Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Updated: August 11, 10:39 AM ET
Schedule preview: Penn State
By Austin Ward
Ohio State at Penn State
Oct. 27: At Beaver Stadium, State College, Pa. (Kickoff and television TBA)
About the Nittany Lions
2011 record: 9-4 (6-2 Big Ten)
Ohio State all-time against Penn State: Series tied 13-13
Last year: An early deficit and a couple fumbles in the second half were too much to overcome for the Buckeyes at home as they dropped a 20-14 decision to the Nittany Lions on Senior Day.
Top returners: C Matt Stankiewitch, QB Matt McGloin, LB Glenn Carson, DT Jordan Hill, LB Gerald Hodges, DE Sean Stanley
Key losses: OT Quinn Barham, OT Chima Okoli, OG DeOn'Tae Pannell, OG Johnnie Troutman, WR Derek Moye, WR Justin Brown, WR Devon Smith, TE Andrew Szczerba, RB Silas Redd, K-P Anthony Fera, DB Drew Astorino, DE Jack Crawford, DT Devon Still, CB Chaz Powell, CB D'Anton Lynn, LB Nate Stupar, DB Nick Sukay
2011 statistical leaders (* denotes returners)
Rushing: Redd (1,241 yards, 7 touchdowns)
Passing: McGloin* (1,571 yards, 8 touchdowns, five interceptions)
Receiving: Moye (40 receptions, 654 yards, 3 touchdowns)
Tackles: Hodges (106)
Sacks: Crawford (6.5)
Interceptions: Sukay (3)
What they're saying: "Our coaches have stories of adversity in their lives. And the measure of a man is how you overcome adversity. I talked to [the players] about without a shadow of a doubt they're going to be able to play six to seven bowl games per year in front of 108,000 screaming fans in Beaver Stadium. And I expect it to be 108,000 fans in Beaver Stadium." - Penn State coach Bill O'Brien
Three things to watch
1. Battle of the banned: In the conference standings, it will almost be like this game won't exist. The situations that produced NCAA sanctions for Penn State and Ohio State are vastly different, and the severity is also. But neither team is eligible for the postseason, so what happens on the field at Beaver Stadium might only really be important to the players on it and the fans of both programs because it won't affect the division race regardless of the outcome. Dealing with the bowl ban and finding motivation for the season has been a hot topic ahead of training camp for each team -- but by October, they should at least be able to focus on playing the game.
2. Starting over: The Nittany Lions figured to be facing a bit of an uphill climb in O'Brien's first season no matter what, but the free agency the NCAA granted every player on his roster certainly didn't do the first-year coach any favors. Penn State was already replacing 14 starters from last year before its top rusher bolted for USC, the leading returning receiver split for Oklahoma and even its kicker took off for Texas. Particularly on offense, there is virtually no returning experience to work with -- putting even more pressure on the Nittany Lions to keep the score down defensively.
3. On the line: The Buckeyes might not get to publicly proclaim a division title, but they can still point to the standings. They also have made no secret since training camp opened last week that they are intent on winning every game on the schedule this fall to perhaps send a message about the future of the program. That requires treating every game with a sense of urgency, regardless of whether an opponent is in a wounded state like the Nittany Lions could be as it gets later in the season. It's also particularly important to come prepared on the road, because Beaver Stadium still figures to be rocking as the fans rally around the team this fall, and there's no margin for error if the Buckeyes are actually going to put together a perfect campaign.