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No. 7 Penn State at No. 3 Ohio State: Game Preview

It’s nearly time for the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions to head into battle.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Penn State and Ohio State both face their stiffest challenge of the season, with only one team leaving Columbus undefeated.

No. 7 Penn State (6-0, 3-0) vs. Ohio State (6-0, 3-0)

Kickoff: Noon, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH

The Betting Line: Penn State +4.5 (Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.)

TV: FOX, Noon - Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Joel Klatt (analyst), Jenny Taft (sideline)

Weather: A cloudy and cool day with a high in the upper-50s. Showers are expected later in the day, but may come after the conclusuion of the game.

COACHES:

James Franklin:

PENN STATE RECORD: 84-36, 10th Year

OVERALL RECORD: 108-51, 13th Year

VS. OHIO STATE: 1-8

Ryan Day:

OHIO STATE RECORD: 51-6, 5th Year

OVERALL RECORD: Same

VS. PENN STATE: 4-0

FUN FACTS

Ohio State leads the all-time series 24-14...this will be the 22nd time in 39 outings that both teams are ranked when they meet...Penn State enters the game on an 11-game winning streak, winning each game by at least 14 points...they also have the nation’s longest streak of 13 games where they have scored at least 30 points...the Nittany Lions are currently ranked first in the nation in pass defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense, sacks, first downs allowed, fourth down conversion rate and passes had intercepted...they rank second nationally in scoring defense, time of possession, turnover margin and rushing defense...Penn State is 12-5 in games played on October 21, with 11 of those 17 games ending in a shutout.

OHIO STATE OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE

As always, Ohio State is loaded on talent at the skill positions. However, there is doubt over who will be available on Saturday.

Ohio State’s top three running backs are all dealing with inury issues. TreVeyon Henderson, who is one of the more explosive backs in the nation, has missed the last two games, although Day has mentioned he expects him to be able to play. Senior Chip Trayanum left the Purdue game on Saturday with an apparent concussion and his availability is likely day-to-day. Trayanum took on the main role against Maryland, and was slowed to 61 yards on 20 rushing attempts. Miyan Williams, a bruising back known to wear down defenses, was unavailable for Purdue and his status is unknown as well. The Buckeyes may also be without star receiver and future first round pick Emeka Egbuka, who did not make the trip to Purdue on Saturday.

Even if many, or even all, names above are unavailable, the Buckeyes still have loads of talent on offense. For starters, they have the best overall player in the nation in Marvin Harrison, Jr. He’s about as perfect as they come from a technical standpoint with outstanding route-running and footwork that makes him a nightmare to cover. On top of that, his 6-4 frame gives him a gigantic catch radius. Harrison Jr. has at least 105 yards in four of the last five games, with the lone exception against Notre Dame where he sat out chunks of the night with a leg injury. He is without a doubt the best receiver Kalen King and the rest of the Penn State secondary will match up against this season.

Tight end Cade Stover is also a threat who is often used to attack the middle of the field. Stover was looked to often with many out with injuries on Saturday, and snagged two touchdowns against the Boilermakers. Julian Flemming could also see his role increase in the passing game, although he has just seven catches in the past four games.

The Buckeyes seem likely to look to sophomore running back Dallan Hayden if others remain inactive. Hayden is a quick and decisive runner who took control of the Purdue game with 76 yards on 11 carries. He filled in admirably as a freshman last season as well, most notably with a 146 yard rushing and three touchdown performance against Maryland.

Ohio State had to replace many talented members of the offensive line from last season, and the results have not been as they hoped. The Buckeyes have struggled to get a consistent running game this season, even when not dealing with injuries at the running back position. They have also allowed 10 sacks this season, which puts them at #104 in the nation. Considering Penn State’s relentless pass rush that leads the nation in sacks, this seems to be the Nittany Lions biggest opportunity for a mismatch that will help slow the Buckeyes offense.

PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. OHIO STATE DEFENSE

The top three defenses in the nation might all come from the same division, as Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan have proven thus far. This will be the best defense the Nittany Lions have faced, and while the Buckeyes have been banged up and run into some hiccups on offense, the defense has been lights out all season.

Ohio State enters the week fourth in the nation is passing yards allowed, 22nd in rushing yards, seventh in total yards allowed, and third in scoring defense, allowing just 9.7 points per outing. While they do not make as many negative plays, they are an overall stingy unit and make it tough to move the ball.

The Buckeyes like to use an extra safety lined up over the middle of the field to take away the big play. By doing this, they are forcing teams to work their way down the field, and eventually stall out, especially if the offense makes a mistake. This is bad news for those of you hoping for a continuation of last week when Theo Johnson stretched out the defense by making plays over the middle. However, the good news is that Penn State has faced similar schemes all season, and found success dinking and dunking down the field. They have proven smart and patient, and are averaging 44.3 points per game by not turning the ball over, committing penalties and other needless mistakes, and succeeding in short yardage situations.

Penn State will need to prove it can methodically move the ball and come away with points against the defense of Ohio State’s caliber. Extended drives will have major value in a game that is expected to be a low-scoring slugfest.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Ohio State kicker Jayden Fielding has connected on all seven field goal attempts this season, with a long of 41 yards. He is 27-of-28 on extra point attempts, with the one miss coming early against Purdue in the rain on Saturday. Aussie-style punter Jesse Mirco is averaging 43 yards per attempt in his third season starting for the Buckeyes, and has a career-high of 77 yards.

Penn State gave cornerback Daequan Hardy a shot to return punts against UMASS on Saturday, and boy did he deliver. Hardy became the first Nittany Lion in program history with two punt return touchdowns in the same game, and should factor in more prominently with the return game moving forward.

PREDICTION

Penn State-21, Ohio State-17

I vowed to never pick Penn State in this match-up back in 2018 until they actually went on the field and proved they could beat the Buckeyes. There were just too many instances of Penn State coming in with a great gameplan and playing their tails off, only for the Buckeyes to make a few plays at the end to pull out a victory. Well folks, this Penn State squad is forcing me to think otherwise.

For one, the match-up between Penn State’s front four and Ohio State’s offensive line should be a major advantage for the Nittany Lions. The Buckeyes seem likely to struggle runing the ball, and could find a hard time dropping back and throwing into the Nittany Lions secondary, even with an all-world receiver on their side. While I expect Penn State punter Riley Thompson to have his busiest day thus far, the offense should prove efficient enough to take what the defense is giving to them and produce on a few scoring drives, especially if the defense is able to create a short field.

Secondly, it seems as though Penn State has gone a long ways towards tightening the talent gap that allowed the Buckeyes to pull through most years. They simply had more playmakers, and this showed when someone needed to step up and be a difference-maker in key moments. Well, Penn State is not only much deeper, but have difference-makers all over the field compared to previous seasons when they had to rely on one or two players on each side of the ball. Now it will just come down to players like Abdul Carter, Chop Robinson, KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Kalen King and many others to step up and make the play when needed.

This team has restored my faith and has me believing. The defense can slow down the Buckeyes offense while the offense does just enough to get the victory, with those big, momentum-shifting plays finally going Penn State’s way at the end.