Penn State hopes to halt a two-game skid against the surging Ohio State Buckeyes.
Penn State (4-2, 1-2) vs. Ohio State (5-1, 2-0)
Kickoff: 8 p.m., Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
The Line: PSU +14
TV: ABC Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (analyst) Holly Rowe (sideline)
Weather: A clear evening with temps in the mid-50s.
PENN STATE RECORD: 4-2, 1st Year
OVERALL RECORD: 29-17, 4th Year
VS. OHIO STATE: 0-0
OHIO STATE RECORD: 29-3, 3rd Year
OVERALL RECORD: 133-26, 13th Year
VS. PENN STATE: 3-0
...NOW THE FUN PART
OHIO STATE OFFENSE VS PENN STATE DEFENSE
After a disastrous week two performance against Virginia Tech, redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett has been nothing short of phenomenal, and could find himself as the first-team All-B10 at seasons end. Following the loss to the Hokies, Barrett has thrown 17 touchdowns compared with just one interception and has completed well over 70 percent of his attempts. At some point, you have to wonder if he's the likely starter next season for the Buckeyes, even with the return of Braxton Miller. Barrett is also the team's second-leading rusher, averaging 4.9 yards attempt and finding the end zone four times on the ground. However, it should be noted that the second half of the Buckeyes schedule feature much stingier defenses than Barrett has faced so far. Saturday will be the first big test to determine Barrett's true capabilities.
Although the Buckeyes are more of a passing team, the running attack is not too far behind. Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliot is an emerging star for the Buckeyes. He's an effective runner between the tackles, and can also bounce it outside for a big gain. Penn State's run defense should do an ample job of shutting down Elliot, but that may depend on how much time they are forced to spend on the field on Saturday night.
The Penn State defense will be the best the Buckeyes have faced thus far in 2014. They will need to not only shut down the run, something they do better than anyone in the nation, but also apply enough pressure to Barrett to force him into making bad decisions to force a few turnovers.
OHIO STATE DEFENSE VS PENN STATE OFFENSE
If you find Penn State's offensive performance the last two games upsetting, you may want to make alternate plans on Saturday night. The Nittany Lions offensive line will face the best defensive line on the schedule, and one of the best in the entire nation, meaning things could get ugly really fast in Happy Valley. Joey Bosa, Steve Miller, Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington are a fearsome foursome who should have no problem penetrating Penn State's offensive line, shutting down the run game and harassing Hackenberg into a few bad plays. Bosa, who is a solid bet to take home B10 Defensive Player of the Year honors, and Bennett will especially cause problems and will spend as much time in the Penn State backfield as Hackenberg or Bill Belton. They are also under the tutelage of Larry Johnson, Sr., who as we all know, does a fantastic job of developing talent along the defensive line.
Familiarize yourself with the name Darron Lee. The freshman outside linebacker is a future star who will become one of the premier defensive players in the conference by 2015 or 2016. Fellow linebacker Joshua Perry is the team's leading tackler and does a great job covering sideline-to-sideline.
The Buckeyes biggest weakness is the secondary. If the offensive line manages to give Hackenberg time to drop back and locate a receiver, he'll have a huge day. Geno Lewis, DaeSean Hamilton and Jesse James are all more than capable of finding space against this secondary and making big plays. However, it's not likely to happen if Hackenberg has to constantly watch who is about to sack him, rather than looking downfield.
Ohio State freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger is off to a solid start, connecting on six of nine field goals, with two of the misses from beyond 40 yards. He's nailed all 37 extra points on the year. The Buckeyes have a gem in sophomore punter Cameron Johnston, who is averaging more than 44 yards per kick and has blasted several 60-plus yard punts.
The Buckeyes are solid across all special teams units, in both kick coverage and the return game. Dontre Wilson is an especially explosive returner. It will be absolutely crucial for Penn State to contain him and not allow any big special teams plays.
OHIO STATE-30 PENN STATE-6
As hard as I try to be optimistic and consider best-case scenarios for this game, I just don't see any way the offensive line will be able to hold its own against Ohio State's defensive line. The offense will have little to no chance of sustaining a drive, let alone scoring many points. The defense should remain impressive, but too much time on the field will result in a few big plays by the Buckeyes in the second half to put the game completely out of reach.
Deion Barnes collects two sacks and Adrian Amos picks off a pass in a game with very little for the Nittany Lions highlight reel.