Ohio State Football: Players Who Must Shine for Buckeyes to Win vs. Penn State

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 27, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, IN - OCTOBER 13:  Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs for a touchdown during the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium on October 13, 2012 in Bloomington, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As the Ohio State Buckeyes prepare for a critical road contest against the heated rival Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday night, it's imperative that every one of their stars comes away with a top-notch performance.

The Lions are one of the hottest teams in college football and are coming off their first win at Kinnick Stadium since 1999. Led by coach Bill O'Brien, this is a Penn State team that has thrived on defying all the odds this season and will look to do the same against a more talented Buckeyes team.

That means, while all hands must be on deck, there are a few players who must shine above the rest in Week 9.

With that in mind, here is a look at the stars that must step up for the Buckeyes on Saturday.


Braxton Miller

Though official word is yet to be released, all signs point to the Buckeyes' scintillating quarterback lining up behind center on Saturday.

Miller, who sustained head and neck injuries last week against Purdue, was cleared for practice earlier in the week and said he's feeling good.

"I'm good, I'm good, I'm all good," Miller said via ESPN's Austin Ward. "Just a little bit sore (in the neck), but that's about it. I'd say I'm full go."

That is nothing short of fantastic news for Ohio State considering the team's chances declined exponentially without Miller in the lineup. The dual-threat has been fantastic all season, accounting for 2,243 total yards and 21 touchdowns while showing marked improvement in each facet of his game.

Facing off against a Lions defense that has been nothing short of suffocating this season, Miller will face his biggest test of the season on Saturday.

How he fares will likely dictate the result of the game.


Carlos Hyde

With a raucous Beaver Stadium crowd undoubtedly making communication difficult for the offense, the Buckeyes will likely go to Hyde early and often to create long, sustained drives.

If recent history is any indicator of future performance, the bruising running back should have a nice game on Saturday. Hyde has been absolutely fantastic in Ohio State's past three contests, rushing for 387 yards and seven touchdowns in those games.

Nevertheless, the Lions' defense comes into Saturday's matchup with the best run defense in the Big Ten. For Hyde, that will mean finding holes and exploiting mismatches that nearly every other Penn State opponent has failed to do this season.

He has the ability and surrounding talent to do so, but it remains to be seen if Hyde can step up with the Buckeyes need him the most. 


Travis Howard

The senior cornerback has not made an interception since Week 2, but that trend will have to change on Saturday.

Penn State will employ a passing attack with quarterback Matt McGloin that is predicated on efficiency and short passes. The senior signal-caller has thrown under 30 passes in a game just once all season and that was in a blowout win over Navy.

Despite the high pass rate, McGloin has just two interceptions all season and has seemingly put his turnover-prone ways of the past behind him.

Regardless, there are certain weaknesses in the Lions quarterback that could be exploited by Howard and the Buckeyes secondary—particularly on deeper throws and intermediate out-patterns.

If Howard is able to make a big play early in the game, quiet the crowd and rattle McGloin, Ohio State could take a lead that it never relinquishes.