This is the ultimate test of a quarterback. Playing caretaker is far easier when not pushing the issue, and Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor has done more of the former than the latter since taking over as starting quarterback.
That is despite assurances from both the freshman and his coaches that Pryor is ready to let the ball fly when the time is right.
"We're trying to move the ball and win the ball game whatever way we have to," OSU quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels explained.
An underdog in its own stadium Saturday night, Ohio State figures to need all the bullets in the chamber to take down the nation's third-ranked team.
2. What factor will each team's return game play?
Making the case that Penn State's Derrick Williams is the best return man in the Big Ten is not difficult. He leads the Big Ten in kickoff return average (32.2 yards per return) and is fifth in punt return average (10.3). He has already returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and has housed a punt as well.
Ohio State counters with Ray Small, who leads the Big Ten in punt return average (14.0 yards per return) and has a touchdown of his own.
"We have to make sure if there are any big special teams made, they're made by us," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said, "We have to just be rock solid on our special teams because offensively and defensively people are going to do what they do and see how we match up and so forth.
"Never underestimate the impact of special teams."
3. Which team will control the line of scrimmage? No mystery here. The team that wins in the trenches will probably gain the inside track to the Big Ten championship. Calling Penn State's combination of offensive and defensive lines the best Ohio State will have faced this season, especially when experience is taken into consideration, is not a stretch.
While USC was relatively green up front, Penn State has four offensive linemen who started every game last season, and that foursome – tackles Gerald Cadogan and Dennis Landolt, guard Rich Ohrnberger and center A.Q. Shipley – have combined to start 111 college games.
"Things happen quick and they are very powerful," Ohio State defensive coordinator and line coach Jim Heacock said. "These guys may not be big, but they've got great power. They've got great explosion. When they hit you, they pop you. And they play low."
The defensive line is less seasoned but not short on talent. Ohio State's lines have performed unevenly this year but are by most accounts on the upswing, thanks at least in part to the return to health of a veteran on each side of the ball – offensive guard Steve Rehring and defensive tackle Todd Denlinger.
4. What about turnovers?
Ohio State has been outstanding in the turnover department this season. The Buckeyes are fourth in the nation (plus-12), a marked improvement over last season when they were minus-3. That is meaningful because Ohio State is 42-3 under Tressel when winning the turnover battle with the last loss coming the last time Ohio State hosted a night game: Texas, 2005.
The Nittany Lions have been good in the turnover department as well (plus-7).
The last time a team won the turnover battle but lost the game in this series was 2002.
5. What effect can the crowd have?
Ohio State has taken part in lots of night games this decade but only two at home. The Buckeyes swamped a higher-ranked Northwestern squad in 2001 and lost an epic to eventual national champion Texas in 2005.
After watching so many other groups of fans take their turn at creating a disruptive atmosphere for the Buckeyes, watching what Ohio State fans can produce this weekend will be interesting.
"I expect it to be loud and fun and energetic and I hope it's very difficult for the away team to hear," Tressel said, wearing a scarlet sport coat Tuesday at his weekly meeting with the press. "I hope it's a tough environment. Now, good teams enjoy that too when they're away from home. I know we've enjoyed going into those scenarios (but it) doesn't make them easy."
"It's going to be exciting seeing what the Buckeye fans can do and how rowdy they'll be when they have a full day to prepare," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "Ohio Stadium will be rocking. It will be fun. It will be really, really important for us."