Game Preview: Penn State vs. Ohio State
Host Zach Donaldson, Connor Griffin, Caleb Schweiger, and Ben Geller preview Penn State's big showdown with Ohio State. They discuss keys to the game for both teams, and also give a final score prediction:
The latest Penn State-Ohio State clash won’t be a matchup between two 10-0 teams as many expected before Penn State dropped its first game of the year at Minnesota two weeks ago. The stakes, however, are still every bit as high.
Ohio State clinches the Big Ten East with a win and Penn State clinches with a win this week and a win next week over Rutgers.
The Buckeyes have won all 10 of their games by at least 24 points and look as dominant as ever under first year head coach Ryan Day. On the other hand, half of Penn State’s games have been decided by less than seven points, which could benefit the Nittany Lions should they give Ohio State its first close contest of the year.
The last three matchups between the two sides have been decided by a combined five points, but this year the Buckeyes are 18-point favorites.
Previewing the Offenses
Justin Fields has been one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country this season. He’s completing 69 percent of his passes, averaging 9.4 yards per attempt with an absurd 31-1 touchdown to interception ratio. He’s also added another 10 touchdowns on the ground.
Fields’ dual-threat dimension has allowed star running back J.K. Dobbins to have a bounce back year with 1,289 rushing yards on seven yards per carry and a career-high 13 touchdowns. Master Teague has also been an excellent complementary back with 744 yards on 6.5 yards per carry.
Fields has a deep stable of receivers as well led by redshirt freshman Chris Olave. K.J. Hill is one of the best slot receivers in the nation complemented by two big, physical veterans on the outside in Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor. Five-star freshman Garrett Wilson is also a rising star out wide.
For Penn State, Sean Clifford hasn’t put up the same gaudy numbers that Fields has, but he has quietly put together one of the better seasons by a quarterback in college football. He has thrown 22 touchdowns to six interceptions and is 11th in the nation in total QBR.
Penn State’s offensive line has improved this season in front of a committee of running backs led by the speedy Journey Brown, who has posted two straight 100-yard games.
James Franklin is hopeful that the Nittany Lions will return freshman Noah Cain this week. Cain has missed the last two weeks with an ankle injury but is a physical downhill back who complements Brown well.
The other question mark for Penn State is K.J. Hamler’s health, who averages 17.2 yards per catch. Jahan Dotson and tight end Pat Freiermuth have been reliable targets all year, but if Hamler can’t go Penn State desperately needs secondary receivers like Daniel George, Justin Shorter and Mac Hippenhammer to step up.
Previewing the Defenses
Both defense have been outstanding against the run all season with Penn State ranking fourth nationally in rushing yards allowed per game and Ohio State right behind at sixth.
Micah Parsons is one of the best linebackers in the nation for the Nittany Lions, and Yetur Gross-Matos and Shaka Toney have combined for 13 sacks along the defensive line.
The Buckeyes will return its all-world defensive end in Chase Young back into the lineup this week. Even after missing two games, Young is still second in the nation with 13.5 sacks.
The Buckeyes also have the top-ranked pass defense in the nation and a secondary loaded with NFL talent. Jeff Okudah leads the team with three interceptions and is likely a future first-round draft pick. Jordan Fuller has also developed into one of the best safeties in the country in his senior season and Shaun Wade leads the Buckeyes with seven passes defensed opposite of Okudah.
Penn State, on the other hand, ranks only 84th against the pass and allowed 710 yards through the air against Minnesota and Indiana combined in its past two games.
Previewing Special Teams
Jake Pinegar has been a steady place kicker for the Nittany Lions, connecting on 9-of-10 field goal attempts this year. Ohio State’s Blake Haubeil has made 8-of-10, including a long of 55 yards.
Penn State may keep it close early, but the Nittany Lions offense has been inconsistent all year and has not seen a defense as talented as the Buckeyes. Penn State’s defense will be able to slow Ohio State’s ground game down for a while, but Ohio State’s firepower will be too much to handle for four quarters.
Ohio State 31, Penn State 13
Will Desautelle is a senior majoring in journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism and Spanish