The Blue White Roundtable has been waiting for this week's game, just as much as you have. Penn State hosts Ohio State this weekend in a game that could very well determine the outcome of the Big Ten Leaders Division. The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions are each undefeated in Big Ten play and control their own respective fates in the division race, with the winner sitting in first place with Wisconsin still looming on each schedule.
Be sure to visit Black Shoe Diaries later for a full round-up. Below are my answers and thoughts for discussion this week.
1. Iowa: satisfying win, or most satisfying win?
It is hard to find anything to complain about as it relates to Penn State from their flat out dominating win at Iowa. The drought in Iowa City was ended in resounding fashion with the offense displaying a killer instinct after the first series jitters were behind them and the defense was not allowing much of anything to happen on their watch. To do against a team that has long been a thorn in the paw for the Nittany Lions for so long and to do so in an environment that has been far from kind to them for the past decade was as representative of a new era as anything could possibly be.
At this point in the season, the victory at Iowa has to be considered the most satisfying win.
(2) With Bill Belton back at full strength, what do you expect Penn State's rushing attack to look like the rest of the way? Will we see mostly Belton, or will we continue to put significant time into the power running game brought by Zach Zwinak?
I think it would be wise to mix it up in the running game for the rest of the season. Belton is clearly going to be the number one guy when healthy, but getting Zwinak involved as well as Zordich will help take the pressure off of the sophomore, and attempt to keep him from getting too banged up. I would expect Bill O'Brien to be consicous of the health status of some of his key players moving forward with scholarship restrictions and such. Health is even more important now than ever, but O'Brien also needs to do what is best for the team every Saturday. I think Penn State benefits from having a shifty guy like Belton and a powerful guy like Zwinak involved, as long as Zwinak holds on to the football.
3. Braxton Miller appears to be available this weekend despite the rough hit he took on Saturday against Purdue. Will his level of play be affected? What can Penn State do to contain him and the new Ohio State offense?
Braxton Miller may be a tough player, but I would like to see how he responds on the road after getting hit hard. I have seen him already come back from a tough blow this season to lead his team to a win on the road (Michigan State), but I suspect this week's environment could be a little different.
If healthy, I expect Miller to run for some yards just as he did last year against Penn State (over 100 rushing yards). For Penn State it will just be a matter of making sure Miller does not break a long run the way has shown to be capable of in his one and half season of work. Penn State does not typically give up those kind of plays so I would think they will be able to survive with a bend-don't-break approach to Miller and the Buckeyes offense. If this game comes down to needing Miller to beat you with his arm, then the advantage would seem to go to Penn State. Miller, I think, is still a better passer than Denard Robinson, but the defensive philsophy remains similar in wanting Miller to beat you through the air rather than on the ground.
Penn State is 2-0 against Denard Robinson and Braxton Miller.
I expect this one to be a tough defensive battle, as most games between these two programs tend to be. Overall I actually like Ohio State's offense slightly more than Penn State's, but I like Penn State's defense much more than Ohio State's. When it comes to coaching I have to believe that Bill O'Brien and his staff will once again have their team prepared for four quarters, which they have done an excellent job of recently, but I also would think that Urban Meyer and his loaded staff will have a game plan ready to go as well.
In the end this one comes down to how sophomore Braxton Miller handles the pressure on the road in one of the loudest stadiums he has played in. Ohio State was 1-4 on the road last season (1-5 including the bowl game), and while they have won their two road games this season, those victories were not easy to come by. I think Penn State jumps out to an early lead but has to fight hard to hang on for a tight one at home.
Penn State 21, Ohio State 20
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