COLUMBUS, Ohio - Five things to look for as No. 3 Penn State tries to stay alive in the national championship race against No. 10 Ohio State.
No. 1: Get off to good start
The Lions can't afford to come out sluggish or flat like they did against Michigan and Illinois. They were down early in both those games and had the luxury of playing at home to help them come back.
Ohio State's players and fans will be fired up in their first night home game in three years, so Penn State must be focused early and play its game rather than get buried by the emotions.
The Lions won't win the game in the first quarter, but they could lose it if they're not ready to play.
No. 2: Finish drives and score
No. 3 PSU (8-0) at No. 9 Ohio State (7-1)
Kickoff: 8 p.m.
Line: Penn State is a 2-point favorite.
Updated PSU injury/status report: Safety Anthony Scirrotto (concussion) practiced Thursday and should play; LB Bani Gbadyu (ankle) is probable.
Penn State's offense may need to win this game because the Buckeyes should be able to put up points. Red-zone efficiency and Kevin Kelly's leg will be vital as the Lions can't let scoring opportunities slip away.
Ohio State leads the Big Ten in rushing defense, allowing just 97.1 yards per game, so Evan Royster may have a tough time. If PSU is going to win, it may have to be with Daryll Clark's arm.
The coaches have been aggressive with the playcalling all season and must continue to be today, letting Clark throw the ball downfield. Clark also should be turned loose running the ball, particularly to the outside on third-and-short situations.
If there are any tricks left in the Spread HD package, they should be broken out today. The option, Derrick Williams throwing the ball, Pat Devlin under center with Clark in the backfield, whatever it takes, give it a whirl.
No. 3: Contain Pryor outside
Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor, a load at 6-foot-6, 235 pounds, is most dangerous when he gets the snap and takes off for the corner.
Penn State defensive ends Maurice Evans - who likely will play more than Aaron Maybin because he's better against the run - and Josh Gaines will have to get off their blockers and seal the outside running lanes to force Pryor to the middle.
Pryor has good accuracy throwing the short ball, but he shouldn't be able to beat the Lions with his arm downfield. Don't be surprised, though, if Jim Tressel brings in backup quarterback Todd Boeckman for a handful of snaps with Pryor in the backfield or the slot.
No. 4: Shut down Wells
Pryor gets all the attention, but Ohio State can win this game if tailback Beanie Wells has a big day. He gained 133 yards on 25 carries against PSU last season.
Penn State's linebackers must do a better job than they did against Michigan's Brandon Minor early last week. If Josh Hull isn't effective against the run, or Tyrell Sales for that matter, the coaching staff can't hesitate to bring in Michael Mauti and Bani Gbadyu.
No. 5: Protect the ball
Turnovers are always crucial in big games, and the Lions can't afford them today.
Clark has been outstanding with his arm, throwing only two interceptions, but he's often careless with the ball and has fumbled seven times.
The Buckeyes are fourth in the country in turnover margin, so they know how to steal the ball and how to protect it.
Prediction: Penn State 31, Ohio State 27
Cory Giger is at 949-7031 and email@example.com.