If the Nittany Lions win Saturday, all that stands between them and a likely place in Miami on Jan. 8 are a trip to Iowa and home games against Indiana and Michigan State. The Nittany Lions should be heavily favored in each of those contests. First, Penn State must end its Horseshoe hex. It's lost seven straight at OSU since joining the Big Ten in 1993 and hasn't won in Columbus since 1978.
Of course, a Penn State loss would put the Buckeyes on the path to a fourth-consecutive conference crown, downgrade the Lions' BCS title-game chances to "nearly impossible" and put Ohio State back into the national-title picture.
Indeed, the game is so big, it's given
The 45-7 win over Michigan State was this duo's breakthrough, as Pryor threw for 116 yards and a touchdown and ran for 72 yards and another score, while Wells had 140 yards and two TDs on a career-high 31 carries.
Pryor, a Pennsylvania native who spurned the Lions for the Buckeyes, seems to be growing more and more in the starter's spot. He took every snap against the Spartans and avoided some mistakes from earlier games, like when he sidestepped a charging Michigan State defender to avoid a 15th sack and instead complete a 56-yard pass to
Wells appears to be as close to 100 percent as he's been since the season opener and Tressel has increased Wells' work load each week, getting him 14 touches against Minnesota, 23 against Wisconsin, 24 against Purdue and 31 against Michigan State.
Together, they're averaging 181 yards per game on the ground, though as a pair they haven't faced a top 10 defense like Penn State, which has allowed only one runner (Michigan's
Ohio State ranks 10th nationally in total defense and has one of the game's top linebacking duos in
If Ohio State can't stop the Penn State O-line from reaching the second level, it'll be a problem. Led by center
The Buckeyes did stiffen up against Michigan State, holding
"Penn State is a well-oiled machine. It's very sound in all facets of the game and the quarterback did a very good job of reading the defense and the running backs were very athletic, They did a very good job of running the ball and the offensive line is probably the best we've faced. They've got a lot of seniors on that offensive line and they're going to cause a lot of problems for a lot of people.
"Early on [against] us, [Clark] didn't throw the ball very much. When you have the ability to run with a quarterback who's versatile in both areas, it's very difficult because you have to prioritize what you want to stop first.
"[The wide receivers] have been around for a while so they know the system. They run the routes and they're very athletic. They cause a lot of problems because they can stretch the field or they can break off on sharp routes and they run good routes. The experience-level makes it hard to take care of them and keep them from doing what they expect to do with the football.
"[You have to] try and cover all the facets of their game. They do a great job in all areas: running the ball, passing the ball, play-action, running the quarterback, screens. They've done a good job with the offensive system and I think the players have adapted to it very well and it's tough on any defense when their cylinders are all clicking at the same time.
"It takes a total defensive effort in all areas of the game because they can exploit several different ways if you allow them to do that."