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Posted by Oct - 27 - 2012 0 Comment

Saturday’s contest between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions in Happy Valley continues the cathartic season for both beleaguered programs. It’s hard to imagine playing under tougher conditions than what Penn State has had to endure over the last year. Bill O’Brien’s unenviable task of rallying the troops has been executed rather admirably to date. Undefeated so far in league play and sitting 3 games over .500, O’Brien’s Nittany Lions are playing inspired football. They may be a far cry from some of Joe Paterno’s dominant National Championship teams, but they are earning a fair amount of respect in light of all the university has endured. Respect is not a word anyone would have thought to use regarding any aspect of Penn State, but the execution of their players and coaches warrant at least a modicum of it. Just don’t expect them to feel sorry for Ohio State, the only other Big Ten team caught in the spotlight of impropriety over the last year plus.

The Buckeyes, meanwhile, are winning despite of themselves. Urban Meyer knows this. He has publicly and privately taken his team to task, not the least of which is his underachieving defense. Narrowly escaping Indiana two weeks ago, then having to go into overtime to beat Indiana’s other team Purdue – albeit under the guidance of backup QB Kenny Guyton, Ohio State is finding ways to win despite their best efforts to ensure the contrary. The Silver Bullets have looked more like pewter pellets over the course of the season. They have been victim of injuries at key positions, none greater than LB Etienne Sabino. Sabino appeared to be the guy to finally step up and show some leadership over the young Buckeye defense when he broke his right leg against Nebraska. Until Sabino’s expected return against Wisconsin in two weeks, Storm Klein, Ryan Shazier, and converted FB Zach Boren need to play better both as individuals and a unit if they are to maintain a perfect season following Saturday’s contest.

Offensively, somehow Braxton Miller will play despite suffering an injury worthy of an ambulance ride. Perhaps the OSU training staff was being overly cautious after Miller looked to be sufficiently knocked into next week in the Purdue contest. Yet all signs out of Columbus point to him being back to normal for this week. To win in Happy Valley, he’ll need Devin Smith to start catching some of the balls he’s been dropping lately. Smith’s flair for the dramatic catches are beginning to become overshadowed by his penchant for dropping the seemingly easier ones. A few bruising runs by Carlos Hyde will also go a long way in taking some of the pressure off the returning Miller. If the offense can put up a couple big plays early and take the notorious Penn State home crowd  out of the game, the Buckeyes will go a long way towards coming home 9-0, keeping their perfect season hopes in tact.

Penn State won’t go away easily nor quietly. They are a solid team. Matt McGloin is blossoming under O’Brien’s leadership in his pro-style offense, and has endeared himself to the PSU faithful. The plucky senior is enjoying his best season to date. Unfortunately for him and the Lions, it will end just as the Buckeye’s season will November 24th. Really, it’s sad all the way around given that arguable the two best teams in the Leaders Division can’t even contend for their division or conference title. Still, their respective penances must be paid.

Despite how well PSU is playing, and how OSU continues to make games closer than necessary, I think Urban’s troops will rally up and get out of PA with a win today. It probably won’t be pretty, and right now that’s not their style. But It will be fun, despite the pall overshadowing each team’s season. For the Buckeyes, I predict it will be just a little more fun than for the Nittany Lions.

Buckeyes 24, Nittany Lions 21

 

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