Penn State at Ohio State Preview


Game Information: #2 Penn State 7-0 (4-0) at #6 Ohio State 6-1 (4-0)

Saturday 10/28 3:30 pm Ohio Stadium Columbus, OH

TV Coverage: FOX

Weather: 47 degrees, Rainy

Line: OSU -6.5; O/U 57

Last Meeting: 2016 – Penn State won 24-21

Head Coaches:

  • James Franklin: 4th year at Penn State: 56-30 overall, 32-15 at Penn State, 1-2 vs Ohio State
  • Urban Meyer: 6th year at Ohio State: 171-30 overall, 67-7 at Ohio State, 6-1 vs Penn State

Last Week:

  • Penn State: W 42-13 vs Michigan
  • Ohio State: Bye Week

Team Rankings



Yards/Game Passing Yards/Game

Rushing Yards/Game

Penn State

40.0 (16th) 463.3 (T-27th) 289.9 (25th) 173.4 (56th)
Ohio State 47.3 (T-1st) 577.3 (3rd) 325.1 (12th)

252.1 (17th)


Points/Game Yards/Game Passing Yards/Game Rushing Yards/Game Sacks INTs
Penn State 9.6 (1st) 282.9 (9th) 167.6 (7th) 115.3 (17th) 24.0


9 (T-21st)
Ohio State 15.4 (10th) 305.3 (16th) 195.7 (37th) 109.6 (14th) 18.0


7 (T-44th)

Positional Breakdowns


  • Penn State: Trace McSorley was really good last week against a very good Michigan defense despite being asked to do a lot. He was fairly accurate (65.4%) on 26 attempts with one touchdown and an interception on a miscommunication with tight end Mike Gesicki. He was at his best on the ground, both in read option plays and when scrambling out of the pocket. He gained 76 yards rushing and had three rushing touchdowns. He has developed into a weapon in the run game for Penn State and is elusive enough in the open field to make would-be tacklers miss.
  • Ohio State: J.T. Barrett has been at Ohio State for what seems like forever and is in his third season as a starter for the Buckeyes. He is already one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in school history and has been stellar since their loss against Oklahoma. He has thrown just one interception on the season, it came in that loss to the Sooners, and has 21 touchdowns. He is also very accurate, going over 70% completion three times this season, including a season-high 81.8% completion rate his last game against Nebraska. He is also a very gifted runner, with five touchdowns on the ground.
  • Advantage: Ohio State – Barrett is very skilled and mature as a quarterback and is given a lot of responsibility in Ohio State’s pro-style offense. He is incredibly accurate, can hit any pass, but also knows when to pull the ball down and run with it. It will be interesting to see how well he does against Penn State, the best defense he will have faced all season to this point.

Running Backs

  • Penn State: Saquon Barkley further elevated his case for the Heisman Trophy last week against Michigan and now has over 1,200 yards from scrimmage on the season. In that game against the Wolverines, he went over 100 yards rushing for the third time this season and had two rushing touchdowns. The game started off with a bang when he took his first touch of the game for a 69-yard touchdown run. He also caught three passes for 53 yards, including a 42-yard reception that went for a touchdown after he bobbled it initially. He was matched up against a linebacker in the game, which is always a mismatch for the defense. If Ohio State does the same thing, Barkley will have success again on Saturday.
  • Ohio State: Entering this season, redshirt sophomore Mike Weber was expected to be the lead back after posting a 1,000 yard rushing season last year even with Curtis Samuel on the team. He started the season injured, however, and true freshman J.K. Dobbins has emerged as the team’s bellcow back, with 775 rushing yards in just seven games. He has gone over the 100 yard mark three times on the season and has five rushing touchdowns. Neither of their backs are heavily involved in the passing game, with just 10 receptions between.
  • Advantage: Penn State – Dobbins and Weber are both very talented backs but there is only one Saquon Barkley. He proved he could do it against what was the best defense in the country at the time when he torched Michigan last week. Ohio State has a good defense but their front seven isn’t as good as Michigan’s is. Meanwhile, Ohio State’s running backs haven’t faced a rush defense as good as Penn State’s this season.

