But he's especially encouraged by the core group of players who return next year.
"We've got a bunch of guys on this (current) football team that gained a lot of experience this year, which I think will really help them," said O'Brien. "Some guys were playing college football for the first time, like Geno Lewis, who redshirted last year. Jordan Lucas didn't play a lot for us during his first year. Now he's one of our better players. We have a lot of veteran players who have played a lot of football for us and are coming back next year. We feel really, really good about (them).
"Look, I'm not going to get into predictions or anything like that. But, with the two"'year sanctions that we've been under and things like that -- with the limited amount of (scholarships) we could offer and guys who have left the program -- I think our program stands on pretty solid ground right now."
Wisconsin rarely loses at home. Over the past four seasons, it has gone 25-2 at Camp Randall. Plus, each of its most recent 15 victories have come by a double-digit margin. Therefore the Badgers are favored by more than three touchdowns against the Nittany Lions.
O'Brien doesn't pay much mind to point spreads and said he doesn't use them as a motivation tool.
"I'm aware that we're probably an underdog," he said. "We're 6"'5, and they're 9"'2, but I didn't know it was a (23-point) underdog. Now, if somebody from Wisconsin came out and said we're going to beat these guys by 24 points, then maybe we'd use that. But certainly not from Vegas."
n Brandon Smith
Brandon Smith, a 2013 graduate of Lewisburg High School, is listed on Penn State's official depth chart as the second-string fullback behind only senior Pat Zerbe.
Smith walked on with the Nittany Lions in the summer and originally began his college career as a linebacker. He first appeared on the depth chart at fullback before Penn State's game with Nebraska last week. O'Brien has yet to comment on Smith's position change.