The Ohio State University
Location: Columbus, OH
Home Stadium: Ohio Stadium
Head Coach: Urban Meyer (4th season, 44-3)
First Game: November 16, 1912 (Penn State won 37-0)
Last Game: October 25, 2014 (Ohio State won 31-24)
Overall: Ohio State leads series 16-13 (.448)
Current Streak: Ohio State has won 3 games in a row (Last Penn State win: 2011)
Last Season (14-1, 8-0 Big Ten)
Ohio State had a good year last year! After losing the second game of the season with new starting quarterback J.T. Barrett (replacing the injured Braxton Miller), they won 13 straight games. This included the Big Ten Championship, the national semifinal, and the national championship game. They won those three games with their third string quarterback Cardale Jones after Barrett was injured in the regular season finale. That is impressive!
Of course, none of that postseason success happens without Ohio State's late October victory over Penn State at Beaver Stadium. The Buckeyes beat the Nittany Lions 31-24 in double overtime, with 10 of their points coming off two obviously missed calls by the Big Ten officiating crew: an Ohio State interception that clearly hit the ground and a field goal snapped well after the play clock had expired. It was controversial! Oh, and Joey Bosa tried to rip Christian Hackenberg's head off (to his credit, he later apologized to Hackenberg). I'm sure there are no lingering hard feelings on the part of Penn State fans, though.
The Buckeyes celebrated their national championship victory. Running back Ezekiel Elliott's signature crop-top jersey look was outlawed by the NCAA. After briefly flirting with the idea of entering the 2015 NFL Draft, Cardale Jones announced he would be returning to Ohio State for the 2015 season. Meyer brought in the 7th-ranked recruiting class in the country (and 1st in the Big Ten) according 247 Sports. Wide receiver Noah Brown unfortunately broke his leg in a preseason practice after reports of a stellar training camp. Meyer refused to publicly comment on who the starting quarterback would be, with Barrett and Jones battling for the job and Braxton Miller moving to wide receiver. Jones would start the season opener against Virginia Tech.
Ohio State was ranked #1 in both the preseason AP Poll (unanimous) and the preseason Coaches Poll (62 of 64 first-place votes.
Coming off of a less-than inspiring performance against Indiana in Bloomington, the Buckeyes struggled again out of the gate against a flailing Maryland team. With their head coach rumored to be getting fired in just a few days (rumors that turned out to be accurate), Randy Edsall's team hung around with Ohio State longer than they had any right to, but Ohio State ultimately pulled away with a 49-28 win to keep their undefeated season and top ranking in tact. The new twist to the Buckeye offense last week was at times pulling Jones in favor of Barrett in the red zone, and the strategy was effective against the Terrapins.
Urban Meyer runs a spread offense in theory, but the execution includes more of a power running game than that label would indicate. More than anything it is an option offense that incorporates aspects of the spread attack into its gameplan.
The main quarterback is Cardale Jones, who has had an up-and-down but ultimately-successful-so-far run in his first season as the starter. Backing him up and seeing occasional playing time is J.T. Barrett who had an excellent season last year before losing the job to Jones due to injury. At running back is Ezekiel Elliott, an outstanding runner who has consistently stepped up in the second half of games after defenses have worn down. Elliott is also a threat to catch passes, having caught each of the 16 passes that have gone his way so far this season.
Ohio State's passing game has been a bit of a letdown so far this season, but with Devin Smith and Evan Spencer in the NFL and Noah Brown out for the season, that should not be entirely surprising. Michael Thomas has been the top wide receiving target, with Jalin Marshall, Braxton Miller, and Curtis Samuel also seeing a healthy amount of action.
Defense (4-3 Over)
Ohio State's defense had been the better unit of the two for most of the season, but showed some weaknesses against Maryland. Still, it's not going to be an easy task for Penn State against this team. Linebackers Raekwon McMillan and Joshua Perry lead the way with a combined 86.5 tackles so far in 2015. In the pass rush, everyone knows about Joey Bosa, but sophomore defensive end Tyquan Lewis has had an excellent start to the year, with 5.5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss. In the secondary, Ohio State's defensive backs are good at breaking up passes, though the team as a whole does not force many turnovers. Safety Tyvis Powell leads the team with 2 interceptions, while safety Vonn Bell and cornerback Eli Apple have combined for 12 pass breakups.
Kicker Jack Willoughby is 6-9 on the season on field goals. Some might call that an underwhelming performance, but I think it's pretty nice.
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