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There is no doubt that in the week leading up to the biggest football game Happy Valley has seen since 1999, the focus on the Penn State campus might not be entirely on academics.

But just in case Penn State students needed one more excuse to skip their 8 a.m. classes this week, ESPN's Cold Pizza will film live from outside Beaver Stadium from 8 to 10 a.m. later in the week on Friday.

Analyst Woody Paige, an avid fan of sleeping in, said there is no excuse for it not to be a raucous affair.

"This is tough enough for me because when I was in college at Tennessee, I never booked a class before 11 o'clock in the morning," Paige said yesterday. "This job is God punishing me for years of sleeping in."

Paige, presumably fully aware of the latent rivalry between the Nittany Lions and the Pitt Panthers, encouraged Penn State students to upstage their neighbors to the west.

"The first school we went to this year was Pittsburgh, and we didn't have a great turnout and the product wasn't as good," Paige said. "Just getting young people involved, that's what this is all about."

Paige, a columnist for The Denver Post who has become nationally known for his recurring spot on ESPN's popular afternoon show Around The Horn, will visit Happy Valley on Thursday night.

The rest of the Cold Pizza crew, which includes host Jay Crawford and ESPN regular and syndicated sports columnist Skip Bayless will also be in State College.

"I haven't been to Penn State in 20 years," Paige said in a phone conversation shortly before taping yesterday's Around The Horn.

"That's a long time, and I am very excited to go back."

Paige, who openly states that college football is his favorite sport, said that this year has been particularly exciting to him due to the change in fortunes for programs steeped in tradition like Penn State, Notre Dame and Alabama.

"People forget that Oklahoma went away for years," Paige said. "Having these schools back in the picture, I think it's important. Today on the conference call before Around The Horn, we were talking about whether or not Penn State could win the Big Ten and everyone else was saying, 'No, no,' but I said, 'Sure, why not?' Sure, you still have to beat Ohio State, but it could definitely happen."

Paige, who has openly defended Penn State coach Joe Paterno in recent years also reiterated that he believes Paterno should step down from the position he has held for 40 years only when he is ready, and said that he is looking forward to Paterno's scheduled appearance on the show.

"I feel Joe Paterno he can go out when he wants to; he had earned the right to go out when he wants to," he said.

"I'd always like to see a coach like him go out on a good note."

The taping of Cold Pizza will be another event in a weekend that will most likely be one giant media blitz, but like College GameDay, Cold Pizza tries to get the students involved in any way possible.

Paige has been known to go down into the crowd and interact with those who attend, throwing around a football and generally being accessible to the students.

Both shows have also become notorious for the humorous signs sported by the students who back the set.

"I think that's the kind of stuff that makes the whole show," Paige said with a chuckle. "With all the signs everywhere I go, I apparently have illegitimate children. Every week it's signs saying, 'Woody is my daddy.' "