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Penn State's path to a 6-0 recordseemed clear after the Nittany Lions started 4-0 on the strength of road rallies against Central Florida and Rutgers.
But a lot has changed in the last three weeks.
Northwestern hammered PSU 29-6 at Beaver Stadium on Sept. 27 and Michigan rallied past a punchless Lions offense 18-13 Saturday night at Michigan Stadium.
Now James Franklin's team, despite two bye weeks in a three-week span, is looking at a 4-3 record unless the Lions (4-2) can somehow fix a sagging offense that has scored 19 points in the last two games.
Ohio State is next for PSU in two weeks at Beaver Stadium. And the Buckeyes, under Urban Meyer, have dominated the Lions, winning the last two games by a combined 98-37 score. A year ago, OSU won 63-14 in Columbus.
The Buckeyes (4-1), coming off a bye week, host Rutgers Saturday night and Meyer's offense appears to have found its stride since a 35-21 Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech at home.
Freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, pressed into starting duty when star Braxton Miller was lost to a season-ending injury in the preseason, has thrown for 1,354 yards and 17 touchdowns. Ohio State has scored 112 points in its last two wins over Cincinnati (50-28) and Maryland (52-24).
And Meyer's defensive front, led by end Joey Bosa and tackle Michael Bennett and coached by former PSU assistant Larry Johnson Sr., is formidable.
Much more formidable than the Michigan defense, which limited PSU to 214 total yards and sacked Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg six times.
Pass protection continues to be a huge problem for PSU. Hackenberg has been sacked 20 times in six games and he's absorbed numerous other big hits while getting rid of the football.
The Lions' ground game averaged 1.5 yards per try against the Wolverines, another indication that Franklin's O-line continues to get pushed around.
From a possible 6-0 start to the reality of 4-2, and PSU will be facing its most difficult test to date in two weeks.
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