Ohio State

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

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

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.

History
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.

Prediction
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

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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."

Penn State loses thriller to Ohio State on layup in final seconds

Penn State loses thriller to Ohio State on layup in final seconds

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Ohio State players swarmed one of their own, offering hugs and handshakes before assembling the traditional postgame line to offer the same to their opponents on Tuesday.

Jae'Sean Tate saved Ohio State with a late layup that lifted the Buckeyes to a 71-70 win over Penn State.

Tate took a pass at mid court, spun by two Penn State defenders in the lane and kissed the ball off the glass for the game-winner. It countered a deep 3-pointer from Penn State's Tony Carr that gave the Nittany Lions a 70-69 lead with nine seconds to play.

"Tremendous finish by J.T. there," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.

Marc Loving added 14 points and Trevor Thompson chipped in 11 for the Buckeyes (17-13, 7-10 Big Ten) who won on the road for just the fourth time this season. Tate finished with 12 points and nine rebounds and also committed six turnovers, the most by any player.

That fact elicited a long pause from Matta who's watched his team stumble to a 4-7 road record in what's been a disappointing season.

"Obviously we felt comfortable with it and he had his reads," Matta said. "He made the right read and we had plenty of time there to pass if he needed to."

Penn State was out of time and a desperation heave fell short. The Nittany Lions lost their fourth straight.

Carr finished with 21, Shep Garner notched 20 points and Lamar Stevens added 16 for Penn State (14-16, 6-11).

Penn State coach Patrick Chambers fought off emotions after the game.

"The guys that competed really competed hard and they gave us a chance to win," Chambers said. "This is our process. This is our journey. Can't put my finger on why the ball is not bouncing our way. But this is our process and we're going to learn from these and hopefully we'll learn quick."

It appeared they did just that in-game. After the Buckeyes took a 40-36 lead into halftime, the Nittany Lions came out in the second half and took advantage of room on the outside.

Garner, who hit three of his five 3-pointers in the first half, made two in the first two minutes of the second. Penn State took its first lead on a pair of Stevens free throws with 18:22 to play before the Buckeyes used a 22-14 run to regain control with an Andre Wesson 3-pointer with 6:39 to play.

Meanwhile, Penn State's offense went cold. The Nittany Lions went without a field goal for 4:29 of the final 5:11 before Carr cut Ohio State's lead to 69-67 with a layup with 42 seconds left.

Big hurt
Watkins hobbled to the locker room with cramps midway through the second half. He emerged minutes later and was able to return to the game.

But Penn State's big man wasn't feeling well and kept stretching his legs as play went on. Watkins, who entered the game second in the Big Ten with 75 blocks, finished the game on the bench, not under the hoop when Tate scored the winning shot.

Chambers said Watkins was cramping for much of the game.

Watkins' loss wasn't the only one for Penn State.

Guard Josh Reaves left the game in the second half and did not return. Forward Payton Banks didn't play due to an illness and forward Julian Moore, nursing an injury sustained Saturday, played just 14 minutes.

"These are facts, not excuses. No Payton Banks. We lost Josh Reaves with six minutes to go. We didn't have Mike Watkins for long stretches. Julian Moore played on one leg."

Buckeyes good in close
Ohio State took advantage of Penn State's banged up forward corps. The Buckeyes finished with 37 rebounds to Penn State's 28 and outscored the Nittany Lions 34-16 in the paint.

Tate, Loving and center Trevor Thompson combined for 22 rebounds.

Another close loss
The Nittany Lions have lost six conference games by a possession or in overtime.

"You know what they're not doing?" Chambers said. "They're not planning a spring break. We've got winners in that locker room who are invested, who want to get better, who want to see this team turn."

The big picture
Ohio State: The Buckeyes sometimes hopeful, often frustrating season can be summed up by looking at their last two games -- a complete effort in a win over No. 22 Wisconsin and this back-and-forth tilt with middle-of-the-pack Penn State.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions have often looked like a completely different -- and much more competitive -- team at home. With youth on their side, the Nittany Lions just need more consistency to take the next step.

Up next
Ohio State hosts Indiana on Saturday.

Penn State is at Iowa on Sunday.