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Will Buckeyes be ready after bye week?

Andy Gottesman / The Lantern

When Ohio State hosts Penn State on Saturday, the Buckeyes will be well-rested. That might not be a good thing.

Despite its .823 winning percentage under coach Jim Tressel, OSU maintains a lackluster 2-4 record when coming off a bye week. With its last loss after a week off coming from the Nittany Lions in 2005, OSU looks to buck the trend.

As one of four one-loss teams atop the conference standings, the Buckeyes’ Big Ten ambitions depend solely on their performance down the stretch. That starts with Penn State.

The two squads are no strangers to jockeying for position in the Big Ten against one another. When a Big Ten title was on the line in 2008, a costly fourth-quarter fumble by OSU signal caller Terrelle Pryor dashed the No. 10 Buckeyes’ Rose Bowl aspirations and virtually punched No. 3 Penn State’s ticket to Pasadena, Calif.

Last year’s meeting in State College, Pa., had similar implications but produced a much different result.

Paced by 228 yards on the ground and an efficient performance from Pryor, the No. 15 Buckeyes upset the No. 11 Nittany Lions, 24-7, and moved one step closer to a Rose Bowl trip of their own.

This year’s bout has significant but different Big Ten ramifications. At 6-3 (3-2 in the conference), the Nittany Lions look to play the role of spoiler, while the Buckeyes (8-1, 4-1) are fighting for a second straight Rose Bowl bid.

They must remain perfect to get there. A Wisconsin loss would help their cause as well.

On paper, OSU seems the overwhelming favorite. However, the Nittany Lion faithful have seen a revitalized Penn State team of late.

Winners of three straight and averaging 36.3 points per game during that span, the Nittany Lions have been sparked by back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances from 2009 first-team All-Big Ten selection Evan Royster and the emergence of sophomore quarterback Matthew McGloin.

Those wins have come against Minnesota, Michigan and Northwestern. The Silver Bullet defense is a different beast.

Ranking third nationally in total defense and fourth in rushing defense, the Buckeyes will be no easy task for Royster and Penn State. Add 105,000-plus scarlet-clad, screaming fans, the ESPN College GameDay gang and a potential sixth straight conference title to the mix, and it appears as though this contest is OSU’s to lose.

Although OSU handily defeated the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley a year ago, don’t think the Buckeyes will forget what happened in Columbus the previous year. Ask Purdue about the whole revenge thing.

Couple that with a new and improved Pryor under center along with the lingering bad taste from Wisconsin, and the Buckeyes seem poised to continue their high flying show in the ‘Shoe.

Either way, as the college football season comes to a close, no victory will come easy.

 

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