This game is setting up to be the biggest game of the Big Ten conference this year and one of the biggest FBS games of the season.
Urban Meyer has proved to be the same coach he was a Florida by leading the Buckeyes to a flawless 8-0 record so far this season while first year Coach Bill O'Brien has rallied the Nittany Lions to 5-2 record.
Ohio State's run game has powered it's offense to new levels while Penn State continues it's history of great defense, but on Saturday something has to give.
No. 1: Bill O'Brien will out-coach Urban Meyer
Urban Meyer has done a great job so far this season pulling off close victories after close victories but his success so far seems to be fools gold. The Buckeyes started off hot this season disposing of teams such as Miami (Ohio), the California Golden Bears, and nationally ranked Michigan State and Nebraska. However, out of the eight teams they've defeated so far this season only two of them has a winning record.
The last two victories by Ohio State have also been subpar. They gave up 49 points to last placed Indiana and barely escaped from the not much better Boilermakers. On the other hand, Bill O'Brien over the last two weeks has put together his most impressive wins of the season with a big come from behind victory over nationally ranked Northwestern and thumping rival Iowa by over 20 points on their home turf.
O'Brien's pro style offense has worked wonders for quarterback Matt McGloin and his offense. His experience at the professional level will prevail over Meyer at least for this game.
No. 2: Penn State will shut down Ohio State's running attack
The key of the game will be Penn State's defense against Ohio State's ground game. The Buckeyes have amassed over 1,500 yards already this season and are averaging an FBS tenth best 249.6 rushing yards per game.
Quarterback Braxton Miller is the leading culprit with 959 yards so far this season and 10 touchdowns. Miller alone has almost as many rushing yards as the entire Penn State backfield. Halfback Carlos Hyde has also had some great performances so far this season and has accumulated 545 and nine touchdowns through eight games. The duo has been outstanding to this point and have led the Buckeyes in averaging 39 points per game, which is twenty-first in the FBS.
On the flip side, Penn State has put up another excellent display of defense again this season. The Nittany Lions have allowed 113 rushing yards per game, which is twenty-first in the FBS and are allowing an FBS thirteenth best 15.7 points per game. “Linebacker U” has produced another great lineup of linebackers including Senior Michael Mauti, Senior Gerald Hodges, and Junior Glenn Carson.
No surprise that all three are the leading tacklers on the team. The experience of this group of linebackers will keep this defense disciplined against the Ohio State running attack and keep the Buckeyes from breaking off big gains.
No. 3: Matt McGloin will out-perform Braxton Miller
Both quarterbacks are coming into this game with exceptional season's thus far. Miller is yet another multi-threat player in the line of of recent Buckeye quarterbacks that can kill you both with their arm and mobility. Penn State knows all too well of his predecessors Troy Smith and Terrell Pryor.
While Miller has stifled defenses with his ability to run he has also had a solid year throwing the ball as well with 11 touchdowns to five interceptions. However, after getting knocked out of last week's game with a neck injury against Purdue theres a good possibility Miller will be more tentative to run.
If Miller stays one dimensional his effectiveness as a passer will surely decline, which will let Penn State have their way on defense. With this in mind the edge has to go to McGloin, especially with the season he's having. After struggling to find a rhythm all of last year, McGloin has been nothing short of exceptional this year. Aside from the 14 touchdowns to only two picks, he has made O'Brien look like a genius offensively.
While the Nittany Lions have been a run first offense almost the entire Joe Paterno era, this season they have completely changed their mentality. Despite losing all of his starting receivers from last year, McGloin has more than made due with his receiving core and has connected for over 1,700 yards. The spread offense seems to be the main catalyst to his success, which is making him a strong candidate for Big Ten player of the year.
This game will undoubtedly will go down to the wire with how both teams have played this season. Ohio State is probably the better overall team at this point but they are simply catching Penn State at the wrong time.
The unprecedented sanctions handed down by the NCAA have been frustrating for the PSU football program but it seems they are taking out all of their frustration more and more with each passing opponent.
Playing on their home turf in college football's biggest stadium with over one hundred thousand belligerent fans, the Nittany Lions have the upper hand while the Buckeyes seem to be walking into a buzz-saw.