The Buckeyes make the trip to Happy Valley to take on Penn State Saturday night at 7:30. With the jury still out on Michigan, this game could go a very long way in determining the Big Ten East winner. Both teams are undefeated. Only one has played a really challenging opponent. Ohio State’s trip to Dallas to play amped-to-the-gills TCU will go a long way in helping them deal with the “white out” at Beaver Stadium.
We all know what’s been going on with the Buckeyes through four games. The offense, behind the arm of Dwayne Haskins and play calling of Ryan Day, is lethal and very hard to defend. Want to play man-to-man coverage with one safety? Haskins will pick you apart. Want to play with an extra defensive back and slow the passing game? J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber will run wild thanks to a mammoth and athletic offensive line blowing open holes. Urban Meyer said his biggest concern with the defense is the amount of big plays they’ve given up. Even without Nick Bosa, the defensive line is still one of the best in the country. The linebackers need to be better and the field safety needs to be a lot better.
What does all of this mean when it comes to this game? Let’s look at offense first. I think Penn State has a real dilemma. They’re giving up 172 rushing yards per game and that came against the likes of Appalachian State, Pitt, Kent State, and Illinois. Not exactly a formidable line-up of teams. So, if the Nittany Lions want to do like just about everyone else the Buckeyes have played this year and bring a safety down low to help against the run while playing man-to-man coverage, they run the risk of being shredded by Haskins and the receivers. Haskins will easily be the best quarterback PSU has faced all season. Meyer wants balance and to establish the run, but is happy to take what the defense gives them. He’s pleased with the way offensive coordinator Ryan Day and co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson have been calling plays, “A lot of it is how the game plays out. I don’t want them to change the way they’ve been calling plays.” I’m expecting Penn State to try to stop Ohio State from running the ball. But, if the Buckeyes’ offensive line can control the Nittany Lions’ defensive line, it is going to be a long night for that defense because their linebackers are not highly regarded at all. When throwing the ball, the key matchup is right tackle Isaiah Prince (pictured) against defensive end Shareef Miller. If Prince, who had a nightmare game at Penn State two years ago, handles Miller like he did TCU’s Ben Banogu, Haskins should have plenty of time to find his receivers and make something happen. Don’t be surprised if Penn State moves Miller to the other side to test left tackle Thayer Munford. Prince has turned into a monster. Munford is a first-year starter, but a good one. I think the PSU staff is going to go after Munford. The Lions’ defense is ranked just 45th nationally and has struggled at times against that less-than-stellar schedule. The Buckeyes are 3rd in the country in total offense.
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley is another of the dual threat kind. I don’t doubt he’ll make some plays with his legs and create problems for the Buckeye defense. I won’t be surprised to see linebacker Malik Harrison used as a “spy” like he was against TCU’s Shawn Robinson. The OSU secondary must maintain coverage when McSorley starts moving around. They did a good job of this against Robinson. The emergence of Miles Sanders has softened the loss of Saquon Barkley and allowed the Lions to run the football at a rate of 275 yards per game and 6.4 yards per carry. I’m certain they’re going to test OSU’s front seven early and often. I’m not convinced, as everyone else seems to be, they’ll be able to consistently handle Dre’mont Jones, Robert Landers, and Davon Hamilton in the middle of the line of scrimmage. Jones has become a beast and the quickness of Landers could prove to be a very disruptive factor. The linebackers must have their best game, and be active and strong filling gaps. Penn State is going to want to control things up front and not have to throw it too much. For all of the fawning in the media over McSorley, he’s not all that accurate and I think he’s shown he can be harassed into mistakes in big games.
Random Things For A White Out
Center Michael Jordan said all of those bad snaps against TCU were the result of allowing the moment to get to him. “I think that I just made TCU a much bigger game in my head, instead of calming myself down,” Jordan said. My concern is if Penn State’s defensive line makes things difficult for Jordan and his offensive line mates, will he digress back to those low snaps again?
