Another week, another thumping of an opponent by Ohio State. The Buckeyes thoroughly dismantled Rutgers last Saturday to grab their fifth win of the season and are now looking to do the same when they head to State College to take on Penn State. J.T. Barrett and Ohio State have won four games in a row with an average score of 56-17. Playing in Beaver Stadium will provide an extra challenge for the Buckeyes as they have to prepare to face a large crowd in the Nittany Lions' famous 'White Out'.
Penn State got off to a quick star with four wins to open up the year against Central Florida, Akron, Rutgers, and Massachusetts. The wheels would quickly begin to fall off, though, as the Nittany Lions dropped their next two games against Northwestern and a pretty awful Michigan team, with their offense struggling badly in both games. After a bye week to recollect themselves, Penn State head coach James Franklin will look to try and upend Ohio State to help provide some momentum for his team.
We give you five things to look for on Saturday night when the Buckeyes go head-to-head with the Nittany Lions:
J.T. Barrett faces his first hostile environment
The redshirt freshman quarterback has stepped in for the injured Braxton Miller this season and has done magnificently. Barrett leads the FBS in Total QBR since the loss to Virginia Tech and has been responsible for 20 touchdowns while committing just a single turnover (4 TD, 4 TO in his first two games). Now, he'll have to prove he can continue that success in front of 100,000+ fans that are actually rooting against him.
Unless you count the Maryland game as a hostile environment, this will be Barrett's first true shot on the road against a Penn State team that at least has a solid defense. The 'White Out' at Beaver Stadium is usually rolled out for whenever Ohio State comes to town, and you'd better believe they'll get rowdy. I'll be looking for Barrett to try and silence the crowd and if he succeeds, it will make life that much easier on him.
Ohio State gets a pick six
It seems like whenever Ohio State plays Penn State, there's always a decent chance that a defensive Buckeye will intercept a Nittany Lion pass and take it to the house. Malcolm Jenkins in 2006 and 2007 had a pick six against Penn State, while in 2010, Devon Torrence and Travis Howard made their mark on the game with pick sixes of their own.
In 2012, at Penn State, Ryan Shazier helped spark a 21-point third quarter as he picked off a pass and returned it to break a 7-7 tie. Hackenberg and the Nittany Lions are sure to test the Ohio State secondary all night long, but I wouldn't be surprised to see at least one pass picked off. Whether it turns into six for the Buckeyes or not, we'll just have to wait and see.
Strength vs. Strength
Ohio State's offense vs. Penn State's defense will be a key matchup for the game on Saturday night. With the Buckeyes scoring 50 or more points in their last four games, Penn State's sixth-ranked defense in the country will be put to the test to try and slow down Ohio State.
Running the ball against the Nittany Lions is not expected to be a cakewalk and I'm sure the coaching staff has relayed that to Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Curtis Samuel. The offensive line, which has grown up significantly over the past few weeks will be tasked with trying to find some running room to set up big plays from Barrett, and Ohio State's talented stable of running backs.
Special teams and Dontre Wilson
Dontre Wilson has had a quiet, but solid, 2014 campaign. Wilson has only accounted for one touchdown but has 13 carries for 80 yards and 14 receptions for 221 yards. Last year against Penn State, Wilson caught a pass for a score en route to a 63-14 smacking, but also provided a highlight reel-esque kickoff return.
I'm looking for Wilson to have at least one big play on Saturday night as he could have a huge impact on momentum for the Buckeyes in front of a hostile crowd. One game-changing play could open up the scoring or help seal the deal against the Nittany Lions.
First meeting between James Franklin and Urban Meyer
Ohio State-Penn State will match an Urban Meyer-coached team vs. a James Franklin-coached team for the first time. After spending three seasons as head coach at Vanderbilt, where he went 24-15 including consecutive 9-4 seasons in 2012 and 2013 with bowl victories each year, Franklin has started off with a 4-2 record at Penn State. Meyer's coaching background needs no introduction.
Meanwhile, Ohio State and Penn State will play for the 30th time in its series history. The Buckeyes are looking for their third straight win over the Nittany Lions after Ohio State beat Penn State 35-23 in 2012 and 63-14 in 2013.