Saturday Spotlight: Penn State at Ohio State

In week two of our series on the best games to watch on Saturdays this fall, .NET's Scott Eklund focuses on a Big Ten tilt that features some outstanding NFL talent. Ohio State hosts Penn State this weekend in Columbus, Ohio and with a plethora of draft prospects on hand, "draftniks" should tune in to see some players who will have their names called in April's Draft.

Two of the more storied programs in the Big Ten face off this weekend when Joe Paterno leads his Nittany Lions into the "Horseshoe" to take on Jim Tressel and the Ohio State Buckeyes. The field will be littered with NFL-talent and Seahawks fans should keep an eye out for some players on both squads that could hear their name called next April when Seattle makes one of their selections.

Ohio State is ranked number one in the country and they appear poised to run through the Big Ten with their matchup against Michigan in the annual "Big Game" paving the way for either one to possibly end up in the national championship game, but Penn State is loaded with talent and they could be a stumbling block for the Buckeyes.

Penn State's talent mainly lies in their sophomore and junior classes. They still have some solid players and three great ones (see below) that will get NFL looks this year, but in 2008 and 2009 they could see double-digit draft choices exit their program.

Here is a breakdown of the players to keep an eye on when these two behemoths take the field on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (Eastern).

Ohio State

QB Troy Smith – Has really burst on the scene since the end of the 2004 season when he had a breakout game against Michigan. Smith had a couple off-field incidents that caused him to miss the Alamo Bowl at the end of the 2004 season and the first game of the 2005 season, but since then, it's been nothing but positives for the fifth-year senior. The only thing keeping Smith out of the top 10 selections in next year's draft is his size (6-1, 215). He's got an above-average arm, has really improved his accuracy and he's in the mold of the new breed of quarterbacks that are threats with their legs as well as their arms. He's also a great leader. Should go in the second-half of the first round.

WR Ted Ginn Jr. – Teams are looking for wideouts with bigger-bodies, but there's no denying that Ginn is a playmaker from anywhere on the field. His 2005 teammate, Santonio Holmes was drafted by Pittsburgh late in the first round (the 25th selection) and Ginn is a much more explosive wideout. He's only 6-0, 180 pounds, but he can fly (4.3 speed), he has excellent hands and his open-field skills are second-to-none. He can return punts as well. His only drawback, like most young wideouts, is that he doesn't run the crispest routes, but that's something that should be easily rectified with good NFL coaching. Ginn is only a junior, but many expect him to leave this year. A top 5 talent.

DT Quinn Pitcock – Pitcock was overshadowed by Ohio State's outstanding linebacker corps in 2005, but this year he's made his presence felt along the Buckeye defensive line. He's an excellent interior pass-rusher, already posting four sacks in three games, and he uses his quickness to break down blocking angles. He isn't super-strong, but he holds up well against the run and he's fiery with a nasty attitude. Right now he projects as a late-first rounder, but he could move up after solid combine and individual workouts.

RB Antonio Pittman – Pittman hasn't been as appreciated as he should have been. His problem was that he came after Maurice Clarrett and before freshman-phenom Chris Wells. He's only a junior this year, but the guess is that with a solid 2006 campaign he will likely bolt for the NFL. He's a strong inside runner who is able to lower his shoulder when he needs to, but he also has a decent burst to the outside, able to get the edge when the play calls for it. He isn't shifty, but he has good vision and that forward-lean you like to see in a running back.

Other Ohio State players to watch:

QB Justin Zwick (6-4, 225)
C Doug Datish (6-5, 295)
LB Mike D'Andrea (6-3, 245)
WR Anthony Gonzalez (6-0, 195) **underclassman
OT Kirk Barton (6-6, 310) **underclassman
TE Marcel Frost (6-5, 255) **underclassman



Penn State

RB Tony Hunt – Wow, talk about a dynamic running back. Hunt is the best they've had in "Happy Valley" since Larry Johnson was carrying the rock for the Nittany Lions. Hunt is big (6-2, 220) with good speed. He's also got good pad-level, meaning he gets low on defenders allowing him the get under their pads when he runs inside, and he plays with a chip on his shoulder. Instead of absorbing punishment, Hunt dishes it out. He's also a pretty good receiver out of the backfield and has improved his blocking skills.

OT Levi Brown – Brown is a mountain of a man at 6-5, 330 and he's got quick feet and a long reach to keep pass-rushers at bay. In Penn State's system, he isn't asked to stay out on a island as much as you might think, so it's still debatable how solid of a pass-blocker he really is, but he's got all the necessary skills and athleticism you could want in a tackle. He's probably a better fit on the right side in the NFL, but he could even move inside to play guard if the need arises. Definitely a first-round selection at this point.

LB Paul Posluszny – Probably the top NFL-talent on the Nittany Lion team, Posluszny is a prospect who defines the term "football player". He doesn't get caught up in traffic on running plays and is able to track down backs almost anywhere on the field. He's very instinctual as well, able to diagnose plays before offense snaps the ball. Posluszny doesn't have great speed and he isn't very big (6-2, 230), but he's everything a team could want in a leader for their defense. He plays on the outside for Penn State, but he may be a better fit inside – ala Lofa Tatupu. Most likely a mid-first round selection.

Other Penn State players to watch:

LB Dan Conner (6-3, 220) **underclassman
LB Tim Shaw (6-1, 233)
DT Ed Johnson (6-2, 296)
RB Austin Scott (6-0, 215)





Other games to watch this weekend: Wisconsin at Michigan (6); Arizona State (22) at California (21); Boston College (20) at N.C. State; Notre Dame (12) at Michigan State; North Carolina at Clemson (19).

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