Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Expectations Still High with Ohio State on Tap Penn State

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Expectations Still High with Ohio State on Tap Penn State

Article excerpt

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Two months ago the Nittany Lions weren't eligible for postseason play and Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller was widely regarded as a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate.

Fast forward to tonight in University Park and it's quarterback J.T. Barrett who leads the No. 13 Buckeyes into Happy Valley for a prime-time Big Ten Conference clash against the Nittany Lions. Barrett has Ohio State (5-1, 2-0) on a tear, throwing 20 touchdowns through six games and reassuring fans that without the injured Miller Ohio State still has talent at the position.

Penn State (4-2, 1-2) continues searching for an identity on offense and without one it hasn't been pretty. The postseason bowl ban was lifted in September but the Nittany Lions face the challenge of becoming bowl-eligible and adhering to a set of expectations that dropped off after a 4-0 start was followed by back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Michigan. Add in limited scholarship numbers stemming from NCAA sanctions and trying to balance the excitement of a sold-out crowd and an elite opponent without setting up false hope is no easy task.

"I want people to be very, very comfortable with the direction of the program, where it's going and how our guys are playing and the type of experience they're having," coach James Franklin said. "I want our fans to be proud of the product that we're putting on the field each week. What that means in wins and losses, I'm not sure."

Coming off a second open week with extra time to heal and prepare for Ohio State, Franklin's team is a 14-point underdog. Franklin said the Lions used "somewhere around 46" scholarship players who are regularly contributing in games this season. Limited by depth issues and inexperience particularly on the offensive line, the Buckeyes front seven could be after quarterback Christian Hackenberg all game.

They certainly wouldn't be the first team that has had its way against the Nittany Lions. Hackenberg has been sacked 20 times, but like the team, right tackle Andrew Nelson said the offensive line's expectations can't change just because the Buckeyes are a handful. …

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