Lions are not eligible for the postseason, but a win against Northwestern could put Penn State in position to receive votes in the AP poll for the first time this season. On field success is critical for Bill O'Brien this season as he attempts to rebuild from the crippling NCAA sanctions -- and hits the recruiting trail.

Potentially at play against the Wildcats could be an emotional letdown. After starting the season 0-2, Penn State has rolled by its past three opponents, including an emotionally-charged Big Ten opener against Illinois. 

After Northwestern is Penn State's bye week. The Nittany Lions' performance on Saturday could dictate how they finish the season out.

Some students are organizing a whiteout for Saturday. O'Brien isn't aware of the movement -- which has mostly gained traction on Twitter.

He did encourage students to be in their seats for the noon kick.

"Whether it's white out, this out, that out, I don't know," O'Brien said. "I just need them in, in the stands at noon going nuts for this football team, because you know, we have got to have a great home‑field advantage, and these guys really feed off of that."

-Emily Kaplan