Penn State looks to claim one of the biggest upsets in program history against a young but deeply talented Ohio State team in front of a boisterous crowd.
Penn State (4-2) vs. Ohio State (6-0)
Kickoff: 8 p.m., Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
The Betting Line: Ohio State -19.5
TV: ABC--Chris Fowler (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst), Sam Ponder (sideline)
Weather: Cloudy and cool, with temps dropping into the upper-30s by kickoff. Very little to no chance of precipitation during the game.
PENN STATE RECORD: 18-14, 3rd Year
OVERALL RECORD: 42-29, 6th Year
VS. OHIO STATE: 0-2
OHIO STATE RECORD: 56-4, 5th Year
OVERALL RECORD: 160-27, 15th Year
VS. PENN STATE: 5-0
...NOW THE FUN PART
OHIO STATE OFFENSE VS PENN STATE DEFENSE
Despite all of its youth and a rash of injuries, Penn State’s defense has been able to cobble together a decent first half of the season. This is largely due to the fact that the members of the defense do an outstanding job of staying in position, limiting the big play. However, just staying in position will not be enough against a high-powered Ohio State offense that is brimming with speed at all positions.
Part of what makes an Urban Meyer-led offense so difficult to depend is that he uses an assortment of versatile athletes in interchangeable roles. Basically, you never quite know where and how you will be attacked from play top play- and the Buckeyes offense is loaded with playmakers. Dontre Wilson (16 catches, 232 yards and four TDs) and Noah Brown (16 catches, 213 yards and six TDs) are both big-play receivers. While Brown has the size to create mismatches, Wilson uses his speed to get open and do damage with the ball in his hands. The team’s leading receiver is actually running Curtis Samuel, who has 29 receptions for 403 yards and three touchdowns. In all, 15 Buckeyes players have at least one reception through six games, so it’s safe to say quarterback J.T. Barrett does an excellent job of distributing the ball.
The Buckeyes have a three-headed monster with its rushing attack, easily one of the best in the nation. Samuel is averaging an eye-popping 7.4 yards per carry, while Barrett is a constant threat in the read-option, or scrambling out of the pocket if left undefended. Get used to hearing the name Mike Weber- the freshman running back is averaging 102 yards per game thus far into the season, and will only continue to improve. He is coming off the two worst games of the season, with 71 yards against Indiana and limited to just 46 yards against Wisconsin’s stout run defense.
Barrett is a legitimate Heisman contender, and does about everything you can ask of a quarterback. On the ground, he has the size to pound it out in short yardage situations and the explosiveness to gash a defense when he sees a lane. He doesn’t make many mistakes (16 TDs to four interceptions on the season), while completing 63.2 percent of his passes. He has all the tools needed to make the most of the vast array of weapons at his disposal.
Something that could provide a significant boost to Penn State’s defense would be the return of starting linebackers Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda, who haven’t played together since week one. Neither was listed on the current depth chart, but both are reportedly close to being able to see game action once again.
OHIO STATE DEFENSE VS PENN STATE OFFENSE
This is where it really gets interesting. The Nittany Lion offense played arguably its most complete games the last two weeks against Minnesota and Maryland, with quarterback Trace McSorely coming into his own and having no turnovers in either game. The redshirt sophomore was the spark that led the team to a win over the Golden Gophers, driving down the field for the game-tying field goal with less than a minute left on the clock, and making veteran decision on the field in the second half of that game and all throughout the Homecoming matchup blowout versus the Terrapins that must make Joe Moorhead smile.
That leadership will be tested when a very talented Ohio State defense rolls in, ranked in the top ten in nearly every statistical defensive category (everything, that is, except run defense, where they’re *only* ranked 20th).
Though OSU lost last year’s defensive leader Joey Bosa (as well as d-backs Eli Apple, who got owned by Chris Godwin, and Vonn Bell) to the League, this wouldn’t be an Urban Meyer-recruited team if it didn’t have incredible talent stepping up. Bosa’s brother, Nick, is a five-star-recruit-turned-true freshman who’s played in every game, and is second on the team in sacks and fourth in tackles for loss—and he doesn’t even start, because the returning depth ahead of him is so great, with junior Jalyn Holmes and sophomore Sam Hubbard in front of him. And though the Buckeyes lost defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle earlier in the year to injury, LJ Sr has been rotating Dre’Mont Jones, Michael Hill, and Davon Hamilton (all new starters) in amongst their key deep bench for very little drop off.
Behind the front four is a very solid linebacking corps led by MLB Raekwon McMillan, who led Ohio State in tackles last season with 119 and is second on the team so far this year. All three linebackers for the Buckeyes lead their team in tackles, a sign that the front four is doing their job, sealing blocks and closing down run gaps - and with tackle Andrew Nelson out for the season, this may mean a rough day for Saquon Barkley on the ground if McSorely’s reads aren’t there.
In the secondary, look out for Damon Webb; the 5’10 junior safety is second in the defensive backfield in tackles for the Buckeyes (with 24, same as sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore); that matchup may be one the bigger Mike Gesicki, already a nightmare to cover, could win in the middle of the field. Ohio State’s pass defense has been the strength of an across-the-board good unit, and they’ll test a wide receiver unit that has, despite the depth and talent of Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton and DeAndre Thompkins, struggled to get separation at times the first half of this season. Joe Moorhead finding these mismatches, on short out routes or crossing routes to Gesicki in the middle, may be key to this unit getting going on Saturday.
With Ohio State performing so well on both sides of the ball, special teams must at least be a weakness, right? Guess again. Senior Tyler Durbin is a perfect 8-of-8 on the season, with a long field goal of 40 yards. Punter Cameron Johnston is averaging a whooping 50.8 yards per attempt. The Buckeyes also have a very dangerous kick returner in Parris Campbell, who averages nearly 30 yards per return.
Penn State will hope to have punter Blake Gillikin back in action after missing most of the Maryland game with an injury. He has proved to be a significant upgrade over backup Daniel Pasquariello. Kicker Tyler Davis remains perfect for his career- on the season he has connected on all 19 extra point tried and all 10 field goals, with a long of 40 yards.
Ohio State- 41 , Penn State- 24
Penn State will give a valiant effort, heading into the half with just a three-point deficit. However, the Buckeyes offense will prove to be too potent as they blow open the lead at halfway through the third quarter.
Trace McSorley will have a solid outing, gaining 270 yards through the air and two touchdowns. Per tradition, he will also throw a pick-six. Mike Gesicki will continue his impressive season with 8 catches for 85 yards and a touchdown.
On defense, not only does Brandon Bell return, but he feeds off the electric atmosphere to accumulate 11 tackles, 2 TFLs a sack and a forced fumble, while senior Evan Schwan chips in two sacks as well.
For the next few months, we are creating #Strangewiches, unexpectedly delicious sandwiches that embody the spirit and culture of your favorite college town that you can't find on a menu anywhere! For Penn State University, our friends at SB Nation and Eater helped select the best ingredients to create the BEST, and most strange, #Strangewich for your tailgate in State College. Ingredients below!
Penn State [Dessert Pretzel: soft pretzel, peanut butter whipped with mayo, marshmallows]