GAME NOTES: In a battle between two storied programs that can't win the Big Ten Conference or even go to a bowl game this year, the ninth-ranked and undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes pay a visit to the surging Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday evening.
It wasn't pretty, but the Buckeyes remained perfect on the season as they slipped past the visiting Purdue Boilermakers in overtime last Saturday, 29-22. Ohio State is 8-0 for the first time since the 2007 squad opened at 10-0. Urban Meyer's first year in Columbus has certainly been a memorable one, but the team got a scare when starting quarterback Braxton Miller went down with an injury in last week's game.
As for the Nittany Lions, they posted their fifth straight win in convincing fashion last Saturday night, whipping the Iowa Hawkeyes on the road in a 38-14 final. It was Penn State's first victory in Iowa City since 1999, and coach Bill O'Brien's squad has now won five in a row after dropping its first two games of the season.
According to Ohio State's records, the series between these two border rivals is dead even at 13-13. The Buckeyes have won two in a row in Happy Valley and three of the last four there overall.
Last weekend, the Ohio State offense gained 342 yards, while Purdue did slightly better at 347 yards. Miller, one of the more versatile signal-callers in the Big Ten this year as evidenced by the 293 total yards per game he averages, had a rough outing before suffering what was deemed as a head/neck injury in the third quarter, going just 9-of-20 for 113 yards with no TDs and one interception. Kenny Guiton came on in relief to hit 6-of-11 passes for 77 yards, a TD and a pick, but his two-yard scoring strike to Chris Fields helped the Buckeyes tie the game at the end of regulation. RB Carlos Hyde rumbled his way to 91 yards and two TDs, one of which was the game-winner in the extra session. Miller added 47 yards and a score of his own before heading to the locker room.
Ohio State averages roughly 250 ypg on the ground, with Miller (959 yards, 10 TDs) and Hyde (545 yards, nine TDs) doing the bulk of the damage. As a passer, Miller is hitting just 58.7 percent of his throws and has 11 TDs against five interceptions. Corey Brown is the club's leading receiver with 44 grabs for 447 yards and a TD, but Devin Smith has turned his 23 receptions into a team- high 505 yards and six scores.
Purdue averaged just 3.0 yards per carry last week, finishing with 117 rushing yards, while its passing exploits resulted in 230 yards and two of the team's three TDs -- the other coming on a 100-yard kickoff return. LB Ryan Shazier, who is OSU's leading tackler this year with 76 stops, which includes 7.5 TFL and two sacks to go along with nine PBU and a forced fumble, paced the Buckeyes against the Boilermakers with a dozen tackles, while DL John Simon finished with nine stops.
On the year, Simon owns three of the team's 16 sacks, and DB Travis Howard has three of its 11 interceptions.
Hyde was quick to praise Guiton after the Purdue game, and knows the backup will be ready to go should Miller not be able to play this week.
"When Braxton [Miller] went down it was detrimental to our offense, but we knew Kenny would step up because he knows the plays and can come in and execute just like Braxton. He works so hard, to get his chance to play is great."
Penn State QB Matt McGloin went 26-of-38 for 289 yards with two TDs, hitting 11 different receivers Penn State's rout of Iowa. TE Kyle Carter finished with six catches for 85 yards, while WR Allen Robinson finished with six grabs for 39 yards and a TD. RB Bill Belton carried the ball 16 times for a career-high 103 yards and three TDs on short runs in each of the second, third and fourth quarters -- they were the first rushing scores of the sophomore's career.
McGloin has hit the mark on 62.5 percent of his throws for 1,788 yards (255.4 ypg) with 14 TDs and only two interceptions. Zach Zwinak (369 yards, three TDs) sits atop the team's rushing list, but Belton (233 yards, three TDs) isn't far behind despite appearing in three fewer games. Robinson has eight TD catches as part of his 47-reception, 563-yard campaign.
The PSU defense was on the field for less than 22 minutes, held Iowa to 20 net rushing yards, notched three turnovers, and came away with four sacks last Saturday. Jordan Hill led the stand with a season-high nine tackles, seven of which were unassisted, while Michael Mauti tallied eight stops and registered his team-leading third pick of the year.
As they were last week, the Lions have been stout against the run this season, allowing just 113.0 ypg and only four rushing TDs. Their effort against the pass yields 209.7 ypg, and foes have scored just eight TDs through the air. As a result, PSU is giving up a mere 15.7 ppg, and a total of 19 sacks and 15 turnovers have been recorded. Mauti leads the club in both tackles (65) and interceptions (three).
McGloin was pleased following the win at Iowa, and is excited for this week's clash with Ohio State.
"We definitely needed a big win here (Iowa), and now we have some momentum going into Ohio State. It's going to be the White House. It's definitely going to be an exciting atmosphere."
On paper, Ohio State is probably the better team, but if Miller can't go or is less than 100 percent then the playing field evens out a bit. Penn State appears to be on a mission this season as it attempts to put the distractions of the last year in the rearview mirror. Expect another physical Big Ten brawl between two teams that don't have much more than pride to play for at this point, and for the Lions to be all smiles when the final second ticks off the clock.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Penn State 27, Ohio State 24