COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A look at the hot topics and pressing concerns as Ohio State prepares to hit the road for a trip to Penn State on Saturday (TV: ESPN, 5:30 p.m.).
On the line: There might not be a postseason appearance waiting for either team, but the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions have set themselves up for the biggest game in the regular season and enter the weekend as perhaps the two best teams in the Big Ten. Wisconsin has put itself back in the division picture, but with both Ohio State and Penn State unbeaten in the league right now, the winner will be in prime position for some hardware -- even if it can't represent the Leaders Division when the regular season ends.
Hold on tight: Neither team has much of an affinity for easing off the pedal, and the breakneck, uptempo offenses both teams will employ could lead to some fireworks. The Nittany Lions have completely rebuilt their passing game under coach Bill O'Brien, who was worked wonders with Matt McGloin at quarterback and watched him develop into the leading passer in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes have taken a different approach, focusing on their running game and averaging nearly 250 yards on the ground. But rushing or passing, neither team will make it easy for a defense to catch a breather.
Bouncing back: The Buckeyes survived a quarter and an overtime without Braxton Miller, but that was against much lighter competition and isn't something they are really in a hurry to try for a full game on the road. The Ohio State quarterback checked out just fine after his visit to the hospital during last week's win over Purdue, though he's apparently still dealing with soreness in his neck caused by the way he was rammed to the turf after a 37-yard carry. The Buckeyes need more rushes like his last one against the Boilermakers, but they could obviously do without the way it ended.
Back to basics: A tricky play and a communication breakdown in coverage produced yet another big play allowed by the Ohio State defense. Since it came on the first snap of the game, it looked like more would be on the way. But the patchwork unit responded after that, tinkering with its rotation on the line to get Noah Spence involved rushing the passer, letting Nathan Williams do some work at linebacker and continuing to get significant production from sophomore Ryan Shazier at the second level. Ohio State is still banged up and thin on defense, but the way it finished off the win over Purdue looked more like what the program expects on that side of the ball.
Mr. Smith: A week without a touchdown has been too many for Devin Smith. So far this season, he's bounced back from every outing where he was held without a score with at least one visit to the end zone, and the sophomore has also made a habit of delivering those big catches in timely situations. Against California, he nabbed the game-winner in the fourth quarter. Two weeks later, he ended his short drought with the go-ahead catch at Michigan State. After coming up empty the next game, he delivered two meaningful touchdowns against Indiana. If the trend holds, Penn State could have its hands full.