The Ohio State University
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Ohio State Football Facts:
Home Stadium: Ohio Stadium
Head Coach: 104,944
Conference: Big Ten
Conference Titles: 40 (2 OAC, 38 Big Ten)
Overall Bowl Record: 24-26
Saturday night’s showdown in Happy Valley will be the 35th meeting between the two programs all-time. In the previous 34 meetings, Ohio State holds a 20-14 record over the Nittany Lions and have dominated the series since 2000, winning 15 of 20. The Nittany Lions last victory over the Buckeyes, of course, came in 2016.
Last Season (13-1, 9-0)
The Buckeyes last season got through their regular season schedule unscathed defeating five ranked teams in the process. They would make it into the College Football Playoffs as the nation’s No.2 ranked team and would take on the Clemson Tigers. After getting out to a 16-0 lead, the Buckeyes would allow 21 unanswered points en route to a 29-23 loss.
Recruiting and Offseason:
Ohio State landed the nation’s no.5 recruiting class in the 2020 recruiting cycle which was headlined by Pennsylvania native and five-star recruit Julian Fleming, the No.3 player in the country when it was all said and done. The Buckeyes also brought in two transfers during the offseason in former Oklahoma running back Trey Sermon and former SMU tight end Corey Rau.
What they did last week: Nebraska
The Buckeyes were in an early claw fight with the Cornhuskers with the score at one point being 17-14 Ohio State. From that point, the Buckeyes would turn on the jets, outscoring Nebraska 35-3 the remainder of the game.
The strength of the Buckeyes in 2020 is without a doubt their offense. Led by likely top-10 draft pick Justin Fields, the Buckeyes will be one of the nation’s top offenses throughout this season an will be a huge test for the Nittany Lions defense on Saturday night.
Last week against Nebraska, Fields was dominant, going 20-for-21, 276-yards, with two touchdowns. That being said, Fields was sacked three times against a quality but not expected to be overly dominant Nebraska front seven. The Buckeyes offensive line last week wasn’t giving the pushes you would usually expect out of them. It will be interesting to see if they cleaned that up heading into this weekend’s game as the Nittany Lions pass rush was ferocious at times against Indiana.
The Buckeyes have a pair of running backs that they are confident in this season in Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon and sophomore Master Teague. Last week, Sermon saw 12 carries to Teague’s 11 with Sermon averaging about a yard more push rush. As a team, Ohio State averaged 4.5 yards per rush last weekend against Nebraska.
In terms of wide receivers, everywhere you look is full of high four-star or five-star talent. It is a ridiculously deep position for the Buckeyes and will pose the biggest threat to the Nittany Lions defense. Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave were Fields’s most consistent targets last weekend with seven and six receptions respectively. Wilson had seven receptions for 129-yards and a touchdown while Olave had six for 104-yards. All in all, Ohio State had seven receivers (including tight ends) catch a pass against Nebraska.
The Buckeyes will have a very good defense in 2020 against most opponents but could have some troubles against more potent attacks.
The Buckeyes were torched last weekend against the run, allowing 5.8 yards per carry, allowing a total of 210-yards on 36 carries. Like their offensive line, the Buckeyes defensive line wasn’t overly dominant against Nebraska, only getting three sacks and five tackles for a loss in their effort.
The Buckeyes pass defense was better than their rush defense on Saturday but did allow Nebraska quarterbacks Adrian Martinez and Luke McCaffery to complete 16-of-20 passing. That being said, the Buckeyes kept a ton of Nebraska’s passes to short dinks and dunks with just a total of 160-yards, an average of 8-yards per attempt.
While the Buckeyes defense wasn’t overly dominant on Saturday from a statistical standpoint, it is a defense that still created two turnovers (both fumbles) and kept a quality Nebraska offense to 17-points and 370-yards for the game. They have plenty of talent all around and have the ability to put on a show any given week but entering just week two of their season, it is okay to question if they’re young guys are ready to step up in primetime in a team that on paper is much better than Nebraska.
The Buckeyes are a team that has always taken special teams very seriously and rarely struggle in that area. Senior kicker Blake Haubeil is one-for-one in field goal attempts this season and seven-for-seven in extra points. For his career, Haubeil is 24-for-29 with a career long of 55-yards.
Drue Chrisman will be the Buckeyes punter, last week he had two punts for 98-yards, an average of 49-yards per punt. As a junior in 2019, he averaged 44.3 yards per punt.
The Buckeyes return game will mostly be through the service of DeMario McCall and Garrett Wilson. Both players returned kicks on Saturday. McCall took his lone return for 10-yards while Wilson’s lone return went for a mere 4-yards. On punt return was Wilson, who totaled 23 yards on two returns, an average of 11.5 yards per return. Last season, McCall averaged 23.2 yards per kick return while Wilson averaged 6.1 yards per punt return.