Nittany Lions confident they can hang with No. 2 Buckeyes
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Ohio State coaches and players are plenty familiar with the difficult environment that awaits them in Happy Valley.
The No. 2 Buckeyes (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) survived against Wisconsin in a hostile, raucous atmosphere last week, similar to the one they'll face in their third-straight road game against Penn State (4-2, 2-1), where Ohio State will have to deal with more than 100,000 fans clad in white.
''There's a lot of energy right now in that program,'' Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. ''Wins do that for you. They played their best game, obviously, against Maryland, all the way around.''
It's a trend that'll have to continue for Penn State - nearly three touchdown underdogs - to have a shot against a team that's 30-1 in Big Ten regular season games under Meyer.
Ohio State brings the nation's third-ranked scoring defense and fourth-ranked offense into Beaver Stadium where the Buckeye's are 4-0 since 2005. But save for Wisconsin last week, Penn State is the only other team that's pushed Ohio State to overtime since Meyer took over, falling in two extra periods in 2014.
''The margin of error when you play a team like this is so small, you've got to be almost perfect on your details,'' Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley said.
That's a lesson Penn State's young lineup learned the hard way in their previous game against a top 5 team, a blowout to then-No. 4 Michigan where the Nittany Lions managed just three first downs in the first half.
''That's something where the margin of error showed up,'' McSorley said.
But McSorley's taken a page out of Ohio State counterpart J.T. Barrett's book lately. His 26 rushes for 154 yards and two touchdowns the past two games coupled with his ability to buy time with his feet so his receivers can get deep has led to big plays down the field.
It's evidence Penn State's offense has turned a corner since the Michigan game and is confident it can hang with Ohio State.
''I think we would be extremely comfortable if it's a shootout,'' tight end Mike Gesicki said. ''I think we would be extremely comfortable if it's going to be one big play that changes the game.''
RESPECTING BARKLEY: Ohio State's defense has allowed just one 100-yard rusher so far but hasn't faced one as dynamic as Saquon Barkley.
Leading the Big Ten with nine touchdowns, Barkley has 51 carries over the past two games and ran for 202 yards against Maryland.
''He's probably one of the top running backs in the nation, if not the top running back in the nation,'' Ohio State safety Malik Hooker said. ''He's got a lot of vision, makes a lot of jump cuts and stuff like that, and once he does that and gets a lot of teams out of their coverage, it's hard to get him down because he's got a lot of speed, too.''
LINEBACKERS BACK: Both teams are healthier at linebacker.
Penn State had seven out with injuries before starters Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda returned to practice on Tuesday. They'll play after missing the last five and four games with leg and hand injuries, respectively.
Ohio State's Dante Booker, who's missed the last five games with a knee injury, is also expected to return.
END OF THE LINE: Penn State will likely use a combination of Paris Palmer and Chasz Wright to plug the hole left by Andrew Nelson's season-ending knee injury and keep Ohio State's surging defensive line at bay. The Buckeyes had four sacks last week including a game-sealing swarming of Alex Hornbook in overtime.
GUSTY EVENING: Heavy rain and flooding Thursday evening into Friday around State College forced the athletic department to close a handful of parking lots prior to the game. While the rain is expected to stop before kickoff, wind could pick up with local forecasters predicting possible 40-mph gusts at game time.
TOUGH COMPETITION: A win for Penn State would be big to snap out of a long slump against the nation's best teams. Penn State is 0-9 against top 5 teams since 2005 - with four of those losses coming to Ohio State - and is 0-7 against the Buckeyes, Michigan and Michigan State since James Franklin arrived.