Quick 2021 Recap
Ohio State went 11-2 in 2021, winning nine in a row and 10 of their last 11 after a 1-1 start. This of course included the 33-24 victory over Penn State in late October. The tree nuts ended the season with a 48-45 win over Utah in the Rose Bowl, after falling to Michigan for the first time since 2011. Their explosive offense averaged nearly 46 points per game and anchored by five NFL Draft picks, including wideouts Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Meanwhile, the defense struggled at times to stop opposing offenses consistently.
Offensive Player To Watch: RB TreVeyon Henderson
The rising sophomore looks to be near the top of the conference tailback list after rushing for 1248 yards and 15 touchdowns in his debut season. Henderson burst onto the scene with 270 yards against Tulsa, and added 152 against our beloved Nittany Lions. Expect him to get the bulk of the carries in 2022 after sharing time with Miyan Williams and Master Teague in his freshman year. His mix of size, strength, and speed is downright scary for any opponent, and will be a immense challenge for a largely unproven Nittany Lion defensive interior.
Defensive Player To Watch: DB Ronnie Hickman
Ohio State’s leading tackler returns after registering 99 tackles and two interceptions as a safety in 2021. Just like Henderson, Hickman did some of his best work against Penn State, logging season-high 15 tackles. The 6’1’’ junior will be the undisputed leader in the secondary.
Ohio State Wins If
The Buckeyes win the turnover battle, are able to control the line of scrimmage, and convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns.
In 2021, Ohio State settled for four field goals inside the 20, resulting in a very winnable game for the visitors in Columbus. If Henderson hadn’t run roughshod over the defense, Penn State probably would have come away the victor. The 2022 Nittany Lions will be better in most aspects than they were in 2021, with the possible exception of the defensive ends (let’s wait and see...), so Ohio State will need to move the ball without giving it away, and it will come down to their ability to run the ball. CJ Stroud stepped up towards the end of the season after looking erratic for much of 2021, so his poise will also make the difference.
Penn State Wins If
The defense wins the turnover battles and forces the Buckeyes to become one-dimensional.
I’m sure Sean Clifford would love nothing more than to end his Nittany Lion career with a victory over his home state team, and if the defense gives him a shot, he will need to carve up the Ohio State defense. Meanwhile, Curtis Jacobs, Adisa Isaac, Nick Tarburton, PJ Mustipher, and the rest of the defense have to pressure AND take down Stroud when given the opportunity. If Penn State doesn’t have at least three sacks and one interception or fumble recovery, the Buckeyes walk out of Beaver Stadium with a win.