No. 9 Ohio State
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at Penn State
When: 5:30 p.m. today
Where: Beaver Stadium
Series: Ohio State leads 14-7 (five Penn State victories and one Ohio State victory vacated because of NCAA sanctions)
Last meeting: Penn State won 20-14 last year (win vacated because of NCAA sanctions)
Coaches: Ohio State — Urban Meyer, first year, 8-0 (112-23 in 11 seasons); Penn State — Bill O’Brien, first year, 5-2
Television: ESPN (Announcers: Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman)
Radio: WQWK 1450, WBUS 93.7 (Announcers: Steve Jones, Jack Ham)
The skinny: Guessing NCAA president Mark Emmert will not be one of more than 106,000 people stuffed into Beaver Stadium. The game, dubbed by some as the “Sanction Showdown,” pits two of the sport’s most scrutinized and iconic programs. Both teams are banned from postseason play this season, so their respective seasons end next month. Penn State players are considering tonight their version of a bowl game. The Big Ten must have avoided a phone call to Emmert when it announced the schools are eligible to compete for the Leaders Division Trophy. The winner takes sole possession of first place in the six-team trophy race. The division includes a struggling trio of bottom-feeders in Purdue, Indiana and Illinois. Penn State and Ohio State teams must still face defending division champion and suddenly offensively-functioning Wisconsin. Perhaps Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany makes an appearance to witness two quality teams with no chance of playing in Indianapolis on Dec. 1.
Buckeye to watch: John Simon — After watching the senior defensive end’s appearance on the Big Ten Network’s “The Journey” series, it’s easy to see why Meyer wants to clone him. Simon is one intense man and his leadership skills helped Ohio State endure a coaching change and NCAA sanctions. Consider him Ohio State’s version of Michael Mauti.
Nittany Lion to watch: Bill Belton — The slippery sophomore tailback who suffered a high ankle sprain in the opener looked 100 percent while rushing for 103 yards in last week’s 38-14 victory at Iowa. Big plays nearly doomed Ohio State last week against Purdue. Belton is Penn State’s best bet to break one.
Key matchup: Penn State’s offensive line vs. Ohio State’s defensive line — Mike Farrell, Donovan Smith, Adam Gress, Miles Dieffenbach, John Urschel and Matt Stankiewitch’s solid play has allowed Matt McGloin to zip the ball around at rapid rates and Belton and Zach Zwinak increase their rushing totals.
— By Guy Cipriano