The Ohio State University
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Enrollment: 66,046 (52,349 undergraduates) – all campuses
Home Stadium: Ohio Stadium
Head Coach: Urban Meyer, sixth season, 67-7 (.905)
Conference: Big Ten (East Division)
First Game: November 16, 1912 (Penn State won, 37-0)
Last Game: October 22, 2016 (Penn State won, 24-21)
Overall: Ohio State leads 18-14
Current Win Streak: Penn State, 1
Last Season (11-2 overall, 8-1 Big Ten Conference)
The Ohio State Buckeyes started the season as No. 6 and easily won their first six games, climbing to No. 2, until they played Penn State. With the score 21-17, Buckeyes leading, and with 4:27 left in the game, Ohio State attempted a field goal, but the kick was blocked and returned to give Penn State a 24-21 lead and final score.
This was Urban Meyer's first loss ever to Penn State, and the Buckeyes' only loss of the regular season. Ohio State went on to win their next five games, earning them a spot in the College Football Playoff (even though they’d lost head-to-head to Penn State).
At the end of the regular season, Ohio State was ranked No. 3 with 11 wins and one loss until their absolute blanking 31-0 by the then No. 2 Clemson Tigers, and now reigning national champions, in the College Football Playoff semi-final at the Fiesta Bowl.
The Buckeyes had 15 players depart to the NFL in the 2016 draft, including quarterback Cardale Jones, running back Ezekiel Elliott, wide receiver Braxton Miller, defensive end Joey Bosa and safety Vonn Bell, to name just a few. They lost cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley and safety Malik Hooker, among seven others, in the 2017 draft.
The No. 6 Buckeyes (6-1 overall, 4-0 in the Big Ten) had a bye week to rest, and probably reflect on how Penn State blocked a fourth-quarter field goal last year, giving Ohio State their only regular season loss.
The week before, Ohio State defeated Nebraska, 56-14. By the half, the Buckeyes were up 35-0, and it wasn’t until the third quarter when Ohio State was leading 42-0 that Nebraska had their first score.
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was 27 of 33 with 325 yards, and rushed 10 times for 48 yards. Barrett had five touchdowns and ran for two more. Buckeye J. K. Dobbins ran for 106 yards on 12 carries, while Mike Weber had 82 yards on 18 carries, and K.J. Hill caught seven balls for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
Recruiting and Offseason
The Ohio State 2017 class ranked as the nation’s second recruiting class (first in the Big Ten), as compared to Penn State’s 2017 class ranked at 16th in the nation and third in the Big Ten.
Joining the Buckeyes in the offseason was former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson to run the Ohio State offense.
The Buckeyes’ stats don’t lie. They’re second nationally in first down offense (top in Big Ten), third nationally in total offense (top in Big Ten) averaging 577.3 yards per game, and 12th nationally in passing yards with 326.7 per game (top in the Big Ten). Even with 15 starters returning on offense, Ohio State will be facing the top scoring defense and ninth total defense in the land against the Nittany Lions, a tough matchup.
The Buckeye offensive line returns four starters, including center Billy Price, who as named a first-team, mid-season All-American by the Associated Press. The line has helped power Ohio State to top Big Ten rankings and allowed fifth-year quarterback J.T. Barrett plenty of time to pass or run.
So far this season, Barrett has completed 137 of 206 passes for 1,827 yards, 21 touchdown passes and just one interception. He also rushed 71 times for 370 yards to snag five touchdowns on the ground and is the Buckeye’s second best rusher. Behind the kicker, Barrett is the leading scorer for the Buckeyes with those five rushing scores. He is also top in the Big Ten and second nationally in points responsible for per game (22.6) and leads the Big Ten in total offense, averaging 313.9 yards.
Barrett has his pick of a number of talented targets in the air with seven receivers plus two tight ends. The unit includes Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill at H-Back, Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor at one receiver spot and Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon at the other. Campbell and Hill lead the Buckeyes with 28 receptions each. Campbell leads the team with 405 receiving yards. Binjimen Victor and Johnnie Dixon lead with four touchdowns each. C.J. Saunders has contributed 13 receptions for 183 yards. Tight end Marcus Baugh has 13 receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns, while tight end Rashod Berry has six catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
The Buckeyes’ leading rusher is running back J.K. Dobbins, who has 775 yards off 100 carries with five touchdowns (and also 7 receptions for 65 yards). He’s 16th nationally in rushing at 110.5 yards per game. Dobbins leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth in FBS with 7.75 yards per carry, and second in the Big Ten with 110.7 rushing yards per game.
Mike Weber rounds out third for the Buckeyes in rushing with 227 yards on 48 attempts and four touchdowns.
Ohio State’s defense is 16th nationally in total defense (fifth in the Big Ten) and tenth in scoring defense nationally (third in the Big Ten). The unit has allowed just six offensive touchdowns in the last five weeks and limited opponents to less than 250 yards of total offense per game.
Seven starters return on defense for the Buckeyes including three on a loaded defensive line: defensive ends Nick Bosa, Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard. Bosa leads the Buckeyes and the Big Ten in tackles for loss with ten, and ranks 21st nationally and 12th among FBS players with ten TFLs. Bosa also tops the team in sacks with four. After Bosa, Sam Hubbard (5) and Tyquan Lewis (4) are next among the defensive linemen in tackles for loss.
The Buckeyes lost most of the rest of their starters on the defense, but return safety Damon Webb, the veteran in the secondary, who leads the team with two interceptions and leads in tackles with 34 this season. Safety Jordan Fuller has an impressive 33 tackles for the Buckeyes, just behind Webb.
Ohio State has two new starting cornerbacks this year: Denzel Ward and Damon Arnette. Ward, a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, is tied at second in the conference (13th nationally) with ten passes defended and has nine pass breakups and one interception. Arnette is fifth on the team in tackles with 24.
The linebacker unit returns Jerome Baker and Chris Worley. Baker leads the unit with 29 tackles against Worley’s 22. Linebacker Dante Booker is one to watch, too, with 25 total tackles, four TFLs, two sacks and one interception.
Don’t forget that Penn State connection is strong in the coaching ranks of the Buckeyes, with Defensive Coordinator and Associate Head Coach Greg Schiano (former Penn State defensive backs coach) and Assistant Head Coach and Defensive line coach Larry Johnson (former Penn State co-defensive coordinator).
Ohio State lost both their kicker and punter last year. Sean Nuerenberger takes over starting duties as kicker and Drue Chrisman took over punting. Nuerenberger is 42 of 42 for extra points, but he’s missed two out of nine field goals for a 77.8% field goal average (oooh, watch out, Ohio State!) and 63 points (making him the Buckeye’s top scorer). Chrisman has 20 punts for 852 yards with an average of 42.6 yards.
Parris Campbell and Demario McCall handle the bulk of kick returns, with Campbell racking up eight returns for 312 yards and McCall who has two returns for 29 yards. K.J. Hill handled the bulk of punt returns, with 8 returns for 28 yards.
Check out more on Ohio State football at their SB Nation blog Land Grant Holy Land.