Ohio State football

No. 2 Penn State at No. 6 Ohio State: Just about everything at stake

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No. 2 Penn State at No. 6 Ohio State: Just about everything at stake

No. 2 Penn State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) at No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten)
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Saturday, 3:30 p.m., FOX

Scouting Penn State
The second-ranked Nittany Lions drilled No. 19 Michigan, 42-13, as Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley scored three touchdowns apiece. Barkley, a Heisman candidate, became the first Nittany Lion and fourth Big Ten player with 3,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in his career, but the first Big Ten player to amass such totals in just his third season. Barkley, who had 176 all-purpose yards against the Wolverines, leads the FBS in that department at 211.1 per game. He was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, and middle linebacker Jason Cabinda earned the defensive distinction for his 13-tackle performance. PSU’s defense is allowing an FBS-best 9.6 points per game, and leads the Big Ten with 24 sacks.

Scouting Ohio State
The sixth-ranked Buckeyes, idle last week, have won five in a row since a Sept. 9 loss to Oklahoma, and have notched 54 points or more in the last four games. OSU is second in the FBS in scoring offense (47.3) and third in total offense (577.3). Quarterback J.T. Barrett leads the Big Ten in total offense (313.9) and passing efficiency, having clicked on 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,838 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has been intercepted just once. Freshman running back J.K. Dobbins has rushed for 775 yards (7.8 per carry), the conference’s second-highest total. The top receivers are K.J. Hill and Parris Campbell, with 28 catches apiece. OSU is allowing just 109.6 yards on the ground but has been somewhat forgiving through the air, surrendering 195.7 yards a game.

Ohio State leads the all-time series, 18-14, but Penn State ended a four-game losing streak to the Buckeyes last October, beating them, 24-21, on a blocked field-goal return late in the game.

Storyline to watch
The Lions were off the week before facing the Buckeyes in 2016, while OSU had a tough game against Wisconsin. Coincidence or not, Ohio State wilted in the fourth quarter against PSU. This year, it is the Buckeyes who are coming off their bye, while the Lions had that game against Michigan. PSU coach James Franklin said Tuesday it is an apples-and-oranges comparison, since last week’s game was one-sided and he was able to rest guys. But we shall see.

What's at stake
Only, like, everything — leadership in the Big Ten East, prime positioning for the conference championship game and the College Football Playoff, etc.

Coin-flip game, but let’s ride the home field/bye/revenge angle.

Ohio State 28, Penn State 24

Elite QBs lead No. 2 Penn State against No. 6 Ohio State

USA Today Images

Elite QBs lead No. 2 Penn State against No. 6 Ohio State

COLUMBUS, Ohio — J.T. Barrett hasn't been playing at Ohio State forever. It just seems like it to Penn State coach James Franklin.

Barrett helped lead the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2014, Franklin's first year in Happy Valley. That year's game between the Big Ten rivals became one of Barrett's first signature wins as he scored twice in overtime to help the Buckeyes escape Beaver Stadium with a 31-24 win.

And Franklin knows the fifth-year senior quarterback is playing as well as ever, and his supporting cast again is typical Ohio State star quality. That makes the Buckeyes dangerous.

"You're talking about a guy who's had an unbelievable college career. He's probably playing his best football right now," Franklin said.

The No. 2 Nittany Lions (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) visit No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 4-0) on Saturday in what could be the Big Ten game of the year.

There is as much respect on the Ohio State side for Penn State's junior quarterback Trace McSorley, also playing his gritty best. He has shown he can move the offense and score on elite defenses. Last week against Michigan, he threw for 282 yards and a score and ran for 76 yards and three more touchdowns.

"His competitive spirit is off the charts," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "He's not the biggest guy, but he competes so damn hard. That's what makes J.T. Barrett so special, that's what made Alex Smith so special, Tebow, etc., they're all different sizes, shapes and forms, yet the common trait of winners is competitive spirit."

And like Barrett, McSorley has elite athletes playing around him, namely dynamic tailback Saquon Barkley. One more big performance out of Barkley this weekend could make him the clear Heisman Trophy front-runner down the stretch.

Some other things to watch for on Saturday:

So much at stake
A loss Saturday would have the biggest consequences for Ohio State, whose hopes of returning to the College Football Playoff would be dashed with a second defeat. If the Buckeyes beat Penn State and win out, they will be a serious playoff contender.

