Game Preview: No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Penn State
Josh Starr, Jordan Mansberger, Jeremy Ganes and Matt McClure discussed the upcoming matchup between No. 4 Ohio State and No. 9 Penn State.
No. 4 Ohio State (4-0, 1-0) will take on No. 9 Penn State (4-0, 1-0) at Beaver Stadium on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Penn State’s annual White Out game.
The Nittany Lions and Buckeyes have the top two scoring offenses in the nation, but both teams have big question marks on defense. Penn State has an inexperienced defensive corps and Ohio State is missing future top pick Nick Bosa due to injury.
Last week, both teams won by wide margins. Penn State traveled to Illinois and rolled over the Illini, winning 63-24 on Friday night. Ohio State took care of business at home, beating Tulane 49-6.
The Nittany Lions give up 19.5 points per game, but haven’t been tested by a nationally ranked offense yet this year. Penn State will have to lean heavily on its veteran players during this game.
Junior defensive end Shareef Miller, senior cornerback Amani Oruwariye and junior cornerback John Reid will be important for Penn State to have success defensively. Reid returned from injury last week and along with Oruwariye, will need to be strong on the outside against the Buckeyes.
Miller and the rest of the Nittany Lions front will need to cause havoc in the Ohio State backfield for Penn State to stop the Buckeyes.
It is an inexperienced linebacking group for Penn State. Junior Jan Johnson leads the team in total tackles with 24, but hasn’t played much before this season. Freshman Micah Parsons was a highly touted recruit, but this is his first game against a ranked opponent with a raucous crowd.
Teams have been able to move the ball against Penn State at times this year and Ohio State is the best offense the Nittany Lions have faced this year. Experience will play a huge role defensively for Penn State in this game.
Ohio State’s defense allows 17 points per game, but unlike Penn State, has already passed a big test, defeating TCU and giving up 28 points in a 40-28 win on Sept. 15.
The Buckeyes will be without their best defensive player, Nick Bosa, after he had core muscle surgery. Bosa has four sacks this year in three games. Ohio State needs others to step up without the future first-round pick.
Dre’Mont Jones has three sacks in four games this year. Jones needs to be productive for Ohio State and make Trace McSorley uncomfortable.
The Buckeyes will likely try to make McSorley beat them with his legs rather than his arm; Jones will play a big role in trying to do that. Sophomore Chase Young is another Buckeye defensive lineman that can play a part in this game. He has two sacks this year and has the potential to cause problems for McSorley and Penn State’s offense.
Penn State has the nation’s top scoring offense, averaging 55.5 points per game. The Nittany Lions are led by their senior quarterback in McSorley and junior running back Miles Sanders.
A combination of inconsistency from McSorley and a few dropped balls by Penn State receivers led to McSorley completing just 53.8 percent of his passes this season. For Penn State to move the ball down the field this week, its passing game has to be more consistent.
Penn State’s run game has more than made up for its passing deficiencies. Last week, Miles Sanders broke out for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. Sanders is averaging seven yards per carry in 2018, and without Nick Bosa in the game, Sanders should be able to continue that this week.
Even though the Nittany Lions have struggled through the air, they still find ways to score. They scored 50 points in three straight games and scored 63 in each of the last two games.
Ohio State is scoring at just about the same clip as Penn State, averaging 54.5 points per game. Sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins is the biggest reason for that success.
Haskins threw for at least 300 yards in three of his four starts this season and his 16 touchdown passes are second in the nation. He is an accurate passer, completing 75.7 percent of his passes.
Ohio State has four receivers with 200 or more receiving yards. Parris Campbell leads Buckeye receivers with 299 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Last week against Tulane, Campbell caught eight passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns.
In the backfield, the Buckeyes have a two-headed monster with sophomore J.K. Dobbins and junior Mike Weber. Combined, they have 622 rushing yards and 702 all purpose yards. Against a Penn State defense that allows 172.5 rushing yards per game, the production from Dobbins and Weber could be what decides this game.
This game will have major postseason implications for the Big Ten and the College Football Playoff. In the last two games between these teams, the home team came back late in the game to win. The White Out might have an effect on the game, but Saturday night will come down to which defense can come up with a stop late in the game.
Josh Starr is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.