By: Thomas Frank Carr
The Penn State Nittany Lions are coming off their toughest test of the season, a 4OT thriller to beat Michigan, only to face an even tougher task. After a week off, the Penn State football team will travel to Columbus try to end Ohio State’s 19 game winning streak. The Buckeyes have yet to lose with Head Coach Urban Meyer at the helm. They’re also three games short of tying the longest winning streak in team history. Penn State Head Coach Bill O’Brien said during his weekly press conferences that he loves playing in games like these,
“I think it’s a great opportunity. Its Penn Sate vs Ohio State and you think about what that means in the history of college football. You know it’s a lot of fun. Game day, that’s the best day of the week for me. We’re just really looking forward to the challenge. We know it’s a huge challenge. I mean, 19 games in a row, No. 4 team in the country, we realize that it’s a huge challenge, but we look forward to it.”
Leading the Buckeyes on the field is quarterback Braxton Miller. O’Brien had effusive praise for Miller,
“It’s a very difficult challenge playing a guy like Braxton Miller; in my opinion one of the top five players in the country. He’s throwing the ball very well. He’s accurate. He’s making plays on third down in the passing game. Again, you don’t win 19 games in a row or you don’t get to 7-0, No. 4 in the country, without being an excellent quarterback and that’s what he is.”
Obviously the toughest task will be for the Penn State front seven stopping the run. But if the Nittany Lions defense is to succeed the will have to stop the big plays in the passing game. While, they don’t throw the ball as much as they run, Ohio State is one of the most efficient passing teams in the country. Miller’s QB rating right now stands at 160.0 with nearly a 70% completion percentage. Throw in the stellar play of backup Kenny Guiton and the Buckeye offense is ranked 8th nationally in passing efficiency. A key player on Saturday will be sophomore cornerback Jordan Lucas. O’Brien believes he is up to the challenge.
“Jordan Lucas is one of the better football players on our team… very good in man coverage, really good in zone coverage of understanding routes, got great ball skills. I think he could also play safety. He brings a competitive toughness to our football team that I really like.”
On the offensive side of the ball Penn State will be facing another stout run defense in the Ohio State front seven. Linebacker Ryan Shazier who is third in the Big 10 with 8 tackles for loss. He’s not the only standout on defense though; O’Brien is very impressed with the overall ability of the defense.
“This is the most athletic defense we’ve played. They have guys on that side of the ball that are well coached. He’s [Shazier] a very athletic guy, very instinctive guy a guy that can slip blocks easily. You’d better know where he is in the passing game, whether he’s blitzing or in coverage, just a really athletic good instinctive player.”
The Nittany Lions have a talented, instinctive linebacker of their own. All signs point to Mike Hull being the healthiest he’s been since the first half against Syracuse when was injured. He’ll play a pivotal role in stopping Ohio State’s offense. For Penn State, they may have to hope to contain Braxton Miller more so than stop him. The victory over Michigan could help provide a blueprint on how to beat Ohio State. If the Nittany Lions can stuff running backs Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall and disrupt the passing game they should be in the game late. If this season has taught us anything, rankings mean nothing and Penn State is never really out of a game with Christian Hackenberg at the helm. Penn State has a chance to shock the sports world this Saturday by beating Ohio State and handing them their first loss under Urban Meyer.
Tune into ESPN Radio 1450 this Saturday for complete coverage of Penn State vs Ohio State.
4pm: Re-airing of the Penn State Football Show
5pm: Tailgate 2013
6:30pm : Pregame
8:00pm: Live play by play of PSU vs OSU
Scoreboard 2013 to follow the conclusion of the game.