Ohio State’s offense has achieved the offensive balance that eluded it last year. The Buckeyes are 12th in passing yards nationally and 18th in rushing.
But that’s not the only measure of success the Buckeyes want to see. To them, it’s more a matter of imposing their will, and now that will get tougher.
The schedule ramps up starting this week against No. 2 Penn State, and the weather has started to turn. The forecast for Saturday calls for a high in the mid-50s with a 100 percent chance of rain.
“It’s Big Ten football weather,” Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said.
He was hoping it would rain during practice Tuesday, but it didn’t.
“As the weather changes and you play these great teams down the stretch, it's when you really see if you have balance,” Wilson said. “To me, it’s not about numbers and ‘Is it 50-50 in yards?’ ”
He said it was a positive sign that the Buckeyes were undeterred by a brisk wind at Nebraska in their last game and still passed effectively. The Buckeyes offense has faltered in recent years, particularly against Michigan State, in unfavorable weather.
Wilson said that can’t be an excuse.
“What if the elements are such that you can’t execute the passing game?” he said. “You still have to move the football. Balance is when you have to run, you can run, and when you have to throw, you can throw. You have to find ways to score points.”
Buckeyes defensive linemen have extra motivation to win this weekend. They know how much the game means to line coach Larry Johnson, who coached at Penn State for 18 years.
When it was clear that Johnson would not be hired after the turmoil of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, he decided to move on. Urban Meyer hired him in 2014 and he quickly became a revered part of the staff.
“He really doesn’t want to lose to them again,” Nick Bosa said. “He doesn’t like that team anymore. We definitely want to do it for him — and for our season, obviously.”
Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano also is a former Penn State assistant. He downplayed any extra motivation facing his old team.
“I’ve been coaching for a long time,” he said. “There are a lot of games that could be special. It’s special because they’re No. 2 in the country and we’re vying for a championship.”