Literally. JoPa is on crutches, wincing with every step, due to injuring his hip and right leg in practice before the season. The reason? The 81-year old Paterno was demonstrating an onside kick (honest).
For the record, Joe currently leads Bowden by two wins. But just as important is who'll be first to drop out of the race. Already, Paterno's health problems are stirring rumors of his possible retirement at season's end -- especially if Penn State wins the national title.
Here's the key plot twist. If JoPa does hang up his whistle in January, can Bowden be far behind? A logical scenario would be for Bobby to coach through 2009, ensuring he piles up enough W's to clinch the Winningest Coach honors.
Adding fuel to retirement rumors, JoPa's contract is up at the end of the season. Both Joe and Penn State's President say they won't discuss Paterno's future until then.
How painful is Paterno's gimpy leg? Bad enough for him to coach from the pressbox and often miss practice, forced to conduct staff meetings by teleconference from home. Grudgingly, the old battlehorse admits surgery is a given.
But with Paterno turning 82 next month, recovery, even without complications, will be anything but quick and easy.
So is JoPa worried? Ha! Tuesday he told the press, "What I have is not something that can't be fixed. And it's going to be fixed."
Okay, Pops Paterno. Just don't expect any get well cards from your old buddy in Tallahassee.