LOCATION: Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
BETTING LINE: Penn St. (+20)
OHIO STATE PLAYER TO WATCH
Nick Bosa–Defensive Lineman – #97
With the last name “Bosa,” it is pretty hard to go unnoticed. As his brother wreaked havoc against the Broncos last Thursday in the NFL, Nick prepared to beat Wisconsin. The younger Bosa has a legacy to live up to at Ohio State and has already started his mission of doing so. Bosa has quietly registered three sacks and fourteen tackles on the season but has made a big difference for the Buckeyes upfront. He has grown in his role and flashed how strong he really is against Wisconsin last Saturday. Nick will be asked to take on bigger roles as the season progresses and look for him, as well as Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis, to put fear into their next opponents. He will be held accountable, along with the rest of the defensive line, to right their rushing defense against the very talented Saquon Barkley of Penn State.
PENN STATE PLAYER TO WATCH
Saquon Barkley Running Back – #26
Saquon Barkley has been called on time and time again to produce for the Nittany Lions. Penn State has struggled to move the ball at times and it is evident that the departure of Christian Hackenberg took a toll on their offense. Barkley has produced nearly 725 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns through six games this season. There is no question about his talent, and the Buckeyes must do a good job of containing Barkley’s big play ability. Ohio State has struggled to cover the run the last two weeks so look for Penn State to try and establish their playmaker early to free up passing lanes and keep J.T. Barrett on the sideline with a slow tempo.
Ohio State Key Positions
It is odd to talk about a Heisman candidate struggling, but J.T. Barrett has not thrown the ball well since playing Oklahoma in week three. The Buckeyes have the weapons to make up for a weak passing game for now, but must be able to throw the ball by the end of the season. Look for Barrett to take chances down field and try to exploit a poor Penn State secondary.
The Buckeyes’ defensive line features four pass rushers (Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, Nick Bosa, Jalyn Holmes) that can really get after the quarterback. Last week Ohio State ran through freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook, disrupting passing lanes and reeling in sacks, and must do the same against an inexperienced sophomore in Trace McSorley.
The Buckeyes feature one of the best linebacking cores in the nation and have yet to return their starting strong side linebacker Dante Booker. He has been week-to-week and should be returning to the lineup soon. In his absence, Jerome Baker has excelled, flashing big play ability. Ohio State will have the tough task of slowing down Saquon Barkley and will have to cover from sideline to sideline on Saturday.
GAME PREVIEW ANALYSIS
The Buckeyes are on the road for a second straight week as they travel to Happy Valley to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions. Ohio State comes into the game as heavy favorites, but with a close overtime win last week against Wisconsin, the Ohio State must solidify their number two position in the AP poll against a 4-2 Penn State with a dominant win. On the opposite sideline, head coach James Franklin tries to keep their program on a winning path and keep their Big Ten record (2-1) positive.
Ohio State comes into the game with a clear amount of playmakers on both sides of the ball, but have failed to generate four full quarters of dominance. Urban Meyer must find a way to come out hot and put the game away early, instilling confidence in his J.T. Barrett’s throwing ability. They have lacked the true pass game that is necessary to move through the second half of the season and Penn State could potentially be a great tune-up game before they head back to Columbus to take on Nebraska.
On the opposite sideline, head coach James Franklin hopes to right the ship and put Penn State back in the spotlight. Although he will most likely not have the opportunity to run the table in the Big Ten this year, he could start by knocking off the number two team in the nation. Look for Franklin to get the ball in the hands of his star running back Saquon Barkley and try to control the tempo of the game, much like Wisconsin and Indiana tried to do. It is inevitable that the Buckeyes will score points but they will have to win the turnover battle and play damage control against the Buckeyes’ high-powered offense.
Penn State Key Positions
Penn State easily beat Maryland two weeks ago, but still spent a lot of time behind the line of scrimmage against an underwhelming Maryland pass rush. Brian Gaia, redshirt senior center, must take charge of the Nittany Lions offensive line and keep their second-year quarterback Trace McSorley protected. This is no easy task, as the Buckeyes have a premiere pass rushing defense, but they must prepare schematically to open up holes for Saquon Barkley if they have any hope of beating the Buckeyes at home.
Penn State, for years, has produced an ample amount of linebacking talent and must perform against a strong Buckeyes’ running game. Penn State features true freshman weak-side linebacker Cameron Brown, and although he only has raw talent, he is a big body that looks to stuff the run. In the middle, redshirt junior Brandon Smith will have to lead his defense and play near flawless for the Nittany Lions to escape with an upset win.
Although Penn State fell victim to the loss of scholarships and the aftermath of allegations against the university, there is no excuse now for head coach James Franklin. Franklin was appointed in 2014 but has yet to get Penn State football back to its best. If the Nittany Lions have any hope of beating the Buckeyes on Saturday, he must coach a perfect game and beat Ohio State schematically.