The Ohio State offense seems to be coming into its own, putting up 121 points in its last three games, including 49 against Maryland in Week 6.
The best test of the progress it has made since the start of the season could come on Saturday, as OSU (6-0, 2-0) welcomes a team ranked 10th in the nation in defense.
Penn State (5-1, 2-0) has allowed just 275.7 yards per game, including only 158.7 yards through the air.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said his team will have to be at its best to put up points against the Nittany Lions.
“Excellent defense,” Meyer said. “I think they’re top 10 … we had a hard time moving them last year, very good defense.”
That game last year was a double-overtime thriller in State College, Pennsylvania, in which the Buckeyes emerged with a 31-24 victory.
Then-sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa was the star of that night, piling up 2.5 sacks, including a game-ending sack in which he threw the Penn State blocker into quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to top a moment like that this week,” Bosa said.
The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native called last year’s game “the hardest fought game” he’s ever played and expects the Nittany Lions to present another tough test on Saturday. He said it all stems from the junior Hackenberg.
“I see a very confident quarterback, a guy that can really make all the throws down the field,” Bosa said.
Hackenberg, considered to be one of the nation’s top quarterback prospects, has struggled at times this season. On the year, he is 87-of-164 for 1,086 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
Saturday’s contest is set to kick off at 8 p.m., the first night game Ohio Stadium has played host to since Nov. 1 of last season against Illinois. Redshirt senior H-back Braxton Miller said games played at the primetime hour give the team a different sense of energy.
“The last couple of night games I played in, it was exciting, the atmosphere was crazy,” Miller said. “Guys always love playing under the lights.”
With Penn State standing as one of the four teams in the Big Ten East division undefeated through two conference games, Bosa said the team recognizes games like that as key points of the season.
“It gets bigger as the season continues because it’s harder every week to stay undefeated I think,” Bosa said. “It’s Big Ten season and that’s when I think it really picks up.”
Previously for Penn State
When the dust settled from the Nittany Lions’ opening game, things were not looking pretty.
In-state rival Temple thoroughly dominated Penn State, coming away with a 27-10 victory, and potentially sending coach James Franklin’s squad to a downward spiral of a season.
However, the Nittany Lions did just the opposite.
Since the opening game in Philadelphia, Penn State outscored its opponents 141-59 on the way to a five-game winning streak.
“I remember watching them their first game this year and it’s nowhere close to where they’re looking now,” Bosa said. “They’re finally getting it together and looking like a really good team.”
Penn State’s victories came against Buffalo, Rutgers, San Diego State, Army and Indiana. However, all five of those games came at home at Beaver Stadium, so it remains to be seen if the Nittany Lions can improve from their lone road showing.
Saturday’s game features two of the top players in the country when it comes to bringing the opposing quarterback down.
Penn State redshirt senior defensive end Carl Nassib has recorded more sacks than anyone else in the nation with 10 — all solo.
The hulking 6-foot-7, 272-pound West Chester, Pennsylvania, product has at least one sack in each of his six games this year, including three games with two or more sacks.
On the other side, Bosa hasn’t found the same results this season but is still feared nationally after picking up 21 sacks in his first two seasons.
Bosa recorded his first solo sack of the season against Maryland, with a first-game suspension, constant double or triple teams and quick-handed quarterbacks holding him back.
“It feels good to get there, obviously,” Bosa said. “It’s what D-linemen go for every game, to get their sacks.”
As a team, the Nittany Lions are second in the country with 4.17 sacks per game, while OSU is 11th with 3.17.
On the other side of the ball, OSU is 20th in the country with 1.17 sacks allowed per game, while Hackenberg has been brought down 3.17 times per game, 112th in the nation.
After Saturday’s 8 p.m. showdown, the Buckeyes are slated to travel to Piscataway, New Jersey, to face Rutgers on Oct. 24. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.