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Buckeye brainteasers: Five questions for Ohio State against Penn State

Brittany Schock / Asst. photo editor

What is Penn State’s mindset coming into Saturday’s game at Ohio Stadium?

Ohio State coach Luke Fickell said he doubted that interim PSU coach Tom Bradley’s preparation for Saturday’s game would be affected by the off-field issues in State College, Pa.

“I’m sure (Bradley) is not too worried, exactly, about that. There are a lot of other things,” Fickell said at a Tuesday press conference. “You have to go with what you’ve got. He’s a team guy. He’s been around it. He understands what the situation is, and he’s going to do what he thinks is best for his program and his team.”

Fickell said his main concern ahead of Saturday’s game is the players that will suit up in Scarlet and Gray for the contest, and he feels Bradley will likely share those sentiments.

“I’m sure coach Bradley is focused on the 70 that he’s going to bring over here, and I’m going to be focused on the 105 that we’ll dress.”

With so much discussion about the off-field issues surrounding OSU and PSU, what is at stake for the two programs when they take the field Saturday?

Once the game begins Saturday and the off-field issues take a back seat to the actual contest, the teams, fans and media alike will have a game with significant implications for the Big Ten title race on their hands.

A win against the Buckeyes would clinch at least a tie for the Leaders Division crown for the Nittany Lions. PSU is very much in control of its destiny heading into the final two games of the season.

By contrast, OSU’s Big Ten title hopes are flickering.

OSU players and coaches stopped just short of conceding the Big Ten race after their 26-23 overtime loss to Purdue Saturday.

“We got plenty more years to go,” said freshman linebacker Ryan Shazier, who recorded seven tackles, one tackle for loss and a forced fumble against the Boilermakers. “We’re just going to do what we can to finish out strong.”

A win would up the Buckeyes’ record to 7-4 overall and 4-3 in the Big Ten. Even with a victory against the division-leading Nittany Lions, OSU would remain a longshot for a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis.

What players’ on PSU could hurt the Buckeyes Saturday?

Sophomore running back Silas Redd has already eclipsed the thousand-yard mark for PSU, and has rushed for 1,059 yards on 210 carries through 10 games. Redd has also tallied seven touchdowns on the ground. The Nittany Lions’ quarterback tandem of redshirt junior Matt McGloin and sophomore Rob Bolden could also pose a significant threat to the OSU defense.

OSU’s Sept. 10 game against Toledo and Saturday’s loss against Purdue stand as examples of the Buckeyes’ defensive struggles against teams that employ a two-quarterback offense.

The Buckeyes beat Toledo, 27-22, but junior quarterback Austin Dantin and sophomore quarterback Terrance Owens combined for 292 passing yards and two touchdowns, forcing OSU to make a last-minute defensive stand in order to preserve the win. Boilermakers’ junior quarterback Caleb TerBush and senior quarterback Robert Marve’s 234 combined passing yards were enough to derail the Buckeyes Saturday.

Fickell said OSU will need to be aware of which passer PSU has in the game as both McGloin and Bolden have different abilities.

“They’re still going to be similar in what they do,” Fickell said. “They’re not going to change up their entire offense for which quarterback they have in … you still have to focus on what you can do to be successful, and adjust a few things when they switch quarterbacks, kind of like (Purdue) did last week.”

What will OSU need to do to beat PSU?

The Buckeyes need to get teams off the field on third down, and make the tackles they’re supposed to make.

Fickell said as much at his Tuesday press conference.

“Ultimately… you have to get off the field on third down. We have to do a better job whether that’s getting to the quarterback, covering up receivers. We know that, and that’s where we’re focused.”

OSU’s offense is averaging 25 points per game. If the defense holds up its end of the bargain, the Buckeyes will beat PSU and notch their third victory against a ranked opponent in 2011.

Score prediction: Ohio State 23, Penn State 17

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