#16 Ohio State at #11 Penn State | Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
3:30 PM EST | TV: ABC | Line: Penn St. (-5.5)
What a wild and strange journey this has been. The 7-2 Ohio State Buckeyes travel to State College this afternoon for a game at Beaver Stadium as they control their destiny in the race for the Big 10 title. Despite depressing losses against USC and Purdue, the Buckeyes still have a chance of making it all the way to the Rose Bowl by winning out the rest of the season. That all starts today when Terrelle Pryor plays his first game back in his hometown state against the 8-1 Penn State Nittany Lions.
#4 Iowa is in a struggle yet again with Northwestern today, but either way this contest is huge in the battle for conference supremacy. Penn State already lost to the Hawkeyes and a loss today would pretty much eliminate them from contention for the conference title. Ohio State on the other hand, begins their epic conclusion to this season with this road contest, hosting Iowa and then traveling to Michigan. Win all three games, and the Buckeyes are yet again the undisputed champions of the Big 10 Conference.
These are two very evenly matched teams featuring dual-threat quarterbacks and two of the best defensive units in the nation. Both teams rank in the top six in points and yardage allowed per contest, an almost annual tradition in this intense rivalry in the Midwest. The rushing attacks from Ohio State and Penn State are similar in that each team averages around 180 yards per game and thus the main difference in style depends upon the passing game.
It feels like Daryll Clark has been at Penn State forever, but the 23-year-old senior out of Youngstown is having an impressive season so far with a QB rating of 149.30. Only once this season has he posted a QB rating of less than 120 in a contest, and that was his three-interception performance against the Hawkeyes back in late September. In order for the Bucks to protect the football they will need to force Clark into complex situations where our play makers can finish the job.
The struggles of Terrelle Pryor have been well documented and this is the start of his showcase for maintaining his hold on the starting slot. The performance and improvement of Clark is a perfect example of what Pryor should aspire to do in the next year or two, and that all starts today. This team is most efficient when they are not forcing either the run or the pass through Pryor but are instead flowing the offense and using their assortment of running backs to their advantage throughout the game.
It will be interesting to see how this game starts out. Putting Pryor in passing situations for the second half would definitely be on Penn State’s game plan and thus look for the Buckeyes to come out aggressive offensively. Anything can still happen and a road upset today would be huge towards putting this season back on track. Iowa is certainly beatable as they have trailed in eight of their nine games this season coming into today, and thus the Buckeyes have a good shot at the Rose Bowl with just a win this afternoon.
Stick around the site and leave your family-friendly comments as the events unfold at Beaver Stadium. Also, feel free to check out these links from the rest of the blogging world for more previews and analysis:
“2009 Big 10 Fearless Picks, Week 10″ [College Football News.com]
“Six Reasons Why Ohio St Stands No Chance Of Beating Penn St” [Bleacher Report]
“What Do You Want To See On Saturday? – Penn State edition” [Buckeye Battle Cry]
“Preview: #16 Ohio State vs #11 Penn State” [Eleven Warriors]
“Week #10: Penn State Preview and Open Thread” [Men of the Scarlet and Gray]
(The picture above was found here and is of Thaddeus Gibson sacking Daryll Clark in last year’s defeat against Penn State. Photo credit to Jeff Mills/The Ohio State University.)
Jacob Rosen is a long-time contributor to WaitingForNextYear. He's also a writer online at SportsAnalyticsBlog and Nylon Calculus . An Akron native, Jacob is a current MBA student at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. You can follow him on Twitter @WFNYJacob or e-mail him at udjrosen(at)gmail(dot)com.