With Nick Bosa sidelined, are the Buckeyes going to get a better pass rush from the 3-3-5 look rather than the Rushmen package? In the Rushmen, true freshman Tyreke Smith replaces the nose tackle (Landers or Hamilton). Smith is going to be a good one, but right now is still early in his first season as a Buckeye and isn’t that effective as a pass rusher. Also in the Rushmen, a linebacker is removed and replaced with a defensive back (usually Shaun Wade). By going mostly with the 3-3-5, all three linebackers stay in the game and the nose tackle is replaced by Wade. This allows defensive coordinator Greg Schiano the ability to move those linebackers around and blitz them from various angles. This can create a lot of confusion along the offensive line and for any running back responsible for blitz pick-up. Say what you want about the performance of Pete Werner so far this season, but he sells out on blitzes. I think the 3-3-5 gives them a lot more flexibility then the Rushmen. Which they use more often is something I’ll be watching for.
Meyer indicated Demario McCall may be a part of the offense against Penn State. He said, “He’s going to be involved in this game plan, I think.” McCall has been working at both running back and H-back. Meyer said he needs to get stronger to play to play running back and more fluid to be a receiver. But, it is obvious the coaches are looking at ways to use him. He’s quick, elusive, and has the capability to make something happen in the open field.
A lot is being made of special teams in this game because they’ve impacted the last two meetings so much. The Buckeyes have one of the better punters in the country in Drue Chrisman. He’s averaging just 42.4 yards per kick. But, only four of his thirteen punts have been returned and he’s put ten inside the 20-yard line. Chrisman’s ability to pin a team deep in their own territory could be a factor Saturday night. But, what won’t be a factor in his performance is Penn State’s famed “White Out.” He said the crowd won’t bother him at all because when he’s on the field, all he is looking at is the butt of long snapper Liam McCullough.
Although Brady Taylor is out for a few weeks, he’s still listed as the back-up at left guard. Also, you’d think with the amount of people employed by the Sports Information office, they could see that number changes by players are updated on the weekly roster. For those who keep track of things like that, Marcus Williamson switched from 21 to 17 a few weeks ago. He’s still listed as 21 on the roster.
Head coach James Franklin’s team is 4-0, but the schedule has been less than impressive. Quarterback Trace McSorley has run for 235 yards and 6 touchdowns, and thrown for 763 yards and 8 touchdowns But, he has completed less than 54% of his passes. Miles Sanders is their leading rusher with 495 yards and averages 7 yards per carry. The slot receiver is K.J. Hamler. He can run and makes things happen when he has the ball.
They lost a lot of players on defense from last year, who were two-year starters. Linebackers Jan Johnson and Micah Parsons, along with safety Garrett Taylor are the team’s leading tacklers. Cornerback Amani Oruwariye has two interceptions and five pass break-ups, but teams have shown it is easy to avoid throwing his way. As a unit they have 14 sacks and 38 tackles for a loss. Shareef Miller leads the team with three sacks. Tackling has been an issue at times.
Hamler averages over 31 yards per kickoff return, while punt returner DeAndre Thompkins averages nearly 20 yards per return. One thing to watch in the kicking game is Penn State placekicker Jake Pinegar has made just one of three field goal attempts. Both misses are from over 40 yards.
What Do I Think?
The Buckeyes’ offense is difficult to slow down for an entire game. We saw that against TCU. Penn State’s defense has struggled here and there so far. I think PSU will try to take the run away like others have. If the offensive line can protect Haskins, he’ll have another huge night.
It goes without saying the defense needs to limit big plays. I think the Buckeyes will work to hold Miles Sanders in check and force the Lions to try to win the game on the arm of McSorley. They’ll score some points, but I don’t think they’re good enough overall to stay with the Buckeyes for 60 minutes.
Penn State’s kick and punt return people are good. But, we’ve seen how effective Buckeye punter Drue Chrisman is at neutralizing return men with his high, hanging kicks. On kickoffs, they need to get the ball up high and force Hamler into a fair catch. I think the Buckeyes definitely have an advantage on special teams.
