2019 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Penn State
Both Ohio State and Penn State took care of business this past weekend, even if they did not look as sharp doing it. Ohio State comes into this game undefeated, and Penn State has 1 loss to Minnesota. The winner of this game will decide who will represent the Big Ten East in Indianapolis, as been the case for the previous 3 seasons. Ohio State is currently on a 2 game win streak in the series, and leads 20-14 (if you count the 2010 vacated win). They hype for this game will be real, and the question will be how Ryan Day will handle it.
It is also Senior Day for the Buckeyes, and most likely the last time Buckeye fans will see a few key Juniors in Ohio Stadium as a player, including Chase Young, who is back from his 2 game suspension, JK Dobbins, and Jeffrey Okudah.
The nation will be watching, both on campus and on national television, and the toughest decision for fans might be where they want to spend pregame. ESPN’s College Gameday will be on campus, which will start at 9am (details as to location yet to be announced) and I would not be suprised if they set up in front of St. John Arena. FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff will also be on campus, in which they will do a special 2 hour show starting at 10am. The first hour will be outside the stadium, and then from 11am-12pm, they will be located inside the stadium, most likely near the visitor entrance. For those who do have tickets, or want to join in the festivities, get there early.
Head Coach: James Franklin
2019 Record: 9-1
Location: State College, PA
Conference: Big Ten
Ohio State Preview: Coming off their second bye week, everyone outside of the team was keying on this game instead of the Maryland and Rutgers games, and for good reason. This will be Ohio State biggest test, and best opponent to date this season. What they lack in big wins in the committees top 25 (which they currently have 2) games against Penn State, Michigan, and potentially Minnesota or a rematch with Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship games, Ohio State will have had 5 top 25 wins. This is the game they need to win, because if they lose, they would need Rutgers to beat Penn State next week, and that is just not a safe bet.
With a loss, could Ohio State still make the playoff? This would be too much like the 2015 season, but Ohio State has dominated every single game they have been in, and Vegas seems to love the Buckeyes because they opened up as 19.5 point favorites. They have won each game by at least 24 points, a feat that only one other team in the last 100 years, the 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers, has been able to accomplish. Ohio State has to win this game if it wants to control their fate, and as a fan, I would rather not take that chance, especially when you are competing with other 1 loss conference champions.
Justin Fields enters this game with 2164 passing yards, and 31 touchdowns and 1 interception. He did not add any rushing touchdowns last week against Rutgers, but he now has 377 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. His 31 passing touchdowns puts him at 4th in Ohio State history for passing touchdowns in a season. He has 41 total touchdowns, and the record for the season is 54, so if he can break that record with 4 more games, at 4 per game, or 3 touchdowns in 5 games.
JK Dobbins did not reach 100 yards for the second straight week, be he is not down about that. Day took him out of the second half wanting to work on the passing game, and rest Dobbins for this stretch of games. He could be at a Zeke level performance, and is close to being the third place rushing yards leader in this game. He has 1289 yards for the season, and 13 touchdowns. Master Teague got some quality time last week too, and now has 744 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns.
Chris Olave stepping in for an injured Austin Mack has helped him take the top spot as the leading receiver. He now has 593 yards on 37 receptions and 9 touchdowns. Ben Victor, how had led most of the season, is now at 459 yards on 27 receptions and 6 touchdowns. KJ could break the record this week or next week for most receptions in a career at Ohio State, as he has 38 receptions for 423 yards and 6 touchdowns. Garrett Wilson is now the 4th leading receiver with 229 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Chase Young will be back this week, and even though he might be out of the Heisman race, he will be fresh and with an edge for this last stretch of games. Buckeye fans hopes he can tope his Wisconsin game performance. Shaun Wade and Jeffrey Okudah will have their hands full with the Penn State receivers, and look to prove their top ranked pass defense.
Penn State Preview: In the only game Penn State has lost so far this season, they never led against Minnesota, and lost 31-26. James Franklin has his team playing at a high level, and will need them to be there for this game to keep their playoff hopes alive. He might be rumored for the USC job, but he seems to be keeping focus for this team this season. They have solid wins over Iowa at Kinneck Stadium, and held on to a win against Michigan at home.
Like Ohio State, this is a must win for them. With a loss, they could potentially lose out even to a Rose Bowl bid, but could still earn a trip to the New Years Six bowl game at 10-2. They have not had to play a tough non-conference, and started the season with big wins over Idaho and Buffalo, but was in a tough matchup with in-state rival Pitt. The have been averaging 36.8 points a game, and giving up 13.5, Their offense averages nearly 427 yards a game, and defensively allow roughly 316 yards a game, 240 of which is in the air.
Sean Clifford steps in at quarterback and has passed for 2450 yards, and 22 touchdowns against 6 interceptions. He is completing 60% of his passes, as likes to spread the ball around. Although Clifford is no McSorely, he is the second leading rusher on the team with 374 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Journey Brown is the leading rusher with 521 yards for the season so far and 6 touchdowns. Noah Cain and Devyn Ford have alsor stepped in with reps at running back, running for 350 yards and 6 touchdowns, and 289 yards and 2 touchdowns respectively.
KJ Hamler is the leading receiver and arguably their best player, with 791 yards and 8 touchdowns. Like Penn State is known for, they utilize their tight ends, and Pat Freiermuth is the second leading receiver with 424 yards and 8 touchdowns. Jahan Dotson is the third receiving receiver with 412 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Buckeye Spotlight: Justin Fields. Fields had his best game passing against Rutgers, and Penn State has given up nearly 240 yards a game passing alone. Fields will need to make sure he doesn’t hold on to the ball too long, and trust in his veteran receivers.
Nittany Lion Spotlight: KJ Hamler. Hamler is arguably the best player on the Nittany Lion offense, and a reason why the transition for Clifford has been smooth. Without him last week against Indiana, the game was closer than the Penn State faithful would have liked, but still found a way to win. He will be placed in the slot to challenge the Ohio State linebackers, and can breakaway if given the open field.
Water Cooler Stat of the Game: 5. That is the difference in the win totals for these two teams in their last 3 matchups. Penn State won 24-21 in 2016, Ohio State won 39-38 in 2017, and Ohio State won 27-26. These two teams have been in close match ups, and there is reason to believe this years edition will be a good and close game as well.
Prediction: Penn State might have been looking ahead to this weeks game after winning by 7 against Indiana last week. They same might have been said for Ohio State who did not cover the 52 point spread against Rutgers, and instead “only won” by 35. The winner of this game has made the Big Ten Championship game the last 3 years, and the same will be true for this years edition. Sean Clifford is a better thrower than Trace McSorley, but Ohio State will have its full arsenal with Chase Young back after serving his 2 game suspension. Ohio State will be focused for this one and they know what is at stake. Ohio State wins this years edition after a close first quarter, and then Fields has his best passing game.
Ohio State 38 – Penn State 14
Photo Credit to Eleven Warriors