5 storylines: Penn State vs. Ohio State


Every week, NittanyNation takes a look at five storylines that stand out: What should fans keep an eye on? What's the bigger picture? What might be on display Saturday?

Here are NittanyNation's Week 9 storylines:

1. Inelligi-Bowl. You can point to the NFL talent on these two teams, PSU overcoming adversity to make it this far or Ohio State's perfect record. But let's face it, everyone will be looking at the fact neither team can reach the postseason this year. But that's also what makes this game more important. A win here would put either team in the driver's seat for the Leaders Division title. That's the only accolade either team can hope for, so everything will be on the line Saturday. "That's what makes this game so important," Penn State fullback Michael Zordich said, "because both of these teams are playing just for Saturdays."

2. Can Braxton Miller be stopped? PSU has boasted a lot of success stopping dual-threat quarterbacks this season, but Miller is -- by far -- this defense's toughest test. "He's the best," Bill O'Brien acknowledged. Miller will undoubtedly make plays Saturday, but the Nittany Lions are merely hoping to limit those. With his arm and his feet, he's averaging nearly 300 yards a game. Penn State's defense is ranked No. 22. Something has to give here.

3. Matt McGloin vs. poor pass defense. Only 15 teams in the nation have allowed more passing yards than Ohio State, and McGloin is the Big Ten's best pocket-passer. Ohio State should be just as afraid of McGloin as PSU is of Miller. The Buckeyes' defense has been able to overcome some struggles by recording 11 interceptions. But that's not something OSU can depend upon Saturday. McGloin has thrown just two picks this year, and both first hit his intended receivers. McGloin could be in for a big game, especially against a defense that struggles defending screens.

4. Tale of two different linebacker units. Nowhere is the disparity of talent greater than at this position. Penn State ranks as the best in the conference, while Ohio State is near the bottom. The Buckeyes might start a fullback, Zach Boren, at middle linebacker. On the flip side, depth is far from an issue with PSU here. Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges were both named to the Butkus Award semifinalist list, making PSU the only team in the nation with more than one representative. The Nittany Lions have at least four quality linebackers here. Ohio State might have one.

5. Special teams. As long as Sam Ficken is still wearing a No. 97 jersey, he will remain a storyline. PSU's offense has posted at least 35 points in the last three games but, in tight contests or defensive-oriented games, PSU could be in trouble. Ficken is among the least-accurate kickers in the NCAA, and Ohio State kicker Drew Basil is better than his 3-of-5 season performance suggests. Still, the field-goal unit isn't the only question mark here: Alex Butterworth boasts one of the worst net-punt averages in the country, and the punt- and kick-coverage teams have both had lapses at points this season. This game could very well come down to special teams.