Penn State (4-2, 2-1) vs. No. 2 Ohio State (6-0, 3-0)
Beaver Stadium, State College, Pennsylvania
Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC
Scouting Penn State
The Nittany Lions were off last week, but the week before beat Maryland 38-14, in what was probably their strongest overall effort since Langhorne native James Franklin became the head coach in 2014.
Saquon Barkley ran for 202 yards in that game, which was not only a career high for the sophomore running back but the most by a Penn State player since Larry Johnson ran for 279 against Michigan State in 2002. Barkley has rushed for 582 yards (5.0 yards per carry), fourth-most in the Big Ten, and had 194 in a 38-10 loss to the Buckeyes last year in Columbus. He is also second in the conference with nine touchdowns.
Lions linebackers Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell, out since early in the season with undisclosed injuries, are expected to return this week to the beleaguered defense, which is led by safety Marcus Allen with 57 tackles.
Scouting Ohio State
The Buckeyes (6-0) beat Wisconsin, 30-23, in overtime last week on the road, as J.T. Barrett threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Noah Brown in the extra period and the OSU defense staved off the Badgers’ bid for a tie.
Barrett leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency, having completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 1,207 yards and 16 touchdowns, with four interceptions. He also presides over a unit that is fourth in the FBS in scoring (49.3 ppg) and rushing (300.5 ypg), and 12th in total offense (516.5). Tailback Mike Weber and H-back Curtis Samuel are second and 10th in the conference in rushing with 612 (6.5 ypc) and 456 yards (7.4), respectively, and Barrett has added 434.
The OSU defense, which like the offense has eight new starters this season, is third in the FBS in points allowed (12.8), sixth in yardage yielded (280.3) and 20th against the rush (120.8). That unit is also fourth in pass-efficiency defense, and its 11 interceptions are fifth-most in the country; safety Malik Hooker has four of those.
The Buckeyes lead the all-time series, 18-13, and have won the last four meetings.
Storyline to watch
Can Paris Palmer hold up at left tackle? He made 11 uneven starts last season, but was chained to the bench the first five weeks this fall. Then right tackle Andrew Nelson was lost for the season to a knee injury sustained in the second quarter of the Maryland game, Brendan Mahon moved from the left side to Nelson’s spot and Palmer was inserted. Tough opponent to face in your first start of the year.
What’s at stake
The Lions are seeking a signature victory. Besides their four consecutive losses to the Buckeyes, they have dropped three straight to both Michigan and Michigan State. The average score of those 10 losses is 38-13.
The Lions are improving, but Ohio State remains a cut above.
Ohio State 35, Penn State 17