2021 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Penn State
At the beginning of October, this game was circled as a a pivotal game for the Big Ten East and College Football Playoff. Michigan and Michigan State will square off in a top 10 showdown, and many expected this game to be another top 10 showdown until Illinois spoiled those plans. This is also the second time in three years that the Fighting Illini have spoiled not only a season for a team, but have taken away a marquee matchup for the Buckeyes. (In 2019, Illinois beat Wisconsin the week before they headed to Columbus).
One thing that Penn State does right is the White Out at Beaver Stadium, and Ohio State is going to try and match that energy with a “Scarlet the Shoe” for this prime time match up. It was announced in late September that the Buckeyes would wear an all Scarlet uniform, and the buzz for the uniforms have been mixed, but they get the LeBron James approval.
This will be the first game for the Buckeyes where they will have Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler call the game, and Holly Rowe will be on the sideline. If Penn State had won last week, there was a good chance College Game Day would have been in Columbus, but they instead will be sharing campus with Big Noon Kickoff in East Lansing, MI for the Michigan State vs Michigan showdown.
This will also be a huge weekend for potential recruits and future Buckeyes. Even though this matchup has lost some of the luster, this is still expected to be a good game, and a good test for the Buckeyes about how well they have improved against a team that is top 10 in total defense. This is also the last game before the first rankings of the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday, November 2nd.
If you needed any more juice, look no further than this hype video the Ohio State media team release before this game:
Hyped yet? 7:30pm on Saturday can’t come soon enough.
Head Coach: James Franklin (8th season)
2021 Record: 5-2
Location: State College, PA
Conference: Big 10
Ohio State Preview: Ohio State continues to impress after another demolishing win against Indiana last week 54 -7. To many analysts, this Ohio State team is arguably the second best team in the country behind Georgia, and already the fans are salivating at a potential match up that has been building since 2018 when both teams were left out of the College Football Playoff behind Oklahoma and Notre Dame who got blown out in the semi-final games. Before thinking that dar ahead, and diving more into the dream matchup between the Buckeye offense and the Bulldog defense. this game needs to be played, and the Buckeyes have to focus on one week at a time.
With the loss to Oregon, who the Buckeyes are still ahead of in the polls, they know that the margin for error is practically none, and has 3 top 25 match ups at the moment to finish the season. This is the time of the year where they can really establish a better resume as the opponents seem to increasingly get better through the November 27 matchup for The Game.
Statistically the Buckeyes have improved on both sides of the ball. On offense, they lead the country in points per game, and yards per game. They are 6th in the country in passing yards per game, and 25th on rushing yards per game. Defensivly they have climbed up from near the bottom of the list to the 43rd best total defense, and give up and average now of 348 yards per game.
The offense is led by Cj Storud, who is an emerging Heisman favorite, and how opportunities to improve his chances starting with this week. Since resting agasint Akron, he has passed for 14 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in the last 3 games, and boasts the nations second best QBR of 192.79. (For reference, Justin Fields was 181.43 rating in 2019 which was 3rd best.). For the year, Stroud has 1965 yards passing in 6 games, with 22 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
Another rising star and Heisman hopeful is running back TreVeyon Henderson who has 693 rushing yards on 79 carries with 11 touchdowns. He is averaging 8.8 yards per carry which is the 3rd best in the country, and the best in the Big Ten. He also has 8 catches for 168 yards and 3 touchdowns. Henderson averages a touchdown every 6 touches. Master Teague sounds like he will be out again, and Marcus Crowley will be out for extended time as well, which means that Miyan Williams and Evan Pryor will be getting more touches behind Henderson. Williams has 309 yards on 40 carries and 2 touchdowns. Pryor is currently 5th on the list for top running backs with 21 carries for 98 yards and a touchdown.
