This has been a problem for the Buckeyes all season, and it could be a bigger issue this week given the opponent. Ohio State has been outscored 56-51 overall in the first quarter while the Nittany Lions enjoy a 66-0 advantage in The Opening 15 minutes.
Starting quickly this week could also help quiet what can be a raucous Beaver Stadium crowd.
Putting a finger on what has led to the Buckeyes' lethargic beginnings has been difficult, but offensive coordinator Tom Herman quipped they are 0-9 in guessing how teams will defend them based on film.
2. Who wins the turnover battle?
This is often a pivotal part of a game, but this week in particular it could play a big role in determining the outcome.
The Lions lead the Big Ten in turnover margin and are tied for 12th in the nation in giveaways with seven. Key to that stat is the play of quarterback Matt McGloin, who has thrown only two interceptions this season despite leading the Big Ten in pass attempts. He was turnover-prone earlier in his career, including a loss at Ohio State in which he threw a pair of picks that were returned for touchdowns and a five-interception game against a Florida team coached by Urban Meyer. Both of those games came two years ago, however.
Ohio State has not protected the ball as well, having lost it nearly twice as many (13) times on the year. That hasn't bitten the Buckeyes in the win-loss column yet, but it could this weekend.
3. Can the Ohio State cornerbacks contain Allen Robinson?
Robinson leads the Big Ten in catches per game (6.7) and is second in yards per game (80.4) after playing sparingly under the previous coaching staff.
The Buckeyes have not traditionally matched up one player against a top receiver, so both Roby and Howard figure to get a shot at him. Robinson is not Penn State's only weapon in the passing game, as nine different Lions caught passes last week against Iowa.
4. How effective will Braxton Miller be?
The Buckeyes' star sophomore quarterback has answered the bell in previous big games, and they will need him to again this week.
He is scheduled to return from a nasty looking hit that kept him out of the end of the win against Purdue last weekend, but the coaching staff says they will not dial back their use of his talented legs.
While he continues to develop consistency as a passer, Miller could be the most dangerous runner in the Big Ten. However, he has looked tentative to run at times, perhaps preferring to do damage with his arm. Striking a proper balance is key to the effectiveness of the Ohio State offense, but he has often proven the catalyst when the Buckeyes have it in gear.
5. Will Penn State try to scheme up the Buckeyes?
Nittany Lions head coach Bill O'Brien comes to Happy Valley from the NFL, where game-planning for specific players is more common than in college.
It is not hard to imagine him trying to take advantages in any weaknesses he might perceive in the Ohio State defense, such as a banged up linebacker corps.
O'Brien has multiple talented tight ends at his disposal, including Kyle Carter (29 catches for 364 yards) and Matt Lehman (13 catches for 163 yards), if he wants to attack the Buckeyes with the inside passing game.