Dugan: What I’m Watching For This Weekend

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Photo: Jamie Sabau | Getty Images

Well, we learned a couple of things last week. JT Barrett’s liability days are behind him (and yes, I am sticking to my stance that he was at one point a liability to Ohio State—check the numbers), Saquon Barkley is no longer in the lead for the Heisman, and James Franklin choked. Oh, that was just for one game. We learned that Jim Harbaugh is planning for the future, and rightfully so, by pulling John O’Korn, Northwestern continues to Northwestern their season, and the Big Ten is still the best conference in the country. Let’s get November football started, here’s what I’m looking for this week.

What is Penn State made of?

After their first legitimate test of the year, Penn State played well for a decent portion of the game against Ohio State. But when they didn’t play well, they didn’t play well at all. James Franklin was reluctant to use Saquon Barkley to run out the clock—hang on, this has to be addressed.

After the game, Franklin said “We’re not able to consistently run the ball at the end of games.”

…really?

This is concerning. There is absolutely zero reason why Penn State, of all teams, should struggle to run the football, ever. And if they think it’s going to be easier this weekend against Michigan State, they’re in trouble.

Barkley couldn’t get his running game going (again) and averaged less than 3 yards per carry for the second time this season. If he can’t run well against Michigan State, the Nittany Lions are going to be in a lot of trouble. If this team can’t establish and maintain a running game against some of the Big Ten’s best defenses, they have no business being near the college football playoff. Additionally, their defensive front struggled to get to JT Barrett, and once the Buckeyes made some defensive adjustments, Penn State relied too much on the big play to move their offense.

We will learn this weekend whether or not this is a playoff-caliber team as they travel to face an angry Spartan team.

Can Ohio State continue its demolition derby on the Big Ten?

Last week aside, the Buckeyes have embarrassed the rest of the conference. They are pretty clearly the top team in the Big Ten after last weekend, but this is now November, and a one-loss Ohio State team is one game away from putting their season on the brink of disappointment. They travel to Iowa City this weekend as the hungry Hawkeyes would love nothing more than an upset.

I could talk about the X’s and O’s here, but everything favors Ohio State. This game is more about whether or not the Buckeyes can maintain composure and stay focused en route to another win. Iowa is a team that has struggled to score the football for most of the season, but all of their conference losses have been by one possession. They are battle tested and should not be counted out of this one. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this all game long.

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