Receivers and Tight Ends

  • Penn State: DaeSean Hamilton finally overtook Saquon Barkley for the team lead in receiving yards last week. He had 115 yards on six catches and was Trace McSorley’s favorite target and proved to be a matchup nightmare for cornerbacks and safeties. Tight end Mike Gesicki finally got back into the fold last week as well by catching two passes for 52 yards, including one catch that he had to highpoint over a corner. Penn State has several talented receivers on the depth chart and it makes life difficult for defenses to double up on one specific receiver.
  • Ohio State: Parris Campbell is the Buckeyes’ best receiver and has sort of filled the role that Curtis Samuel played on last year’s team by running the ball some as well. He has 27 receptions on the season for 394 yards and two touchdowns but has been quiet in their three most recent games. In total, Ohio State has nine players with at least 100 receiving yards on the season and ten different players have caught touchdown passes. Tight end Marcus Baugh is someone to pay attention to. He has a height similar to that of Gesicki but is more of a blocker. However, he has caught a pass in every game this season and is a matchup nightmare in the redzone. Using a linebacker on him, especially one who is shorter than Baugh, is a very bad idea.
  • Advantage: Draw – Ohio State likely has the better number one receiver in Campbell and they may even have more talent depth at the position. Where Penn State has the edge is on deep routes with Hamilton, Juwan Johnson, and DeAndre Thompkins all able to go up for the ball. The Nittany Lions also have the edge at tight end with Gesicki being one of the best in the nation.

Offensive Line

  • Penn State: The Nittany Lions’ offensive line has already allowed 18 sacks on the season but gave up just two last week against Michigan’s vaunted pass rush. That’s a good thing. Somehow the right side of the line really gelled during their bye week and gave Trace McSorley enough time to work within a clean pocket. They also did a really good job at pushing back the Wolverines’ defensive line and getting to the next level to allow for open holes to run through. They will be challenged again this week by an Ohio State defense that has forced 18 sacks on the season.
  • Ohio State: The Buckeyes have only allowed 12 sacks on the season and seem to be only getting better as the season progresses, allowing just one against Nebraska and none against Maryland. Ohio State almost always has a good offensive line and their alumni can be found throughout the NFL. It is probably safe to say that they haven’t faced a front seven as athletic, fast, or tenacious as Penn State’s this season and it will be a test for them.
  • Advantage: Ohio State – The Buckeyes are traditionally at or near the top of the country in offensive line talent and that remains the same this season. To have only allowed 12 sacks all season, even against subpar defenses, it impressive and Penn State will have to work to get through them. It should be kept in mind though that against Penn State last season, they gave up six sacks, although the game was in Happy Valley.

Defensive Line and Linebackers

  • Penn State: The Nittany Lions rank tied for seventh in the nation in sacks with 24 on the season and have fifteen players with at least one of them. Defensive end Shaka Toney is the team’s leader with three and the team generates a lot of pressure from a fast and athletic line. They had seven sacks last week against Michigan, taking advantage of a porous Wolverine offensive line. This week will be a much tougher test and will be the first really good line they’ve faced this season. They can be beat by good rushing attacks but fared well against Michigan last week.
  • Ohio State: The Nittany Lions rank tied for seventh in the nation in sacks with 24 on the season and have fifteen players with at least one of them. Defensive end Shaka Toney is the team’s leader with three and the team generates a lot of pressure from a fast and athletic line. They had seven sacks last week against Michigan, taking advantage of a porous Wolverine offensive line. This week will be a much tougher test and will be the first really good line they’ve faced this season.
  • Advantage: Ohio State – The Buckeyes have talent all over their defense but are particularly good up front. Allowing only 109 yards per game on the ground is tough to do, especially when they’ve played Army, a team that almost exclusively runs.


