Billy Price plans to be sitting in front of a bonfire with his family Saturday night while much of the college football world is watching No. 2 Penn State play No. 19 Michigan.
Price, a fifth-year senior center for the Ohio State Buckeyes, hasn’t visited in his family in Austintown, Ohio, in about 10 weeks, he said. They will eat pizza and donuts and “a lot of other fattening things,” and Price will keep track of the big game with the ESPN app on his phone.
The open date comes at a perfect time for No. 6 Ohio State. Coaches and players can relax this weekend while preparing for the biggest game on the Big Ten schedule. A week after playing Michigan, the Nittany Lions visit Ohio State for a 3:30 p.m. game Oct. 28.
“It’s a huge advantage for us,” Price said Wednesday. “Obviously, we get guys rested up and relaxed and have an extra week of prep. I’ve already watched four games of theirs. I’m already looking at what we’re doing offensively, scheming up to put some of their guys in space and exploit some of their players.”
Penn State (6-0, 3-0) vs. Ohio State (6-1, 4-0) will be a big game for a number of reasons. Here are five:
1. Big Ten implications: Ohio State lost 24-21 at Penn State last season, and the Nittany Lions used that victory as a springboard to the Big Ten championship game, where they beat Wisconsin.
Ohio State still has two games against ranked opponents in November — vs. No. 18 Michigan State (5-1, 3-0) on Nov. 11 and at No. 19 Michigan (5-1, 2-1) on Nov. 25 — but it can take a big step toward playing in Indianapolis on Dec. 2 with a victory against Penn State.
2. Playoff implications: The Buckeyes have one victory over a team with a winning record: Army (5-2). They play four winning teams in their last five games. The stretch will give them a chance to improve their playoff resume. The first ranking comes out Oct. 31.
3. Revenge factor: Ohio State blew a 21-7 lead in the fourth quarter last season at Penn State. Grant Haley’s 60-yard return of a blocked field goal in the final minutes beat the Buckeyes.
“We were just stunned,” Ohio State defensive end Sam We didn’t respect a really good opponent and kind of took for granted winning. Last week coach Meyer was saying when you go into a historically-great program like Nebraska and Penn State and you don’t respect them and don’t prepare like they’re a great team, you can have what happen last year.”
4. Running stars: Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins ranks 11th in the nation in rushing (775 yards). Penn State’s Saquon Barkley ranks 21st (649).
Barkley rushed 12 times for 99 yards last season against the Buckeyes. In the latest Heisman Trophy odds released by online bookmaker Bovada, Barkely and Stanford running back Bryce Love both have 7-5 odds, making them the favorites.
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Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, who said he would root for Penn State to beat Michigan on Saturday so they would come into Columbus on “their high horse,” looks forward to the challenge of defending Barkley.
“It’s going to be a lot of D-linemen and linebackers doing their assignments,” Bosa said. “If we stick to our assignments and don’t jump out of gaps, I think we’ll be just fine.”
5. Barrett’s rise: Fans were calling for Ohio State fifth-year senior quarterback J.T. Barrett to be benched after his performance in the 31-16 loss to Oklahoma. He has played so well in the last five games, he has put himself back into conversation about the Heisman Trophy. He has the third-best odds (9-1) entering this weekend.
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Barrett looked forward to the weekend off even off and wasn’t concerned about the break affecting the offense’s rhythm.
“Guys bodies are starting to break down a little bit,” Barrett said. “It’s later in the season. Also we caught up on school work, making sure you’re grinding things out with academics. Mental reps, too. The mind’s been working for a long time. To get away from it a little bit for a weekend just means a lot when it comes to what we do as college athletes.”
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