Meyer, Buckeyes face 'new' QB

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Urban Meyer has coached against somebody with an identical name, but surely it wasn't the same guy.

This Penn State quarterback couldn't possibly be the one that tossed five interceptions in Meyer's last outing at Florida, a victory in the Outback Bowl ignited by all those turnovers and mistakes in the passing game.

Ohio State players who have been around for a couple of seasons on defense seem to be dealing with the same sort of confusion in identifying the player taking the snaps for the Nittany Lions.

It couldn't be the one who tossed two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns in an Ohio State win a couple years ago or threw for just 88 yards and a pick last season, right?

Yes, that was Matt McGloin struggling mightily against Meyer and his Gators. And, sure, he has also turned in a forgettable performance against the Buckeyes. But both Meyer and his new program have essentially scrapped their past experiences with McGloin, because he's clearly not the one they remember heading into what could be a de facto division title game Saturday at Penn State.

"The quarterback, I coached against him a couple years ago, and he's much improved," Meyer said. "He's doing a good job. He's always been a very accurate passer, but the guys around him are playing much better as well.

"This quarterback, you can tell, is really good at getting in the right play against the right defense."

Perhaps it wasn't the strength of that other McGloin, but the Nittany Lions have rattled off five consecutive wins after a rough start, thanks largely in part to the strides the senior has made with a new coaching staff and in an up-tempo offense that has relied on his arm to keep it moving.

Given their history with McGloin, preparing for an attack that features him so prominently might have been an appealing option for both the Buckeyes and Meyer in the past.

But statistically, the player who ranked No. 10 in the league in both yardage and efficiency last season is gone, replaced by the most prolific passer in the Big Ten with more than 255 yards per game and 14 touchdowns. And on film, the Buckeyes might not have much use for those previous games, thanks to the difference from then to now -- and they might not have seen anybody else yet this season capable of doing some of the things that this version of McGloin has done.

"I think he's the most efficient passer we've seen," co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said. "He knows exactly where he wants to go with the ball. You know, we turned on the tape and saw him actually go one, two, three on reads. I don't know if we've seen that all year from any quarterback.

"He's pretty talented as far as progression with his reads and that type of thing. He does a nice job buying time in the pocket, he'll escape the rush, move left or right, and he finds the right guy. I would say he's probably, if not the best, one of the top two quarterbacks we've seen this year."

If there's some doubt about where he ranks among the rest of the guys the Buckeyes have faced, there's one thing that isn't up for debate: This is certainly the best Matt McGloin that Meyer or Ohio State has prepared for, and he looks little like the one who served up cornerback Travis Howard an interception and a touchdown in a blowout two years ago.

"This quarterback," Howard said, "he's definitely on a roll from what I've seen."

It's almost as though they've never even seen him before.