The Buckeyes face a tough test Saturday afternoon when they play the Penn State Nittany Lions in Happy Valley. Penn State, ranked #11, features a stout defense and a frequently struggling offense. When they look to the other side of the field, it will be like looking in a mirror because the Buckeyes also have a fine defense and an offense that often has had difficulty moving the ball.
This will be a very difficult game for Ohio State. An offense that has been challenged even in the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium will be on the road in a very loud, aggressive environment. Another big disadvantage for Ohio State is that its starting field goal kicker is out with an injury, and its punter has been kicking poorly of late — not what you want if you believe, as Coach Tressel does, that the kicking game is an extremely important part of any successful football team. If Ohio State’s offense regularly goes three-and-out, the punter will be repeatedly tested and will need to come through.
I think the key to the game will be the Ohio State offensive line, which has been a disappointment this year. The line will need to open some holes for the running game and give Terrelle Pryor time to throw when he goes back to pass — two things they have not been able to do consistently this season. And, when the offense gets to the red zone, they will need to score touchdowns and not rely on an untested field goal kicker to put points on the board. The defense and the special teams, on the other hand, will have to play well to keep Penn State from scoring touchdowns. The nightmare scenario for the Buckeyes will be falling behind and then needing to rely on the passing game to catch up in boisterous, pumped-up Beaver Stadium.
It should be an entertaining matchup.