Courtesy of MCT
The Ohio State Buckeyes are not the only college football team with a new coach and a postseason ban. In fact, they’re not the only team in such a predicament within their own conference.
The other team is fellow Big Ten and Leaders Division member Penn State. The Nittany Lions will welcome the Buckeyes to Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa., Saturday for a clash between the only two teams in their division without a loss in conference play.
The No. 9-ranked Buckeyes won their first eight games of the season, but PSU has won their last five consecutive games after an 0-2 start. If the Nittany Lions can upset the Buckeyes at home, they will move into first place in the Leaders Division.
PSU senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill said a win Saturday would “mean a lot.”
“It’s the best team we’ve played up to date so far this season, and they’re undefeated,” Hill said. “It’s Ohio State.”
Nittany Lions redshirt senior outside linebacker Michael Mauti said he expects Saturday’s atmosphere to be “electric.”
“This is what college football’s all about, this is why you come to a Big Ten school like Penn State. So you get the opportunity to play in these kind of games,” Mauti said.
PSU coach Bill O’Brien said although the game is important, it is par for the course when playing in the Big Ten.
“Every game we play is a very important game here at Penn State,” O’Brien said. “The Big Ten is … a tremendous conference that has great head coaches and tough teams, and we’re playing probably the best team in the Big Ten this week, with a great head coach in Urban Meyer.”
O’Brien explained why OSU might be the best team in the conference.
“Ohio State is the most talented team that we’ve played to this point in the season,” O’Brien said. “They have an excellent football team, they’re 8-0 and they have very, very good players at every position.”
O’Brien said his team must play an “excellent football game” to win.
“We can’t make mistakes, we can’t turn the ball over, we can’t have stupid penalties,” O’Brien said. “It’s a big, big challenge for us as a football team, and we’ve got to have a great week of practice, and we’ve got to come in here ready to play.”
O’Brien and his players said if they are going to win Saturday, they are going to have to stop OSU sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller, who ranks sixth nationally with 959 rushing yards this season, while he has also passed for 1,384 yards.
“One of the keys to the game is to do the best we can to contain him and tackle him, and at the end of the day, he’s going to make plays, and when he makes a play, we have to play the next play,” O’Brien said. “We’re not going to shut this guy down totally … this is an excellent football player, and we just have to make sure that we show up and do the best we can on Saturday night.”
Hill said the task of stopping Miller “won’t be easy.”
“He’s an elusive player, one of the best in the country,” Hill said. “As long as we keep our containment and do our jobs, we should be able to make plays.”
Nittany Lions senior linebacker Gerald Hodges said Miller is a “great athlete” and “great quarterback,” but that the PSU defense has to focus on more than just Miller.
“We can’t just put the whole game around him, because they do have other playmakers,” Hodges said.
On the other side of the ball, PSU redshirt senior quarterback Matt McGloin said the OSU defense is “good at all positions.”
“They’re good up front … good linebackers, and a lot of athletes in their secondary, so it’s going to be a tough challenge for us. But we have good playmakers too on our offense, so it’s going to be a great matchup,” McGloin said.
One aspect of the game that the Nittany Lions will hope to take advantage of is the environment, as they are playing at home in Beaver Stadium, the nation’s second-largest college football stadium with a capacity of 106,572 people.
“This is without a doubt the best college football environment in the country, there’s just absolutely no doubt about it,” O’Brien said.
While the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes are both ineligible for a spot in the Big Ten Football Championship Game, PSU fifth-year senior running back Michael Zordich explained how that inspires both teams.
“Both of these teams are going out and playing just for Saturdays,” Zordich said. “Each Saturday is the only one they have, there is no postseason.”