Ohio State vs. Penn State: Players That Will Determine Outcome of Big Ten Clash

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistOctober 27, 2012

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 20:  Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs past Landon Feichter #44 of the Purdue Boilermakers during the first quarter on October 20, 2012 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The Ohio State Buckeyes face their most difficult test so far this season when they travel to University Park to play the Penn State Nittany Lions.

The undefeated Buckeyes survived the biggest scare of the season in overtime last week against the Purdue Boilermakers. In Penn State, they will take on a team that is undefeated in Big Ten play and has been impressive with its ability to play through adversity.

While neither of these teams are allowed to participate in postseason play due to sanctions against both schools, this is one of the biggest matchups the conference has seen all season.

With both schools boasting good resumes, this game could go either way. In a close game, it comes down to individual athletes that can make the big plays when they matter most. Here's a look at the most likely candidates to make the difference in this intriguing Big Ten battle.


Braxton Miller

If you want to know who the biggest playmaker in this game is, look no further than Ohio State's resident Heisman trophy candidate Braxton Miller.

Miller has been one of the most electrifying athletes in the Big Ten. The athletic Miller's rushing numbers alone are enough to make him one of the conferences best players—he has 959 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground this season. Throw in his 1,384 passing yards and 11 touchdowns and the hype around his ability to run Urban Meyer's offense seems pretty legitimate.

Miller suffered an injury last week against the Boilermakers and had to be taken to the hospital, but according to ESPN College Football, he should be ready to go this week.

Ohio State QB Braxton Miller says he's fine after injury, ready for Penn State. es.pn/RhuQRn #OSUvsPSU

— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) October 25, 2012

As long as Miller doesn't suffer any residual effects from last week's injury, his play should go a long way for a Buckeyes team looking for an important road victory.


Matt McGloin

The notion that Matt McGloin could be the Big Ten conference's best pure passer would have been laughable a year ago. Now? It's a solid argument to make.

In a conference devoid of many quality passers, McGloin has stuck out as a dropback passer that is capable of leading his team to victory.

McGloin has looked like a completely different quarterback with Bill O'Brien running the program. Last year McGloin threw for 1,571 yards and eight touchdowns. Only seven games into the season and McGloin has already passed both of those totals with 1,788 yards and 14 touchdowns with only two interceptions.

McGloin's ability to run O'Brien's offense without turning the ball over has been pivotal for the Nittany Lions success on offense this year.

If Penn State is to beat the Buckeyes, they'll need a big performance from McGloin to keep up with Ohio State's high-scoring offense.


Carlos Hyde

Braxton Miller went down in the second half against Purdue, but the Buckeyes were able to rally behind backup Kenny Guiton to get the win.

Had Carlos Hyde gone down, there's a good chance they don't recover from that to win the game. Miller may get the publicity, but this offense is on another level when Hyde is running well. At 6'1" and 235 pounds, Hyde is the type of back that forces defenses to gang tackle on every play.

It's no coincidence that the two best games that this unit has played (Indiana and Nebraska) came when Hyde went over 100 yards. If the Buckeyes can establish Hyde between the tackles against Penn State, it will open up space for Miller to run outside.

If Hyde and Miller get going, the Buckeyes can win this one rather easily. If either are contained, it'll be tough for Ohio State to get the job done on the road.