Penn State-Ohio State: Heavyweight coaching bout

ASSOCIATED PRESS Urban Meyer is 19-0 since taking over at Ohio State at the start of the 2012 season.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Urban Meyer is 19-0 since taking over at Ohio State at the start of the 2012 season.
Posted: October 25, 2013

STATE COLLEGE - Both were in less than ideal scenarios at historic programs, but midway through their second seasons at Penn State and Ohio State, respectively, it's safe to say situations have played out more than all right for Bill O'Brien and Urban Meyer.

The two head coaches will match gridiron wits for the second time tomorrow night (8 o'clock) when Penn State tries to notch the biggest win of O'Brien's career against Meyer's No. 4-ranked Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium.

"There's a guy that understands what he wants in a football team, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him," O'Brien said of Meyer. "I don't know him very well. I've gotten to know him [a little] over the last year and a half, but I think there's obvious respect there. Of course we want to go out there and win, and he wants to go out there and win."

When Penn State met Ohio State last season, it was deemed the "ineligibowl" because neither team was allowed to play in the postseason due to NCAA sanctions. On their way to a 12-0 season, the Buckeyes downed Penn State, 35-23.

While much has been made of Meyer's 19-game winning streak to start his tenure at Ohio State, the coach actually owns a personal 20-game winning streak, which started with a win in the 2011 Outback Bowl, his final game as Florida's head coach. The opponent for Meyer - who won two national titles with the Gators - on that New Year's Day: Penn State.

"He's smart, a smart guy. He's a mentally tough guy," O'Brien said. "He's won two national championships with different types of teams, in my opinion. He's obviously able to do it in different conferences. He's done it in the Southeastern Conference. He's done it [at Utah] in the WAC, he's done it successfully in the Big Ten."

Meyer has other connections to the Nittany Lions other than beating them in what turned out to be the final bowl game Joe Paterno coached. Meyer was once considered by many to be one of, it not the top candidate, to be Paterno's replacement.

That obviously did not happen, and it was O'Brien who took that role. And it was O'Brien who guided Penn State to an 8-4 record after the program was hit with harsh sanctions, and O'Brien who edged Meyer for title of 2012 Big Ten Coach of the Year.

"I do know a lot about Penn State and it doesn't surprise me that Penn State is doing well," Meyer told reporters at his weekly press conference. "I think the circumstances, once again, I don't want to speculate, because none of us are there, but a lot of people are surprised [that Penn State is doing well]. I don't act surprised. They've got a quality coach and it's a very quality school. And it's overcome a lot of adversity."

Meyer and Ohio State no longer are bowl ineligible, and the coach is not just setting his sights on a bowl game, but the national championship game. O'Brien, on the other hand, is still waging an uphill battle with scholarship reductions and a postseason ban.

As it stands now, O'Brien's team will not be eligible for postseason play until the 2016 season, but the Lions still could change the national-title landscape if they can pull off an upset in the "Horseshoe.''

"[O'Brien's] a good football coach," said Mike Vrabel, Ohio State's defensive line coach who spent two seasons as a player for the New England Patriots when O'Brien was an assitant. "He's going to do everything he can to keep that program where it's been for the last 50 or 60 years. I don't see that changing."

When: Tomorrow, 8 p.m.

Where: Ohio Stadium, Columbus


Radio: WNTP (990-AM, WNPV (1440-AM)

Records: Penn State 4-2, 1-1 Big Ten; Ohio State 7-0, 3-0


1. Christian Hackenberg to have a rude road welcome: It's hard to understate how impressive Penn State's 18-year-old signal-caller has been. He not only leads the Big Ten is passing yards per game (278.7), but Hackenberg led a last-minute, 80-yard touchdown drive in 23 seconds and no timeouts to tie a ranked opponent in his last outing. However, Hackenberg will not only be facing a raucous crowd of more than 100,000, but an Ohio State defense that Bill O'Brien called "the most athletic" Penn State has seen all season. Penn State is 4-0 when Hackenberg throws at least one interception this season, but that mark will be 4-1 if that happens tomorrow.

2. A whole lot of Braxton: Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller played his most efficient game of the season last week against Iowa, which spells trouble for the Penn State defense. Miller took control against Penn State in the second half last season, and the Lions can only hope to keep a lid on Miller for that long tomorrow. Even after a knee injury earlier in the season, Miller's feet looked fine against the Hawkeyes (102 rushing yards). And if the Lions can keep him in the pocket, they are looking at a player who is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes.

3. Corey "Philly" Brown to deliver: If Miller is completing that many passes, that means someone is catching them. And nobody has more receptions for the Buckeyes than Upper Darby native Corey Brown. The 6-foot wideout has 33 catches for 453 yards and six touchdowns this season - which includes a 58-yard score last week. "Philly" Brown, a Cardinal O'Hara High product, got his nickname because the Buckeyes have another Corey Brown, a defensive back, on their roster. The other Brown is from Western Pennsylvania, and has been dubbed "Pitt" Brown.

Prediction: Ohio State 38, Penn State 21. Beating Michigan in four overtimes was a huge win for Penn State in the grand scheme of things, but it will be the only one the team gets in the month of October. Miller and Ohio State's vaunted rushing attack will be too much for the Lions' defense to hang with, especially in the second half. If Penn State can't establish a running game (which it didn't against the Buckeyes last season), the weight on Hackenberg's shoulders will be too much.

On Twitter: @SPianovich

comments powered by Disqus