Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - Big Ten border rivals collide on Saturday night, as the fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes entertain the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Penn State is coming off a bye, which allowed the team some extra time to savor its thrilling upset of the visiting Michigan Wolverines in four overtimes on Oct. 12. The Nittany Lions are 4-2 on the season and 1-1 in conference, and their only previous true road game resulted in defeat as they dropped a 44-24 decision at Indiana to open Big Ten play the week prior to the Michigan game.
Coach Bill O'Brien spoke after the big win over the Wolverines about the resiliency his team demonstrated.
"It's a big win for us. It means a lot. You beat a really good Michigan team, 5-0. You're 3-2, coming off a bad loss. I think it says a lot about these kids, it says a lot about this coaching staff."
Ohio State won its 19th straight game last Saturday, as they slipped past the visiting Iowa Hawkeyes, 34-24. The Buckeyes trailed at the half (17-10), but took control from there to keep head coach Urban Meyer perfect in his tenure at the school. OSU's current win streak in the longest in the country at present, and it is tied for the second-longest in program history. The longest is 22 games set between 1967-69.
Meyer is the first coach in history to guide a team(s), to three 20-game win streaks during his career. He won his last game at Florida before taking some time off and then embarking on the current run with the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is clinging to a 14-13 advantage in the all-time series with Penn State, reaching that point after claiming a 35-23 decision over the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley last season.
The Penn State offense relies heavily on the pass, as freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg has performed well in averaging a Big Ten-best 278.7 ypg with 11 TDs and six interceptions. His accuracy (.584) could stand improvement, but head coach Bill O'Brien is hopeful that with some seasoning will come even greater success. Having a standout receiver in Allen Robinson (43 rec., 705 yards, five TDs) to throw to would make even a mediocre signal caller better, as the 6-foot-3 junior has nearly twice as many receptions as his closest teammate, and leads the conference with 7.2 grabs per game.
The PSU rushing attack accounts for 157.2 ypg, as both Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton have amassed more than 350 yards, with the former finding the end zone eight times. As a team however, the Nittany Lions average just 3.8 ypc.
On the other side of the ball, Penn State ranks seventh in the league in scoring defense (23.7 ppg), but sits fifth in total defense (335.8 ypg). The Lions permit 117.7 ypg on the ground, and another 218.2 ypg through the air, but they surrender only one rushing score per contest, while ranking second in the league in third-down conversion defense (.281) and first in fourth-down conversions (0-of-5).
Glenn Carson leads the team with 49 tackles, while DaQuan Jones has made 8.5 of his 39 total stops behind the line of scrimmage. In all, the Lions have logged 41 TFL, 14 sacks, but only nine turnovers.
In last week's win over Iowa, Ohio State had a pair of 100-yard rushers in Carlos Hyde (24 carries, 149 yards, two TDs) and Braxton Miller (18 carries, 102 yards), marking the first time the Hawkeyes had allowed anyone to surpass the century mark this season. Miller was also highly effective in the passing game, going 22-of-27 for 222 yards with two TDs and no INTs. Devin Smith caught a game-high seven balls for 72 yards and a score.
Ryan Shazier recorded nine tackles and Curtis Grant had eight, but the Buckeyes defense, which was on the field for only 25 minutes against the Hawkeyes, came up with only one turnover and failed to log a sack.
Ohio State is the top scoring team in the Big Ten this season, putting up 45 ppg behind typical outputs of 279.6 ypg on the ground (third) and 213.6 ypg via the pass (eighth). Miller, who missed some time earlier in the season with an injury, has completed 69.6 percent of his throws, but for only 831 yards with eight TDs and two interceptions. Kenny Guiton has appeared in all seven games, and is a 68.4 percent passer who has tossed 13 scoring strikes against only two picks. Corey Brown and Smith rank one-two on the team's receiving list with a combined 63 catches for 878 yards and 12 TDs. Like the receivers, Hyde and Jordan Hall are neck-and-neck in terms of rushing stats, amassing a combined 881 yards and 13 TDs.
Shazier is high man on the club with his 56 tackles, eight of which have been for negative yardage, and he has also forced a pair of fumbles while logging four QB hurries. Noah Spence has three of the Buckeyes' 16 sacks, while Bradley Roby and Doran Grant each have a pair of interceptions.