The Ohio State University
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Ohio State Football Facts:
Home Stadium: Ohio Stadium
Head Coach: 104,944
Conference: Big Ten
Conference Titles: 38
Overall Bowl Record: 24-25
Saturday’s matchup between the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions will be the 34th all-time between the two programs. Entering this weekend, the Buckeyes hold the series lead with 19 wins and 14 losses. It is safe to say that the series hasn’t been all too even in recent memory, with the Nittany Lions collecting just five wins over the Buckeyes since the turn of the millennium. The last win for the Nittany Lions obviously came in 2016, when the Nittany Lions upset the then-No. 2 ranked Buckeyes.
Last Season (13-1, 8-1)
The Buckeyes in 2018 played to expectations, collecting an 11-1 regular season record, with their lone loss being the shocking loss at Purdue. They would go on to defeat Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game before finishing off their season with a 28-23 win over the Washington Huskies in the Rose Bowl.
Recruiting and Offseason:
The Buckeyes had a “down” recruiting class during the 2019 recruiting cycle, landing the nation’s No.14 class in the country and third in the Big Ten. Five-star defensive end Zach Harrison was the gem of the class. Additionally, the Buckeyes brought in four transfers over the offseason including former Penn State commitment, Georgia quarterback Justin Fields.
What they did last week:
BYE WEEK Rutgers
Ohio State entered the game as over 50-point favorites and despite having several key players “unavailable”, the Buckeyes still easily won 56-21. There’s not much we can actually take away from this game because... its’ Rutgers.
On Saturday, Penn State will take on the country’s No. 1 offense as the Buckeyes are averaging 51.5 points per game this season. Potentially the best Ohio State offense ever in terms of numbers, the Buckeyes have seemingly steamrolled teams throughout the season. Their closest game this season being decided by 24 points, a 45-21 win over FAU to start the season.
The Buckeyes offense has gelled under head coach Ryan Day and is headlined by their talented backfield duo of former five-star quarterback Justin Fields and highly-touted running back J.K Dobbins, who is now in his junior season. Fields has been incredible for the Buckeyes to say the least, completing 69% of his passes for 2,164-yards, 31 touchdowns, and just a single interception. On the ground, he’s added an additional 377-yards and 10 touchdowns.
That being said, if for some reason Fields would go down with an injury, the Buckeyes will be put in a tough situation with Chris Chugunov and Gunnar Hoak as his two backups, as both QB’s have limited experience.
Dobbins this season has bounced back from a “dissapointing” 2018 season and has posted 1,289 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on 183 carries this season. He’s also been a great threat in the passing game with 14 receptions for 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Master Teague has been Dobbins’s primary backup this season and has done extremely well, with 744 yards and four touchdowns on 114 carries.
In terms of their receivers, Justin Fields has made sure to get everyone involved this season with 21 different players recording at least one reception, and six recording double-digit receptions. Sophomore Chris Olave is their leading receiver with 36 receptions for 584 yards and nine touchdowns. That being said, he’s also coming off his best game of the season, a 139-yard performance against Rutgers.
Following Olave are some names Nittany Lions fans might be more familiar with in Binjimen Victor, K.J Hill, Garrett Wilson, and Austin Mack. Victor, Hill, and Mack are all returnees for the Buckeyes this season while Wilson is in his true freshman season after being a five-star receiver in the 2019 class.
K.J Hill is leading the Buckeyes in receptions this season with 38 and is averaging 11.1 yards per reception, he also has six touchdowns. Victor, who was a thorn in Penn State’s side last season, is having a solid season in 2019 with 27 receptions for 456 yards and six touchdowns.
The true freshman Garrett Wilson has 19 receptions for 229 yards and four touchdowns, while Austin Mack has 15 receptions for 207 yards and two touchdowns. It’s safe to say that Penn State’s secondary will be busy all afternoon, and it will be tough for any secondary to slow down this plethora of receiving threats.
Like their offense, Ohio State’s defense is the No. 1 ranked defense in the country, surrendering a mere 9.8 points per game. Opposing offenses are generating just 216 yards per game against the Buckeyes, including just 90.8 yards on the ground. Add in that the Buckeyes are forcing turnovers at an insane rate of 2.2 per game, and it’s easy to see why the Ohio State has ran away with every single game this season.
The star power on the defensive side of the ball for the Buckeyes is endless like it is on offense. Future first-round picks DE Chase Young and LB Malik Harrison headline the front seven, combined the two have 81 tackles, 28 tackles for a loss, and 17 sacks. Young is coming off a two-game suspension and surely will be both well rested and angry for the game on Saturday.
Their secondary features its fair share of future NFL talent as well especially in names like Jefferey Okudah and Jordan Fuller. Okudah this season leads the Buckeyes in interceptions with three while adding in four pass deflections and one forced fumble.
Former Penn State recruiting targets Tyreke Smith and Zach Harrison are also having quality 2019 seasons. Smith only has nine tackles this season, but has four tackles for a loss and three sacks. Harrison, on the other hand, as a true freshman has 14 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, and 2.5 sacks.
Overall, the Ohio State defense has been tremendous all season and has made it hard for opposing offenses to make it out of their own backfield. The Buckeyes have combined for 93 total tackles for loss and 42 sacks.
Special teams at times over the last few seasons have been an Achilles heel for the Buckeyes, but that does not appear to be the case in 2019.
The Buckeyes are averaging decent returns in both kick and punt returns, but have yet to score a touchdown on a return this season. That being said, running back Demario McCall is viable to take one back at any point and is already averaging 23.2 yards per return on kickoffs.
At kicker, Blake Haubeil has been solid, making all 67 extra points while making 8-of-10 kicks this season. Despite being a perfect 4-for-4 from kicks over 40-yards including a 55-yarder against Northwestern, he has missed two kicks inside 40 yards. Finally, Punter Dru Christman has been great at flipping the field for the Buckeyes, averaging 44.3 yards per punt.