THE OHIO State Buckeyes and the Penn State Nittany Lions will battle Saturday to determine which will continue to lead in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten.
Unfortunately, the Leaders Division is all the higher either team can go because of NCAA sanctions. As a result of the sanctions, neither team can compete in the Big Ten championship game. Both currently are undefeated in the the Big Ten.
The winner of Saturday's game will have to continue its winning ways, however, to emerge as Leaders Division leader at the end of the season.
OSU's record this season is 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten while Penn State is 5-2 and 3-0.
With a chance to remain undefeated in the Big Ten and to be a favorite to win the Leaders Division trophy, the two rivals undoubtedly will do their best while aiming for the end zone.
Penn State was known for its fast tempo in last week's game when handing a defeat to the Iowa, 38-14. In fact, Penn State head football coach Bill O'Brien, formerly quarterback and offensive line coach for the New England Patriots, mentioned the team's NASCAR no-huddle offense.
And OSU's victory last Saturday over the Purdue Boilermakers with a 29-22 score in overtime fails to tell the whole story. It doesn't reveal the exhilaration and excitement felt by the Buckeye fans as well as the coaches and the team with the unexpected scoring with only seconds remaining in the fourth quarter as well as the action in overtime. Even OSU head football coach Urban Meyer was pumping his fist in front of the OSU Marching Band and student section.
I'd be willing to bet that Sunday's victory meal, a tradition established by Meyer, was a bit more joyous than usual, especially also since QB Braxton Miller wasn't injured severely.
Meyer said that he coached against Nittany Lions QB Matthew McGloin in the Outback Bowl a couple of years ago, adding,
"He's much improved. He's always been a very accurate passer. The guys around him are playing better as well. Their defense has always been good. ... The defensive front is very strong, active guys. One is a great player, No. 47 (defensive lineman Jordan Hall). And (linebacker Michael) Mauti is a great player as well. So we have to be on our game."
Mauti and Penn State's Gerald Hodges are semifinalists for the 2012 Butkus Award, and Hall this week was named as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career.
O'Brien when asked about Meyer's comment that Penn State had some future NFL players on that team replied, "Let me say, first of all, that obviously I have a lot of respect for coach Meyer and what he's done in his coaching career and what he's doing at Ohio State. I can tell you Ohio State is the most talented team we've played to this point in the season. ... They're 8-0. And they have very, very good players at every position. As far as our own team, I do believe that we have some guys that we think can play on Sundays. Having experience in the NFL, I have an idea what I'm talking about there. ...
"Coaching has something to do with it, but at the end of the day it's about the players going out there and playing well. If you don't have good players, you're not going to win. It's all about good players."
O'Brien thinks one of the keys to the game is for Penn State to do its best to contain and tackle Braxton Miller.
Ohio State officially is listing the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions series as even with 13 games each.
Noting this is the 28th meeting between the two rivals, game notes from Penn State list the series totals (with OSU leading) as 14-8, accounting for wins vacated by PSU.
It would help figures and records tremendously if the NCAA would keep its hands off and would not vacate games. Where I come from, if a game is played, it exists.
All the vacating in the world can't erase one iota of the game itself.
Penn State is among 17 teams in the nation with an active winning streak of five games or more. The Nittany Lions defeated Navy, 34-7; Temple, 24-13; Illinois, 35-7; Northwestern, 39-28; and Iowa, 38-14, after opening the season by losing to Ohio University when the score was 24-14 and Virginia, 17-16.
The Buckeyes are one of only 11 unbeaten Football Bowl Subdivision teams in addition to being the only one that's 8-0. Other undefeated teams in the FBS are Alabama, Oregon, Florida, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Louisville, Rutgers and Ohio University, which are all 7-0; and Oregon State, 6-0.
Saturday's game to be televised by ESPN will begin at 5:30 p.m.