1. How many yards does Carlos Hyde gain?
Let’s face it: The lead running back role in the Buckeye offense belongs to Carlos Hyde. Although redshirt-senior Jordan Hall played well during Hyde’s three-game suspension stemming from an incident at a Columbus bar in July, Hyde has completely taken over No. 4 Ohio State’s (7-0, 3-0) backfield. In the four games since returning from suspension, Hyde has rushed for 41, 85, 168 and 149 yards, respectively, and five total touchdowns. Two of those games came against then-top 10 rushing defenses in Wisconsin and Iowa, and Hyde was still successful. Penn State (4-2, 1-1) comes into the game Saturday with the No. 21 rushing defense in the country, so Hyde will look to have another big game to help OSU win its 20th straight game.
2. Will Bradley Roby be ready to step up?
This year hasn’t gone exactly how redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby had planned. After being named a preseason All-American, Roby was then suspended for the season opener after a July incident at a Bloomington, Ind., bar. He has been outplayed during games against California and Wisconsin and was then ejected from the game against Iowa for targeting. Roby is expected to play the whole game against the Nittany Lions and will likely be matched up against Penn State junior wide receiver Allen Robinson. Robinson is averaging 117.5 receiving yards per game, the highest among players that OSU has faced so far in 2013. It will be another test for Roby, who continues to watch his NFL Draft stock plummet with his struggles. If Roby can contain Robinson, it could be a long day for Penn State.
3. Braxton Miller’s rollercoaster season.
Since spraining the MCL in his left knee in OSU’s win against San Diego State, junior quarterback Braxton Miller has struggled to play consistently. After a four-touchdown performance against Wisconsin, Miller played poorly against Northwestern, turning the ball over three times and failing to find the end zone. Now Miller heads into the game against Penn State on the heels of a performance against Iowa in which he threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns and added 102 yards on the ground. If Miller wants to lead the Buckeyes to another undefeated season, he will need to find more consistency in his play and keep his mistakes to a minimum. Although he was successful against the Hawkeyes, it remains to be seen which Miller will show up Saturday. If Miller can avoid turning the ball over and instead score a couple of touchdowns, it will go a long way to pushing the Buckeyes to 8-0 overall on the season.
4. Can Ohio Stadium and Buckeye Nation rattle Christian Hackenberg?
True freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been all Penn State could have asked for this season. The 6-foot-4-inch Palmyra, Va., product has thrown for 1,672 yards and 11 touchdowns so far in 2013, against six interceptions. His three first-half scoring tosses kept the Nittany Lions afloat early on in their quadruple overtime win against Michigan two weeks ago, and the freshman is only getting better. OSU’s secondary has taken multiple hits this season, with the loss of senior safety Christian Bryant to a broken ankle against Wisconsin Sept. 28 and Roby last week to the ejection. If Hackenberg is able to find holes and complete big plays to Robinson and others, the team could light up the scoreboard.
5. Will the pressure get to OSU?
The Buckeyes currently sport the nation’s longest winning streak at 19 games, and with the opportunity to take another step toward a Leaders Division title, will the pressure finally get to the team? The last time OSU boasted a 19-game winning streak, Meyer was on the other sidelines with Florida when it ended in the 2006 BCS National Championship. A victory against conference rival Penn State (8 p.m. Saturday at Ohio Stadium) would surely vault the Buckeyes ahead into their next two games on the road against Purdue and Illinois.