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Is it a two-horse race for Danny O'Brien?

A pair of Big Ten programs could be the finalists for his services. Dave Miller

Print This March 27, 2012, 09:35 AM EST

Danny O'Brien was in State College for the second time in a week on Monday, meeting with Penn State coaches and players while wearing a Penn State jacket as the former Maryland starting quarterback continues to weigh his transfer options.

The former ACC newcomer of the year took in the opening of the Nittany Lions' spring practice yesterday afternoon after visiting Happy Valley about a week ago. The re-visit to State College came after he traveled to meet with coaches at Ole Miss late last week.

Matt McGloinMatt McGloin and his fellow Penn State quarterbacks could have competition coming in the form of Danny O'Brien.

One-time favorite Vanderbilt also remains in the mix for O'Brien, and many speculated that he could be on his way to Nashville to play for James Franklin, who was the offensive coordinator with the Terrapins when O'Brien had his breakthrough season in 2010. While the Commodores have not been eliminated from the mix, Penn State and a fellow Big Ten program have emerged as legitimate frontrunners.

O'Brien spent last weekend visiting with Bret Bielema and the coaching staff at Wisconsin, and he said the visit to Madison was "unbelievable" in an interview with Scout.com. Of course, the Badgers made a return trip to the Rose Bowl with former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson, so Wisconsin has had very recent success with a transfer quarterback.

The Badgers can desperately use the boost under center, with 2011 backup Joe Brennan very inexperienced and redshirt freshman and former walk-on Joel Stave in the mix to take over for Wilson as the Badgers' new starter. Fellow signal-caller Curt Phillips missed each of the last two seasons while trying to come back from multiple knee injuries, and it's uncertain how much he can compete this spring. Jon Budmayr will miss spring drills due to a nerve in his right elbow not properly healing, and freshman Bart Houston, who arrives in the summer, needed surgery on his right throwing arm. Landing O'Brien almost seems essential for new Badgers OC Matt Canada, who replaces Paul Chryst as the leader of this offense.

But Penn State may need O'Brien as much as the Badgers after the subpar play the Nittany Lions have received under center the last few seasons.

The Nittany Lions remained in the Big Ten title race last season because of their strong defense. However, the uneven play from the quarterback position ultimately prevented them from a trip to a BCS bowl. This spring, incumbent Matt McGloin is challenged by one-time starter Rob Bolden and Paul Jones. Although McGloin and Bolden have playing experience, the results haven't been great. And they'll now have to learn a new system, so Jones could be an intriguing option, especially with a new staff in town. Jones arguably has the most talent, but he needs to stay out of academic trouble to have a legit shot at the job. The transfer of O'Brien, however, would make all of these factors moot.

While O'Brien continues to make campus visits across the country, there's no question that Penn State and Wisconsin have positioned themselves best in this competition for the former Maryland quarterback's services.

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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