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2023 Opponent Snapshot: Ohio State

After several close calls, can Penn State take down the Buckeyes for the first time since 2016?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 29 Ohio State at Penn State Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Quick 2022 Recap

The Buckeyes were briefly challenged by Notre Dame in the season opener before taking control in the second half to come out on top, 21-10. From there, the explosive Ohio State offense and vastly improved defense helped them to an 11-0 start to the season, which included a 52-21 stomping of Wisconson, a 49-20 pasting of Michigan State, and a 54-10 drubbing over Iowa. Penn State was able to challenge the Buckeyes, even holding a lead in the fourth quarter before a slew of turnovers doomed the Nittany Lions’ chances.

Things went downhill for the Buckeyes when they were once again outmuscled by Michigan, losing to their rival 45-23 at home. Ohio State missed out on the Big Ten Championship Game, but still made the College Football Playoffs as the #4 seed with an 11-1 regular season record. The Buckeyes seemed primed to upset #1 Georgia in the Semifinals to take on TCU, but a fourth quarter collapse doomed their chances and allowed the Bulldogs to race to their second consecutive national title.

Offensive Player to Watch: WR Marvin Harrison Jr.

It’s not hyperbole to state that Harrison has the potential to be one of the best receivers to ever play the game. The junior receiver has all the technical skills that made his father a Hall of Famer, plus an additional five inches and 20 pounds on his frame. In addition to his size and athleticism, Harrison’s ball tracking skills make for an enormous catch radius where he always seems to come down with any ball within his reach. Harrison could very well end the season with the Heisman Trophy before moving on to become one of the first players selected in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Defensive Player to Watch: DE JT Tuimoloau

I’ve watched an unhealthy amount of college football in my day, but never witnessed anything quite like what Tuimoloau did against Penn State last season. The first-team All-Big Ten selection was unstoppable that afternoon as he took part in four turnovers, with a forced fumble, fumble recovery, and two interceptions that included a back-breaking pick six to crush any hopes of a Penn State upset. He also had a career-high six tackles and three TFLs. The Nittany Lions absolutely must find a way to slow him down this year to have any hopes of winning in Columbus.

Ohio State Wins If

For the first time in recent memory, Penn State seems to be stronger in the trenches heading in to the season. Ohio State has many question marks along the offensive line thanks to some early departures for the NFL and some big-time recruits that never made the jump to the next level. However, the Buckeyes were able to address the line in the portal and will have six games for the offensive line and the new starting quarterback to gel. While the Buckeyes could once again replace its quarterback and key starters on offense without missing a beat, there seems to be a chance this could be the year they finally see some bumps in the road on offense. Unfortunately for Penn State fans, history is definitly on Ohio State’s side as they continue pumping out Heisman candidates at quarterback.

Penn State Wins If

Avoid turnovers and limit big plays. The Nittany Lions have often overachieved with some well-played outings against the Buckeyes, only to see their hopes of an upset doomed by turnovers and a couple game-breaking plays that allowed Ohio State to clinch a victory. I know that bringing down Ohio State for the first time since 2016 is a monumental task, but those two things would go a long ways to help Penn State finally come out on top against the guys in scarlet and gray.