OSU Schedule Countdown: No. 4

With Ohio State's fall camp just weeks away, BuckeyeSports.com is ranking the most anticipated games on the schedule. Penn State is next up on the list at No. 4.

Every great headlining act and heavyweight fight can benefit from a strong opener or undercard. In Penn State, Ohio State may get a game that helps set the stage for its highly anticipated regular-season finish against Michigan State and Michigan.

The Nittany Lions have non-conference games against Temple, Buffalo, San Diego State and Army, and their first two conference games are against Rutgers and Indiana. They’ll be favored in each of those, often overwhelmingly, and running the table would make Penn State bowl eligible by early October. What comes next is the hard part.

There’s a pretty good chance that the Nittany Lions start 6-0, but game seven comes against Ohio State on the road. With an 8 p.m. kickoff set, expect Penn State to get a taste of the type of atmosphere that nearly sunk OSU's season last fall in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions don't have the recent success of Michigan State and don't inspire the hatred that Michigan does, but they've been enough of a thorn in Ohio State's side that it won't be hard to differentiate this crowd from that of, say, the game against Maryland.

Penn State isn't yet back to the level that would elevate this meeting to one of the most anticipated games on the schedule, but a fight between two undefeated teams would be a welcome undercard for Buckeye fans before the final two weeks of the regular season bring the main event.

No. 4: Penn State
Nickname: Nittany Lions
Conference: Big Ten
Stadium: Beaver Stadium (106,572)
Head coach: James Franklin (second year, 7-6)
Record against Ohio State: 13-17
Returning starters: eight offense, seven defense
2014 record: 7-6 (2-6 Big Ten)
Scout.com recruiting rankings: No. 13 (2015), No. 25 (2014), No. 44 (2013), No. 51 (2012), No. 34 (2011)
Who to watch: QB Christian Hackenberg, WR DaeSean Hamilton, S Jordan Lucas, DT Anthony Zettel, DT Austin Johnson

Why This Matchup Could Be Higher:
If the PSU offensive line can actually keep Hackenberg upright this year, the Lions will have a puncher’s chance against top teams. The Penn State name is a big draw on its own (although OSU-PSU seems to mean more to the Nits than it does to the Buckeyes), and a hot start on their end would send the pregame hype through the roof.

Why This Matchup Could Be Lower:
The anticipation levels of this game essentially hinge on the Nittany Lions coming to Ohio Stadium with a spotless record. A Penn State loss before Oct. 17 would take some of the wind out of the sails of this matchup, but it’s still one of the best home game options for Buckeye fans this season.

Previous stories
No. 10 Hawaii, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan
No. 9 Illinois
No. 8 Rutgers
No. 7 Maryland
No. 6 Indiana
No. 5 Minnesota

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