"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again."

Those words were credited to Henry Ford nearly a century ago.

But they apply perfectly to the Penn State football team in 2013.

The Nittany Lions are reeling from an unexpected and ugly failure -- a 44-24 loss to a long-suffering Indiana program that had previously been 0-16 against PSU.

The stench from that poor PSU performance still hangs heavy in the air.

But in 31/2 hours on Saturday, the Lions have the opportunity to cleanse that acrid aroma, and in the process, they can drastically improve the program's outlook for the 2013 season -- and beyond.

That's because the Michigan Wolverines will invade Beaver Stadium in a few days.

For Penn State, the Wolverines will bring with them several golden opportunities.

---There's the opportunity to impress the season's first sellout crowd in Happy Valley. An all-stadium Whiteout is planned and 107,000 raucous fans are expected for homecoming. They will just be waiting for an excuse to go berserk. Will the Lions give it to them?

If Penn State performs well, maybe some of those fans will return later this year or next and fill the empty seats that are becoming increasingly common in the cavernous facility. Lay another egg, like last week's effort against Indiana, and they may stay away for the foreseeable future.


---There's the opportunity to wow potential recruits. Many will be there in person on the Penn State sideline, while others will watch the nationally-televised game on ESPN. The recent decision by the NCAA to ease PSU's sanctions means Head Coach Bill O'Brien now has a few more scholarships to offer.

A pulsating triumph in an electric atmosphere could go a long way in luring those blue-chippers to Penn State. An uninspired loss that could produce hometown boos could do the exact opposite.

---Finally, there's the opportunity to beat one of the most-storied programs in college football history. The Wolverines are 5-0 and ranked No. 18 in the nation.

But this is still a beatable Michigan outfit. The Wolverines were very lucky to squeeze by Akron and UConn, who have a combined record of 1-9. That one win was a 35-33 victory by Akron over James Madison. Beat Michigan, and the Indiana collapse will be mostly forgotten. Lose to Michigan, and an 0-3 start to Big Ten action is almost guaranteed. That's because PSU's next game is at No. 4 Ohio State on Oct. 26.

This is a crossroads game for the Lions. Win it, and a solid season is still possible. Lose it, and the season could spiral quickly out of control.

The opportunities are there. Will the Lions take advantage of them?

We'll find out Saturday night.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dis patch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdis patch.com.