  • Penn State: Their secondary has gotten a lot better as the season has progressed and is now the seventh best pass defense in the country, allowing just 167 yards through the air per game. Although they didn’t have any interceptions against Michigan, they allowed just 166 yards through the air and just a 57.1 completion percentage. Against the good passing offense that Indiana has, they gave up just 175 yards while Ohio State allowed 420 yards against the Hoosiers. Expect the Nittany Lions to play a lot of man coverage against the Buckeyes good receivers.
  • Ohio State: The Buckeyes are allowing nearly 30 more yards per game through the air than Penn State is this season. As mentioned above, they allowed over 400 against Indiana, 386 against Oklahoma, and even 349 against Nebraska although a lot of those game in garbage time situations. They will be asked to do a lot against a Penn State offense that runs and throws the ball well and can hide their play call well before the snap.
  • Advantage: Penn State: Ohio State may have played the more difficult passing offenses so far but against the common opponent between the two teams, Indiana, Penn State was far better. Their corners have done very well this season in man coverage and their safeties are intelligent and athletic enough to give help when needed.

Special Teams

  • Penn State: Kicker Tyler Davis didn’t attempt any field goals against Michigan but was successful on all six of his PAT attempts. Punter Blake Gillikin continued his incredible season by punting the ball twice with an average of 49.5 yards. In the return game, Saquon Barkley is extremely dangerous and likely won’t be kicked to much against Ohio State. On punt returns, DeAndre Thompkins is more than capable of running one back for a touchdown.
  • Ohio State: Kicker Sean Nuernberger has been perfect on his PAT attempts this season, going 42-for-42, and has made seven of his nine field goal attempts. Punter Dru Chrisman has punted the ball 20 times with an average distance of 42.6 yards. In the return game, Parris Campbell is as dangerous as Barkley in kick returns, averaging 39 yards per return on eight returns. Keeping the ball away from him will be key.
  • Advantage: Draw – Ohio State has the advantage at kicker while Penn State has the better punter. It’s a draw in the return game with both Barkley and Campbell extremely dangerous.

Keys to the Game

Two Great Offensives vs. Two Great Defenses

  • Ohio State has an incredible offense, tying for first in the nation in scoring and ranked third in yards per game. Penn State has an excellent defense, ranking first in the country in scoring and top ten in yards and passing yards allowed per game and sacks. Ohio State has a good defense while Penn State brings a versatile and electric offensive attack. It will be strength on strength in this one and who wins in the trenches will likely win this game.

How Does Ohio State Fare in Their First Tough Game Since Oklahoma?

  • The Buckeyes haven’t faced a team with any real talent since they played Oklahoma in the second game of the season. They have scored at least 50 points in four of those games but haven’t faced any good defenses in that stretch. Penn State proved that they are for real last week when they dismantled Michigan, now can Ohio State prove the same thing?

What Does Joe Moorhead Have Up His Sleeve This Week?

  • Last week, Moorhead had Saquon Barkley take direct snaps, they had a lot of late movements, and forced Michigan’s defense to make a lot of quick decisions. I don’t expect him to have the same wrinkles this week but will probably go with something completely new. That innovation could be the difference in this game because you know what Ohio State is going to bring on offense.


  • Ohio Stadium is very difficult to play in and will present a big test for Penn State. The Nittany Lions have proved that they can win in difficult environments when they beat Iowa on the road earlier this season. Both offenses are electric and Penn State has certainly been better in tough games than Ohio State has. I think this could easily turn into a shootout, but could also see it being a grinding game with a lot of three-and-outs. I do think that the Nittany Lions have the better game changers with Saquon Barkley and their wide receivers. Had they not walked all over Michigan last week, I would probably pick Ohio State in this game, but that game changed my mind. I am picking Penn State to win 45-42.

*All stats and information came from Sports-Reference, ESPN, and NCAA.


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