Walking away from Columbus with a defeat wouldn't be fatal to Penn State's championship hopes, but it would drop them down into a knot of one-loss teams vying to get noticed by the committee, likely without another chance to beat a highly ranked team in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Bucks bolstered by bye week?
The script is flipped from last year's meeting between these two teams. Penn State was coming off a bye week when they got Ohio State at home in 2016. The Buckeyes didn't see the 24-21 upset coming.

This time it's the Buckeyes who are rested and ready from the off week, as Penn State visits Columbus. The Ohio State players got the weekend off, but Meyer said they've also practiced hard, even playing an intense scrimmage near the end of last week.

Franklin said the bye week gives Ohio State an advantage.

"I think it helps a lot," he said. "There's no doubt about it. You just have more time for everything. More time to recover, more time to get healthy, more time to watch film and plan. It's valuable."

Meyer's teams, going back to his days as coach at Bowling Green, are 21-1 coming off a bye week.

How good is Ohio State?
The Buckeyes have smoked their last five opponents since the unexpected loss to Oklahoma in week two. Barrett has piled up the yards and touchdowns against badly out-manned teams, including Army and UNLV. Naturally, there are lingering doubts about whether the Buckeyes can do it against the likes of Penn State.

Meyer said the communication and execution are sharp, and he insists Barrett is better than seven weeks ago. And the receiving corps has come into its own, too.

"I think what's better right now is the chemistry between the offensive line, the receivers, the running backs, and J.T. and the offensive line," center Billy Price said. That allows for quicker adjustments.

"It's not two or three conversations, it's one conversation, here's the plan, lets rock and roll," the fifth-year senior said. "In this world, you don't want conversations, you want solutions."

Best of CFB: Mayfield with 3 TDs as No. 5 Sooners top No. 2 Ohio State

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Best of CFB: Mayfield with 3 TDs as No. 5 Sooners top No. 2 Ohio State

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Baker Mayfield threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns as No. 5 Oklahoma pulled ahead in the second half to knock off No. 2 Ohio State 31-16 on Saturday night to give first-year head coach Lincoln Riley an early signature victory.

Mayfield lived up to his billing as a Heisman Trophy candidate in shifting the Sooners (2-0) into overdrive and piling up the yards in the second half as the Buckeyes' offense sputtered. Oklahoma took its first lead of the game near the end of the third quarter and cruised in the fourth (see full recap)

No. 15 Georgia outslugs No. 24 Notre Dame, 20-19
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Georgia got to Dawg Walk out of Notre Dame Stadium with a victory, dozens of its fans forming a line from the locker room to the buses to congratulate the Bulldogs after their first trip to this part of the country in more than 50 years.

Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy led a swarming Georgia defense and the No. 15 Bulldogs got enough plays from an offense starting a freshman quarterback to beat No. 24 Notre Dame 20-19 on Saturday night (see full recap).

The Bryants lead No. 3 Tigers to 14-6 win over No. 13 Auburn
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson's new starting quarterback had an easy way for the third-ranked Tigers to keep winning the next several years - recruit more Bryants.

Kelly Bryant, Clemson's first-year starter, ran for two touchdowns after a scary hit knocked him to the ground and defensive end Austin Bryant had four of the Tigers' 11 sacks in a 14-6 victory over No. 13 Auburn on Saturday night.

"The Bryant guys were pretty good," said Kelly, who's not related to Austin. "We've got to keep it going."

If they do, the defending champion Tigers (2-0) might be playing in their third straight title game (see full recap).

No. 6 USC routs No. 14 Stanford 42-24 for 11th straight win
LOS ANGELES -- Steven Mitchell and Deontay Burnett caught two touchdown passes apiece from Sam Darnold, and No. 6 Southern California extended its winning streak to 11 games with a bruising 42-24 victory over No. 14 Stanford on Saturday night.

Darnold went 21 of 26 with 316 yards passing for the Trojans (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12), who snapped their three-game losing streak in this California private-school rivalry. USC racked up 623 total yards and won the first Pac-12 game of the new season by beating the hard-nosed Cardinal (1-1, 0-1) at their own physical game (see full recap).