By Genaro C. Armas
STATE COLLEGE, Pa.: Two players who have traveled divergent paths to high-profile quarterback jobs will face each other Saturday at the Horseshoe.
Most Big Ten fans are familiar with the story of No. 8 Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor, the top high school senior in the country who spurned his home-state Nittany Lions for the Buckeyes (8-1, 4-1).
But almost no one outside of Pennsylvania had heard of walk-on Matt McGloin until he threw seven touchdowns over his last three games to lead resurgent Penn State (6-3, 3-2) and unseat promising freshman Rob Bolden.
Coach Joe Paterno tabbed McGloin the starter this week, but hinted that Bolden may also play.
"You just have to prepare for anything. (McGloin) is obviously playing with a lot of confidence right now," Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward said. "Those are the most dangerous ones."
So the annual grudge match features a quarterback once seemingly destined for perennial mop-up duty vs. the former No. 1 recruit in the country.
McGloin is a redshirt sophomore, so he and Pryor, a junior, were in the same recruiting class three seasons ago. McGloin threw for more than 5,400 yards and 58 touchdowns as a three-year starter at West Scranton High School.
Linebacker Michael Mauti, who roomed with McGloin one preseason camp, proudly boasted Wednesday that he assigned him the nickname "The West Scranton Gunslinger."
"Once he got on the field, we were like, 'Whoa, this kid has got an arm," said Mauti, who compared McGloin's loose demeanor to Brett Favre's personality.
But McGloin didn't possess the kind of talent that had college coaches salivating over Pryor. He played his ball in Jeannette, in a western Pennsylvania region known as the "Cradle of Quarterbacks" for producing talent such as Dan Marino, Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas.
And even then, Pryor was special.
The only Pennsylvania prep player to both rush and pass for at least 4,000 yards had Penn State among the finalists in his hyped recruiting saga before he chose Ohio State.
Pryor assumed the starting job early his freshman year and has become one of the country's most recognizable players and dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks, averaging more than 273 yards of total offense.
"He's older. He's more mature. He's more polished," Paterno said. "And so all those little things that you would expect an athlete as good as he is and as conscientious as he is, you'd expect him to get better and that's what Pryor's done."
But the recruiting scramble for Pryor, who delayed his college decision about six weeks past signing day in 2008, left the status of other Pennsylvania quarterbacks including McGloin in limbo. Some colleges didn't know how to proceed until Pryor signed.
In the end, McGloin decided to pursue his dreams and go to Penn State as a preferred walk-on.
McGloin's path to starting has been laced with obstacles. He was a third-stringer last year behind starter Daryll Clark and another touted recruit, then-freshman Kevin Newsome.
Then Bolden came to Happy Valley this summer and leapfrogged both Newsome and McGloin, starting the first seven games before getting knocked out of the win at Minnesota with a concussion.
McGloin, who had been listed as the third-stringer, entered ahead of Newsome and threw for two touchdowns to help the Nittany Lions end a two-game slide. He threw for 250 yards and a score against Michigan as cautious coaches held back the recovering Bolden.
"He's one of those guys who has really been pushing the ball down the field for them," Buckeyes defensive tackle Dexter Larimore said about McGloin. "He's kind of been that spark that they've been looking for."
Bolden took back the starting job against Northwestern but was pulled after two series for McGloin. Instead of switching back to Bolden as initially planned, Paterno stuck with McGloin after he got hot and finished with 225 yards and four TD passes.
The rest of the offense is clicking again, too, from the once-maligned offensive line to a revitalized running game led by senior Evan Royster.
"To be honest with you, I knew my time was going to come, it just happened right now," McGloin said. "I guess I'm living proof that it can happen."
AP College Football Writer Rusty Miller in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.