Following a loss to an average Purdue team, the Buckeyes must gather themselves for when No. 21 Penn State comes to town. PSU can clinch at least a share of the division title with a win against the Buckeyes Saturday.
The Nittany Lions have seen better days on and off the field, but are still ahead in the Leaders Division. For a Buckeyes team that is arguably playing the rest of the season for pride, they are faced with the task of adding more insult to an already grievous injury for the PSU faithful.
PSU boasts one of the best defenses the Buckeyes have faced up to this point in the season, comparable to Michigan State.
The Nittany Lions defense is leading in the conference in passing efficiency defense and scoring defense. For freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, that is not good news.
However, Nebraska showed last week that “Linebacker U” can have the ball run on them, to the tune of nearly 120 yards-per-game on average. Senior running back Daniel ‘Boom’ Herron will need to carry the one-dimensional offense once again this week.
When Miller is given the opportunity to throw the football, he needs to target senior wide receiver DeVier Posey who will be fresh off two five-game suspensions. The receiver was expected to be back for the Nebraska game — five weeks ago — and should be itching to make an impact.
The PSU offense, much like OSU, relies heavily on the run. Sophomore running back Silas Redd has averaged 5.0 yards a carry this season en route to 1,078 total yards rushing. The offense has scored nearly twice as many rushing touchdowns as passing with a 15-8 ratio.
The Buckeyes have seven pick-sixes against PSU since 2002 and have won each of the five games in which those interceptions occurred.
OSU has had steady turnover support from their defense this season, but none have gone for six. This would be a prime week to take the pressure off of their offense. Sophomore defensive back Christian Bryant has been on the cusp of one of these game-changing plays several times this season.
Sophomore defensive lineman Johnathan ‘Big Hank’ Hankins will return this week after missing last week’s game against Purdue, and will need to return to an impact role for the Buckeyes, in which he was sorely missed.
With Andrew Sweat out with a concussion, freshman Ryan Shazier will have to grow up in a hurry to help his defense keep PSU off the board.
Alas, the special teams, a beacon of consistency all season long, faltered last weekend when they were needed most.
Sophomore kicker Drew Basil missed his first field goal of the year on a 50-yarder at the end of the first half, and then the field goal unit allowed a potentially game-winning extra point to be blocked with less than a minute left in regulation.
With an already suspect offense, the special teams need to get back to being, well, special. And any missed opportunities for points, as shown against Purdue, are critical.
As badly as OSU wants to bounce back from the loss, it may not be possible for a team to want a win more than PSU does right now. Its program is in a horrible situation and football may be the glue to hold the community together. To overcome that type of desire requires the coaches to get the team as fired up and ready to play as ever.
With Shazier starting this week, the Buckeyes will have started seven true freshmen this season. The coaches will need to put the raw but talented Shazier in a position to succeed.
While the fans create an exciting atmosphere for the home team, this week the fans will need to also create a welcoming and friendly atmosphere for the PSU crowd.
The Nittany Lions faithful travel very well and deserve the respect and support of Buckeye fans alike in the midst of this horrible ordeal at State College.