Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
While the Buckeyes boast a lot of talent on defense, linebacker Ryan Shazier is probably Ohio State's most important player on that side of the ball.
The preseason Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, he's been all over the field this season. Heading into this weekend's contest, he leads Ohio State in both tackles and tackles for loss.
Last season, he picked off a Matthew McGloin pass deep in Penn State territory and returned it for a touchdown. That play broke a 7-7 tie, and the Buckeyes went on to win 35-23 in Happy Valley.
During his press conference on Tuesday, Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien had high praise for Shazier. He said his team needs to keep tabs on him when he is on the field.
"He's a very athletic guy, very instinctive guy. A guy that can slip blocks very easily. You'd better know where he is in the passing game, whether he's blitzing or in coverage. Just a really athletic, good instinctive player."
On passing downs, it will be important for Hackenberg to identify where Shazier is on the field. While this doesn't mean he should avoid throwing to that side, it's good to be cognizant of the linebacker's whereabouts. Since the rest of Ohio State's linebackers aren't great in pass coverage, it's better to attack the Buckeyes' weakness.
Knowing where one of the better defenders on the field is lined up is a good start.