Ohio State QB concerns Lions
A capsule look at Bill O’Brien’s weekly news conference
Opponent: No. 4 Ohio State (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten)
Kickoff: Saturday 8 p.m., Ohio Stadium
About the Buckeyes: They’re in contention for a national title, although they’ll need losses from two of the top three teams (Alabama, Florida State, Oregon) to get into the BCS championship game; they’ve won 19 straight games, the longest streak in the country; QB Braxton Miller missed time earlier this season with a knee injury but is fully healthy; coach Urban Meyer has an astounding career record of 123-23 and is 2-0 against Penn State (the first win coming with Florida in the 2010 Outback Bowl).
Last time vs. Penn State: Ohio State won last year at Beaver Stadium, 35-23, and has won three of the last four in the series.
Line: Ohio State is a 14-point favorite; over/under is 56 1/2
It’s Miller time: Beating Ohio State means containing, at least to some degree, talented dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller. “It’s a very difficult challenge playing a guy like Braxton Miller, in my opinion one of the top five players in the country,” O’Brien said. One big difference in Miller this season is he’s throwing the ball better, completing 69.6 percent. “He’s throwing the ball very well,” O’Brien said. “He’s accurate. He’s making plays on third down in the passing game. He obviously understands coverage, and he’s just doing a really, really good job of running that offense in all facets.”
Other side of the ball: The Buckeyes not only have a good offense, O’Brien said they are “the most athletic defense that we’ve played.” Ohio State hasn’t exactly been stingy in Big Ten play, giving up 24 against Wisconsin and Iowa and 30 against Northwestern. They also allowed 34 against a bad Cal team that’s 1-6. Still, O’Brien said, “You don’t get to 7-0 without having a good defense, and they have a very, very good defense.”
Urban mentality: O’Brien doesn’t know Urban Meyer well but has a lot of respect for what the highly successful coach has accomplished. “First of all, he’s smart, a smart guy,” O’Brien said. “He’s a mentally tough guy. He’s won two national championships with different types of teams. There’s a guy that understands what he wants in a football team, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.”
Better mood: O’Brien seems well aware of the criticism he received for not wanting to answer questions about the Indiana game the week after PSU lost. He made a joke Tuesday that he would answer any questions, even ones about Indiana. This a big game for the program, and the coach set a proper tone for the team during his press conference by joking and being loose rather than being rigid and seeming nervous or elusive.
Well-rested: Penn State has had two byes in four weeks, and the Lions spent last week getting some rest. O’Brien said all the key players are healthy and ready to go. The first bye, before the Indiana game, was spent practicing a lot, but this time around the coach said, “We probably rested our first- and second-team guys a little bit more.” While getting rest is a good thing, there’s the other side of the debate that says maybe PSU would have been better off playing the next week after such a big, emotional win over Michigan. “You’d like to keep playing,” O’Brien acknowledged, “but that’s what we had, so you just deal with the rule and what our schedule is.”
Not a bad loss now: Many fans were stunned and disappointed when PSU lost at home to Central Florida in week three, but that 34-31 defeat doesn’t look bad at all now after UCF went on the road and beat No. 8 Louisville. O’Brien’s mentor, George O’Leary, coaches UCF. “I texted with Coach O’Leary,” O’Brien said. “He texted me after Michigan, and then I was able to watch a lot of that Louisville game. I thought they did a great job.” As for the perception of the loss to UCF, O’Brien said that’s for others to decide. “They went down to Louisville and played a whale of a football game,” he said. “I think Central Florida is a very good team. I think I saw in the BCS rankings this week they’re in the top 25 [No. 23], and I think they deserve to be.”
– Compiled by Cory Giger