There has been a dark cloud hanging over both Penn State and Ohio State's football programs this season, both on and off the field. Ohio State lost their legendary head coach as well as Heisman candidate at quarterback, and Penn State lost a sports icon as well as a father figure.
All that doesn't change the fact that these two teams have a game to play on Saturday on ESPN, and it's essentially a must-win game for both teams.
Ohio State absolutely has to win this game in order to keep their Big Ten title hopes alive, whatever hopes they have left anyway, and Penn State has to put their off-field scandal as well as recent loss to Nebraska aside so they can take care of business on the road and win a game they will be favored to win on the road.
I think the Buckeyes have a good shot at this game, but they are going to need a huge effort out of their running game. Quarterback Braxton Miller has gotten a lot of help from senior tailback Dan Herron lately, and the two have been a pretty deadly rushing duo.
Herron's game was way off in a loss against Purdue, and Miller essentially had to carry the team.
One area where Ohio State really needs to take advantage is rushing the passer. Penn State quarterbacks Matt McGloin and Robert Bolden are nothing to write home about, but they are capable of making plays in the passing game. Ohio State needs to confuse the quarterbacks and force them into making bad throws.
Nittany Lions running back Silas Redd is one of the best backs in the Big Ten, so the Buckeyes are going to have to place their focus on containing him and trying to force Penn State to beat them through the air.
As we mentioned before, the Buckeyes are getting a big boost in the passing game with the return of suspended wide receiver DeVier Posey, who is going to have to shake off the rust really quickly because he's going up against a pretty good cornerback in D'Anton Lynn, and the Buckeyes are not going to have a lot of time to throw with Devon Still making plays in the backfield.
The key for Ohio State's offense is going to be getting the ball outside, not allowing Penn State's interior dominance to control the game. They are a quick defense overall, but Ohio State has really fast skill position players as well as a great athlete at quarterback. Making plays on the outside will be absolutely key.
I think Ohio State will protect their home field really well, so I like them to win this game, but I think it will be ground-and-pound all afternoon, and I think it will be close all the way through.