by David Abruzzese and Ethan Kasales
No. 2 Penn State and No. 6 Ohio State will square off Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on FOX in what could be the best college football game of the regular season.
James Franklin’s Nittany Lions will put their perfect 7-0 record on the line against a revenge-seeking bunch of Buckeyes who want to show last year’s loss was merely a fluke in front of a “Black Out” crowd.
Urban Meyer’s Ohio State squad enters Saturday’s contest 6-1 on the season, with its only loss coming at home to Oklahoma, 31-16, on Sept. 9.
As everyone knows, the Buckeyes supplanted Penn State for a spot in the College Football Playoff, to be ultimately blown out by Clemson 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett might be playing his best ball of the season, but running back J.K. Dobbins has been a revelation for the Buckeyes. The true freshman’s totaled 775 yards and five touchdowns on the season, along with the ability to cut on a dime. Sophomore backup Mike Weber is no slouch, either — he started all of last year, rushing for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns. He has four on the season, and should provide the perfect complement to Dobbins.
Barrett’s play has been another story. Scrutinized for his inaccuracy, Barrett’s totaled 1,827 yards, 21 touchdowns, and just one interception. At 66.5 percent, Barrett has been on point of late, and his arm — one that’s been the center of questions among fans — poses a great threat to the Nittany Lions.
Receiver Parris Campbell, who leads the team with 394 yards, should be a go for this weekend after being questionable throughout the week. His presence, along with second leading receiver K.J. Hill, will keep the Nittany Lion secondary plenty busy on Saturday afternoon.
It all starts up front with Ohio State’s supremely talented and ultra deep defensive line, which longtime Penn State assistant Larry Johnson took over in 2014. Like he did in State College, Johnson has built an outstanding rotation of NFL-caliber players who get after the quarterback in waves. The Buckeyes even have an “Outlaw” package similar to Penn State where four combo defensive ends take the field in obvious pass-rushing situations.
Sophomore Nick Bosa, Joey’s younger brother, has been an absolute terror for opposing offensive lines this season. He leads the defense with 10 tackles for loss and four sacks, while junior Sam Hubbard has exactly halved Bosa’s production thus far.
Senior safety Damon Webb and junior corner Denzel Ward are two of the better defensive backs in the Big Ten, and have created plenty of disruption in the passing game. Webb also leads Ohio State in total tackles with 34. Junior linebacker and Cleveland native Jerome Baker is an absolute handful in the second level. He’ll likely spend the majority of the afternoon patrolling Saquon Barkley’s every move.