COLUMBUS, Ohio — The one Ohio State has been waiting for is finally here.
Whether it’s going back a year looking for a shot at revenge or simply the last six weeks without facing a legitimate challenge, the Buckeyes have had Penn State underlined, circled and highlighted on the calendar. Now they get their shot in what appears to be a de facto East Division title game, with a spot in the Big Ten title game and a potential trip to the College Football Playoff all on the line.
Plus, of course, some retribution for that upset loss on the road last season.
The Nittany Lions are heading to the Horseshoe on Saturday afternoon. Here are three key questions for Ohio State leading up to the top-10 showdown.
1. Are the Silver Bullets ready for a test?
The Buckeyes have already seen a Heisman Trophy-caliber offensive weapon, and the results were a mixed bag against Oklahoma. Baker Mayfield was contained for basically an entire half on the scoreboard, but he eventually broke out down the stretch and his underdog Sooners left Ohio Stadium with a 31-16 victory.
That loss shouldn’t be pinned on the defense, because the lack of any support from the offense put the defense in difficult situations and forced too much weight onto its shoulders. With the offense’s improved production the last five games, the Silver Bullets look like they’ll get more help this week. The defense will have enough work to do, particularly that vaunted line up front, with Penn State star tailback Saquon Barkley in another matchup with a Heisman contender.
2. Will J.T. Barrett enhance his legacy Saturday?
This is undoubtedly one of the most important single games of the decorated senior’s career. The usual caveat about quarterbacks getting too much credit for wins or an unfair amount of blame for losses still applies, but that doesn’t change the fact that J.T. Barrett’s legacy is almost certainly going to be impacted by what happens against the Nittany Lions.
He has piles of records and has delivered in critical games before, of course. His spot among the all-time greats at Ohio State is secure, as well. But the upset loss to Michigan State in 2015 and the stinging shutout loss to Clemson last season in the CFP semifinal still leave his résumé with some room for improvement. Barrett has been a part of a championship team with the program before, but this is a critical week for his chances of winning one as a healthy starting quarterback.
3. How is the health of the starting lineup?
Ohio State’s bye week came at just the right time, particularly with a handful of contributors leaving the blowout win at Nebraska needing medical attention. Urban Meyer suggested last week that all of those key contributors would be probable to take on the Nittany Lions, but that still bears monitoring as the Buckeyes return to the practice field.
Ohio State knows for sure that right guard Branden Bowen is out for the season, with Demetrius Knox impressing in his place against the Huskers. Left tackle Jamarco Jones, running back Mike Weber, wide receiver Parris Campbell and defensive end Jalyn Holmes all seem to be cleared for action without restrictions this week. It remains to be seen if linebacker Chris Worley is going to get back to 100 percent with his nagging foot injury, and getting Dre’mont Jones some extra time to heal from the deep cut on his leg that kept him out for two weeks should also prove useful.
All of them, obviously, won’t want to miss the matchup the Buckeyes have been anxiously awaiting for so long now.
The post 3 questions for Ohio State now that Penn State week is finally here appeared first on Land of 10.