Penn St.-Ohio St. Preview
(AP) - The two-quarterback system with Cardale Jones driving Ohio State across the field until yielding to J.T. Barrett in the red zone is not quite a permanent solution after one game for the top-ranked Buckeyes.
Coach Urban Meyer, however, said it's close.
"I think so, but I'm not writing it in Sharpie yet," he said Monday. "We'll see how it goes."
So far it has gone well for Ohio State, which could again put the approach to good use as it looks to remain unbeaten Saturday at home against Penn State.
The Buckeyes (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) efficiently scored touchdowns on all six trips inside the red zone in a 49-28 win against Maryland last Saturday. In its previous five games, Ohio State had six TDs and six field goals in 16 red-zone situations.
"I thought it worked outstanding," quarterbacks coach/co-offensive coordinator Tim Beck said. "I was proud of both guys. Obviously, it's not easy but they're both great friends and great competitors."
Meyer reiterated that Jones is still the starter because Barrett has not beaten him for the job. However, Barrett's running ability and read option capabilities are better.
"Cardale can certainly run," Meyer said. "But when you have that threat (with Barrett), you saw it Saturday, you have to defend that now."
Meyer has gone through this before. In 2006, he would insert Tim Tebow near the goal line in relief of Chris Leak and went on to win a national championship for Florida with a 41-14 rout of Ohio State in the BCS title game.
Barrett took over for Jones and led the Buckeyes to five touchdowns against Maryland, rushing for scores from 3, 1 and 18 yards. Meanwhile, the possibility that Barrett will pull up and throw also creates problems for the secondary and frees the receivers.
"When you establish a presence to have a dual-threat guy back there, sometimes it changes the coverages," Beck said, "which now allows more single one-on-one type things as opposed to trying to fight in tight zone windows."
The other red-zone score was a 19-yard pass from Jones to Braxton Miller. It came on the first play after Miller made a diving catch for 33 yards on a pass by Jones, who finished 21 for 28 with 291 yards and two touchdowns.
The Nittany Lions (5-1, 2-0) may determine how often Barrett is used this weekend. Penn State is ranked 10th in the nation in total defense (275.7 yards per game) and tied for 11th in scoring defense (14.3).
"This is a whole other challenge," Meyer said. "It's every week. Their defense is probably going to have something to say about that.
"It's a very good defense we're facing."
Nittany Lions senior safety Jordan Lucas understands that he and most of his teammates won't get another opportunity like this. He was still in high school the last time Penn State played a No. 1 opponent.
Penn State lost to Alabama then and hasn't fared well against the country's best since, going 3-12 against ranked teams since that 2010 loss at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
"It's the opportunity of a lifetime," Lucas said. "Ohio State is the top team in college football right now. I'm sure they feel like they have a target on their back and teams want to take them down and that's a great challenge."
The Nittany Lions' defense leads the country with 25 sacks and is in the top 10 in tackles for loss (53) and turnover margin (plus-8), affording the offense space to grow.
"I think we're resilient," coach James Franklin said. "I think we have found ways to be successful each week, different ways of doing it. We're getting better."
The Buckeyes are planning to "black out" Ohio Stadium - an opposite take on Penn State's White Out - and will debut new, all-black uniforms.
With five straight home games, and the season opener played in Philadelphia where Penn State fans made up a majority of the crowd, tackle Andrew Nelson is looking forward to being the bad guys for once.
"I think that's something that we're definitely all embracing," Nelson said. "Obviously we know that we're hated by the Ohio State community but we have a great opportunity this weekend to go in there and play with the best of our ability."
Nelson, who was on the 2013 team that was thrashed 63-14 in Columbus, knows what mistake-filled football feels like. He knows what it took to close the gap last year when Penn State bounced back from a 17-point halftime deficit to force double overtime before the Buckeyes won at Beaver Stadium.
"We can move the ball on them offensively and we can definitely stick with this team," Nelson said. "We don't fear anybody."