Wednesday, October 23, 2013

PREVIEW: PENN STATE LOOKS TO SNAP BUCKEYES' WIN STREAK

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COLUMBUS — Coming into last Saturday's game against Iowa, the visiting Hawkeyes used an extra week of preparation to unveil some new wrinkles against Ohio State, with hopes of confusing the highly-favored Buckeyes enough to capture an upset victory.

The plan looked to be a huge success early on, as the Hawkeyes found themselves ahead by a touchdown at halftime, after out-gaining the Buckeyes offensively, as well as eating up nearly two-thirds of the clock in the process.

Of course, the Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) regrouped at the intermission, and outscored Iowa 24-7 the rest of the way — powered by some key defensive adjustments, and some championship-caliber production from quarterback Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde, en route to a 34-24 win.

This week's opponent, Penn State (4-2, 1-1), will also come into Saturday night's tilt with the benefit of an extra seven days of preparation.

"Playing a great team, another team that had a bye week before us," OSU head coach Urban Meyer said Monday, during his weekly media luncheon in Columbus. "We have to be prepared. Iowa did have a bye week, and (they used) three tight ends, and we weren't ready for it. We didn't adjust well. That's something we have to be prepared for when you face a team that has a bye week and that's going to happen again this week. 

"We have to be ready."

The Buckeyes, once again, showed some vulnerability in the secondary during their win against the Hawkeyes, and will need to tighten up the screws before going against a Nittany Lions' offense which ranks third in the Big Ten in passing.

"We better be ready," Meyer said. "(Penn State's) a little bit better throwing team than Iowa, and Iowa hurt us."

Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien — who was named the Big Ten's coach of the year a season ago — has done another masterful job this season, not only mentoring a squad who is in the second of a four-year bowl ban, but he's also winning with a true freshman running his offense.

The Nittany Lions, behind frosh quarterback Christian Hackenberg's 300-yard, three touchdown performance, upset unbeaten Michigan two weeks ago. They will look to knock off another undefeated team this Saturday night at Ohio Stadium.

Unlike most in the country, Meyer said he isn't surprised by the success of Penn State throughout all of the turmoil over the past few seasons.

"I've had some dealings with Coach O'Brien over the last year and a half. I think he's a first class guy," Meyer said. "He represents a great school. I do know a lot about Penn State and it doesn't surprise me that they are doing well. I think the circumstances, once again, I don't want to speculate, because none of us are there, but a lot of people are surprised, I don't act surprised. 

"They've got a quality coach and it's a very quality school. And it has overcome a lot of adversity."

Now the Buckeyes will need to overcome a little adversity of their own — a defense that's looked far from being national championship caliber this season, especially in the passing game.

"I'm very disappointed," Meyer said. "Can it be fixed? Absolutely. We're still a good rush defense. We've got to continue to work because we've dealt with some injuries and depth issues and we've got to play better. 

"Very, very concerned."

However, as long as the Buckeyes have a healthy Miller and Hyde at their disposal, they will always be in a position to win, no matter the opponent, or how badly their defense performs.

Last week against Iowa, the dynamic duo combined for 473 yards of offense and four touchdowns for the Buckeyes, helping them win their nation's best 19th game in a row.

Bottom Line

Miller and Hyde should be enough ammo for the Buckeyes to overcome their porous, uninspiring defense. 

Penn State will score against the Buckeyes, no doubt ... just not enough to slay the Buckeyes' two-headed monster.

Even with an extra week to prepare.

Lee's prediction: OSU 38-30