Ohio State’s tempo a concern for PSU

UNIVERSITY PARK — When Saturday’s game kicks off in the Horseshoe, Penn State’s defense will be facing a challenge unlike anything it has seen this season.

The Nittany Lions have the nation’s top scoring defense (9.6 points allowed per game) but will be tasked with slowing the nation’s second highest scoring offense (47.3 points per game). Featuring a fast tempo offense brought by former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson who now calls the plays for the Buckeyes, Penn State is in for something completely different than the anemic Michigan offense it dominated this past weekend.

“The biggest thing is the tempo,” James Franklin said. “They are a tempo team and are going to try to run plays fast. We saw it at Indiana with coach Wilson, and now he’s doing it at Ohio State. They’re at a point in the season where they’ve kind of figured out who they are and what their identity is.”

The speedy offense is anchored by quarterback J.T. Barrett who needs just one more touchdown throw to pass Drew Brees for the most career passing touchdowns in Big Ten history, and running back J.K. Dobbins whose 775 yards rushing is 18 more than Saquon Barkley.

“J.T. is probably playing as well as we’ve seen him play,” Franklin said. “You’re talking about a guy who has had an unbelievable college career. He’s probably playing his best football right now.”

Weather alert

With Ohio State calling for a blackout from it’s near 105,000 person capacity stadium and cold temperatures with rain projected in the forecast, Franklin has no concerns about any negative effects of weather or a loud atmosphere may have. The team added loud music to an additional practice this week, and Franklin hopes for a wet practice before heading to Columbus.

“When it rains, we stay out. Our guys keep staring at the indoor facility and coach Moorhead looks at the indoor facility and would like to go in there, but we don’t unless it’s thundering and lightning. Our guys have a lot of confidence in playing in bad weather. We always do some wet ball drills. I’d love to get a rain day this week if I could order that up with Penn State meteorology.”

All eyes on Barkley

As a freshman running back in 2015 Saquon Barkley was just beginning to build a reputation. After rushing for 194 yards against the Buckeyes in a 38-10 loss, the only thing the running back remembers is the amazement he felt looking at stars on the other bench.

“That was my freshman year, I was a young guy,” Barkley said. “I was in awe of Braxton Miller, Zeke Elliot. Obviously coming from high school just watching their tape, but seeing especially Braxton.”

Two years later and the shoe is now on the other foot. While Barkley said he avoids interaction with players before the game, postgame is a different story.

“Now after games people come up to me, coaches, players,” Barkley said. “Sometimes I get (messages) from a player. I just try to be humble with it. Obviously I say thank you, and if it’s a younger guy I just encourage them that his time will come.”