Penn State at Ohio State: 4 things to watch for on Saturday

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 14: Quarterback J.T. Barrett
LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 14: Quarterback J.T. Barrett /
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Four things to watch for as Ohio State hosts Penn State in the biggest Big Ten contest of the season.

The most important game in the Big Ten Conference is Saturday afternoon in Columbus.

The Horseshoe will play host to a “Black Out” with the Penn State Nittany Lions coming to town.

On such a national stage with a path to the conference title on the line, what should you watch for in Penn State versus Ohio State?

Simply put, can Ohio State stop Saquon Barkley?

What else are we going to lead with? Barkley  is one of the top running backs in the country and will be the engine the drives the Penn State offense forward. He leads the team in touchdowns and is coming off a game where he shredded a well thought of Michigan defense. Containing Barkley is where the Ohio State defensive game plan begins and ends. Believe it or not, Barkley is the third top 20 national rusher the Ohio State Buckeyes have seen this year, joining Ahmad Bradshaw of Army and Lexington Thomas of UNLV.

In the last two season, Barkley has handled the Buckeye defense. In his first ever game against Ohio State in 2015, he carried the ball 26 times for 194 yards as a freshman. In 2016, Barkley carried the ball only 12 times, but for 99 yards. The only thing he hasn’t done is find the end zone. His 7.7 yards per carry against Ohio State over his career is more than his numbers against Michigan (5.2), Wisconsin (4.4), Indiana (2.2), and Michigan State (4.0). Only Purdue, Rutgers, and Iowa have allowed more yards per carry to Barkley.

What should Ohio State do to limit Barkley’s efforts? It all starts in the trenches to limit the running lanes for Barkley.

With Michael Hill off suspension and Tracey Sprinkle playing the best football of his career, the interior of the line is in good shape. But look for Ohio State’s linebackers to step up big in this one.

Controlling the line is one thing, but Barkley is a tough runner and will be able to find room. Jerome Baker, Dante Booker, and the rest of the linebackers are going to have to fly up into the running lanes and keep Barkley from gaining a head of steam. It also helps Larry Johnson seems to have his unit focused: