Ohio State Football: Buckeyes' Defense Must Step Up in Test Against Penn State

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2012

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 20:  Landon Feichter #44 of the Purdue Boilermakers is tackled by Jake Stoneburner  #11 and Devin Smith #15, both of the Ohio State Buckeyes, after intercepting the ball during the fourth quarter on October 20, 2012 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Purdue 29-22 in overtime. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Are you ready for the Sanctions Bowl? More importantly, is the Ohio State defense?

When the Ohio State Buckeyes travel to Beaver Stadium to face the Penn State Nittany Lions, the teams will face off in a game that could have been one of the most important games in the Big Ten season.

Both teams are exceeding expectations this year and the squads currently sit atop the Leaders Division.

It takes on less significance seeing as neither team is eligible to win the Big Ten this season. However, if the Buckeyes defense doesn't step up, Ohio State is going to lose the Sanctions Bowl (the only bowl either one of these teams will play in this season) and its undefeated record.

If nothing else, both of these teams still have pride to play for. This game matters, if only in Columbus and State College.

Penn State is currently riding a five-game winning streak and has displayed a versatile offense along the way. They've scored 34 or more points in four of their last five games, including 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter against Northwestern in early October. They are fresh off a 38-14 dismantling of Iowa, and are averaging 406.4 yards per game.

Meanwhile, the Ohio State defense hasn't been very good of late. The Buckeyes allowed 49 points to Indiana, 38 points to Nebraska and gave up a touchdown to Purdue on the first play of the game this Saturday.

However, they recovered. The question is, if they allow Penn State to get out to a quick start, can the Buckeyes recover again?

It seems less likely.

Coach of the Year candidate Bill O'Brien has quarterback Matt McGloin playing extremely well this year, which is something even the most ardent Penn State supporters didn't expect. The senior has thrown for 1,788 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions.

Meanwhile, Penn State's defense is stingy once again this year. The Nittany Lions only allow 15.7 points (13th in the nation) and 110.1 rushing yards (20th in the nation) per game. It should be an interesting clash against Ohio State's 10th-ranked rush offense (249.6 yards per game).

Oh, and what if Braxton Miller can't play? While the star quarterback was released from the hospital after leaving the game in the fourth quarter, there is no guarantee he'll suit up against Penn State.

The point is, Ohio State's offense may not be able to bail them out this week. The Buckeyes might need a stout defensive performance against the Nittany Lions if they are to escape a raucous Penn State home crowd with a win.

If Ohio State is to win this game, the defense is going to have to step up in a big way. The Sanction Bowl can belong to the Buckeys, but only if they don't allow the Penn State offense to move the ball at will.

This week, the offense may not be able to save them.


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