The top three receivers for the Buckeyes are the three starters with Garret Wilson, Chris Olave, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Wilson leads the team with 605 yards on 36 receptions with 6 touchdowns. Olave has 32 catches with 518 yards and 8 touchdowns. He is 4 touchdowns away from tying the all time touchdown record at Ohio State, and 5 from owning it. Smith-Njigba has been great the last two games and could have a big game this week. He has 29 catches for 551 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Penn State Preview: James Franklin might not be 100% with Penn State at this point, and he might be still thinking the game against Illinois is going on. In his weekly press conference, he said he is focused on Illinois this week, and excited to play in the Big House. Both of these statements have nothing to do with this weeks game, and further escalates the question if Franklin is going to leave for the USC or LSU job that are open. His success on the recruiting trail can’t be denied, and he is building a good class for the 2022 team.
But for 2021, this is the season that has sort of gone sideways after starting 5-0 against some quality opponents in Wisconsin, and Auburn. The downfall for the Nittany Lions started with their game against Iowa, where they led 17-3 before Sean Clifford got hurt, and Iowa won 23-20 thanks to some big plays on offense. Penn State then had a bye week and lost to Illinois in a 9 overtime game that opened more questions than answers for the team as they were handled at the line of scrimmage and got gashed on the defensive run game. Now they have Ohio State this week, and Michigan and Michigan State left on the schedule and looking at a potential 7-5 finish. To try and right the season though, they are looking to get a big win against Ohio State and get their first win in Columbus since 2011.
To have a chance, it starts and ends with Sean Clifford, who said he was going to be 100% by the end of the week. For the season, Clifford has 1647 yards passing with 12 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. What makes Clifford diverse is that he can extend plays with his legs, and has been the running game to a degree. He has 145 yards on 49 carries and 2 touchdowns. For the year though, Clifford is completing over 64 % of his passes.
Leading the running back room is Noah Cain, who has 78 carries for 245 yards and 4 touchdowns. Behind Cain is Keyvone Lee who has 228 yards on 45 carries. As a team, this is the 100th best rushing offense in the country.
Familiar name Jahan Dotson is the top receiver for the Nittany Lions with 563 yards on 49 catches and 6 touchdowns. Behind Dotson is Parker Washington who has 32 catches for 374 yards and 2 touchdowns. The third leading receiver is KeAndre Lambert-Smith who has 334 yards on 21 catches and 2 touchdowns.
Buckeye Spotlight: Jaxon Smith-Njigba. THe past two games, Jaxon Smith-Njigba has caught 11 passes for 202 yards, and led the Buckeyes in receiving last week. With a lot of the focus going to be on Olave and Wilson, this could be Smith-Njigba’s best game.
Nittany Lion Spotlight: Arnold Ebiketie. The Temple transfer has been a standout for the Penn State defense this year, and could create some havoc if he is not guarded well. He will be going up against Dewan Jones, so his has a tall task to begin with, but his presence could help keep Penn State in the game.
Water Cooler Stat of the Game: 559 vs 372. Ohio State has the number 1 total offense in the country averaging 559 yards a game. Penn State is the 84th best offense in the country averaging 372 yards a game, and has the 79th best scoring offense in the country at 26.6 points per game.
Prediction: Assuming Penn State land ins Columbus, and not Ann Arbor to play Illinois, this game should be pretty interesting if you are a Buckeye fan. Talent wise, Penn State is the closest competitive team to the Buckeyes in the Big Ten, but this year so far Penn State has not looked like a dominant team against Power 5 teams, and their injuries are hard to ignore. Defensively, this will be one of the best schemes the Ohio State offense will face, and will probably be the best defense they see outside of a potential playoff trip. The line of scrimmage though will be where this game will be won, and Ohio State’s offensive line will have their way against the Nittany Lion defensive line, which should open up the running game a little more for the Buckeyes. Ohio State wins this one comfortably, and forces Sean Clifford to make mistakes.
Ohio State 42 – Penn State 13
Photo Credit to Sports Insights