Much is made about Penn State’s annual “White Out” game, but it’s hardly translated to overwhelming success on the field. The Buckeyes went to Dallas to play TCU and had to overcome a lot of adversity to get a win. Dwayne Haskins came off the bench with his team trailing in college football’s biggest rivalry game and led the Buckeyes to a win at Michigan. I don’t think Haskins is going to be intimidated by a bunch of white clad screaming idiots. Good football teams handle playing in front of crowds like this. This Buckeye team is VERY good and will handle the crowd and Nittany Lion football team to get a comfortable win.
Going To Be A While
Not long after Urban Meyer announced there was no timetable for the return of Nick Bosa, his family tried to shed more light on the situation. “I know Coach Meyer’s going to get 1,000 questions, so I do want to just clarify: Nick will not be getting re-evaluated until November, so anything past that, that would just be speculating,” John Bosa, the father of Nick, told Eleven Warriors, in a phone conversation Monday afternoon.
Meyer said Nick has told him he wants to play again and will return. The Buckeye head coach said he’s had conversations with the parents about Nick’s future and will have more down the road when he is re-evaluated. No specific date for the re-evaluation has been given.
I don’t want to read too much between the lines here, but I think his parents do not want him to play for the Buckeyes again. With the possibility of being the number one pick of the NFL Draft next spring, there is a lot at stake here. I think the only way he comes back to play for the Buckeyes is if they are going to the College Football Playoff. I’d love to see him available for even spot duty for Michigan and the Big Ten Championship, but I don’t think that will be the case.
In other injury news, offensive lineman Brady Taylor underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee Saturday. He’s expected to miss about four weeks. According to a report in The Catholic Times, he began experiencing problems with the knee in fall camp in August as he battled for the starting center job. Michael Jordan was eventually moved to the position and Taylor began the season as the back-up at left guard. He saw action in the Buckeyes’ first two games of the season, but did not play against TCU due to the knee issue.
You Really Want To Go There?
My complete and total disdain for Penn State fans is well known. This is a group who still believes its beloved favorite school did nothing wrong covering up a pedophile molesting kids on its campus. Ohio State fans believe Urban Meyer did nothing wrong in his handling of the domestic situation between Courtney and Zach Smith. So, what’s the difference in the two situations? It’s real simple. Three Penn State officials, including the university president and athletic director, were convicted of child endangerment and sentenced to jail time for failing to report what Jerry Sandusky was doing. That, my friends, is a cover-up. Courtney Smith’s allegations against Urban Meyer are just that, allegations. Not only has not one person gone to jail over her claims, they’ve never been corroborated by anyone. But, we all know that won’t stop “Ped State” fans from chirping as loud as they can at any Buckeye faithful brave enough to make their way to Happy Valley on Saturday. Any Nittany Lion fans sporting one of these shirts needs to take a long look in the mirror. Penn State head coach James Franklin has told their fan base to treat Buckeye fans with respect and make them feel welcome. He obviously doesn’t know his fan base well at all.
Defensive tackle Adolphus Washington has been signed off of the Cowboys’ practice squad by the Bengals. The team needed to replace Ryan Glasgow, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Washington spent his first two seasons with the Bills before being released by them in the last few weeks.
The Patriots have signed defensive end John Simon, who was released by the Colts on September 1st. He has thirteen sacks in his five NFL seasons.
Mike Nugent has been placed on IR by the Raiders after hip surgery. He will miss at least eight weeks. The 36-year old kicker had hit on all six of his field goal attempts this season, with a long of 52 yards. Joey Bosa has indicated he will not be able to return to the Chargers lineup until the middle of the season. He’s currently wearing a protective boot on his left foot because of instability in a tendon.
If you are someone who does not know a thing about college football, and I asked you which of these stories was getting more coverage two months later, which would you choose? A football player dying of heat stroke because of negligence by the athletic staff or still unsubstantiated claims made by a woman saying a high-profile coach knew of domestic violence by one of his assistant coaches and did nothing about it? A person with any sense at all would choose the death of a player because of negligence by the athletic staff, because, well, he DIED. I’d have to sadly inform you that the still unsubstantiated claims made against a high-profile coach are more important to the media than a 19-year old kid who DIED. On that note, enjoy the game.