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Previewing The Enemy: Ohio State Buckeyes

Two heavyweights are going to slug it out on Saturday night in front of a White Out crowd.

This White Out has every opportunity to be the game of the decade for the Nittany Lions. Last year, Penn State fans set a record for Beaver Stadium attendance against Michigan, but this matchup has more weight behind it. The Wolverines had already lost to Michigan State two weeks before heading to Happy Valley and no one really viewed Michigan as a legitimate national title contender.

That team from the Worst State Ever, however, is a contender to win it all.

Ohio State travels across the Ohio-Pennsylvania border as the No. 4 squad in the country. There has obviously been a lot of controversy surrounding the Buckeyes this season regarding Urban Meyer and what he knew about domestic violence allegations against former assistant coach Zach Smith. The situation extended far beyond the sporting world, but only resulted in a three-game suspension for Meyer.

The players have done a good job of not allowing the outside noise to affect their play, taking care of their first four opponents of the season handily.

The Team

On paper, this is the most talented Ohio State team ever. Urban Meyer has been recruiting at an absurd clip during his tenure in Columbus. 

Still, the Buckeyes have had to replace a lot of lost production and have yet to be tested in any serious way. JT Barrett, other than a few horribly bad performances (read: Iowa), was one of the very best quarterbacks in the nation over the span of three seasons. On defense, the Buckeyes lost three of their top four tacklers along the line and two starting linebackers.

To complicate things further, they haven’t played played a single team up to the standard of Appalachian State — according to Bill Connelly’s S&P+ rankings, at least. TCU comes in at No. 30 in that ranking, and App State currently sits at No. 20.

The Buckeyes gave up 31 points to a 1-3 Oregon State team that only put up 14 points against Arizona. They dominated Rutgers 52-3, but Rutgers also lost to Buffalo 42-13. Urban Meyer’s squad took down TCU 40-28, but TCU would go on to lose to a Texas team that lost to Maryland. And, of course, Ohio State took care of Tulane, but that really means nothing. 

I know the transitive property doesn’t necessarily hold true in sports, but Ohio State still has a lot to prove heading into this weekend.

Offense

Ohio State’s offense is dangerous, to say the least. Dwayne Haskins is the Buckeyes’ quarterback following JT Barrett’s graduation, and he’s put up some big numbers. The dude can sling the ball.

Haskins has 87 completions on 115 attempts for 1194 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. The sophomore has been lethal through the air but is not so much a threat on the ground — he’s rushed just 10 times for a total of 28 yards.

Haskins doesn’t really need to make things happen in the backfield because Ohio State has two very capable backs splitting carries. JK Dobbins and Mike Weber have put up very similar numbers through the first four games of the season. Dobbins has 56 carries for 323 yards and two touchdowns, while Weber has 52 carries for 299 yards and three touchdowns. Both running backs are averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

The Buckeyes like to spread the wealth to their receivers. Seniors Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin, as well as junior KJ Hill, are perhaps the most obvious threats downfield. Those three receivers have combined for 49 catches for 776 total yards in four games, not to mention ten touchdowns. 

It doesn’t end there, though, because veterans Austin Mack and Johnnie Dixon have 15 and 10 catches, respectively, for 350 combined yards. The tight end position hasn’t been nearly as productive, though, as sophomore Luke Farrell has just two catches for 19 yards this season.

Ohio State’s offensive line has been pretty solid in 2018, but not great. Despite having probably the most dynamic quarterback-running back duo in college football, the Buckeyes haven’t looked unstoppable on the ground. TCU actually out-rushed Ohio State in Arlington and JK Dobbins was the highest rusher against Tulane with just 55 yards.

Defense

Greg Schiano leads the Ohio State defense as coordinator, and he certainly has a lot of familiarity with Penn State and the Big Ten in general. 

In 2017, other than not being able to stop Heisman winner Baker Mayfield and getting absolutely destroyed (somehow) by Iowa, the Ohio State defense was very good. It all starts along the defensive line for Urban Meyer.

Nick Bosa, who is arguably the most effective and talented player at Ohio State and possibly in college football, will not be available for the White Out after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia. Still, Dre’Mont Jones has tallied three sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss thus far. Defensive end Chase Young has also notched two sacks, and is one of nine Buckeyes to have at least one sack on the season.

The defensive line scored two touchdowns against TCU, one off of a forced fumble that landed in the end zone and the other a shovel pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The defensive line is an absolute force and will be a lot for the Penn State offensive line to handle.

The Buckeyes lost a whole lot of production behind the defensive line after Jerome Baker and Chris Wormley moved on from Columbus. At linebacker, Malik Harrison leads the group with 12 total tackles, and has also recorded himself an interception. Pete Werner and Justin Hillard are tied for second among the group with nine total tackles each.

The linebacking corps for Schiano hasn’t really been anything to write home about, and the secondary probably falls into the same category. Sophomore safety Jahsen Wint is leading the team in tackles with 15 and fellow safety Jordan Fuller has 14. 

Corners Shaun Wade and Kendall Sheffield has both tallied one interception each thus far, making up half of the team’s production in that area. Still, the secondary managed to get torched downfield on multiple occasions against TCU. The Horned Frogs also managed to break out some big runs, flying right past the linebackers and defensive backs with ease.

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About the Author

Derek Bannister

Derek is a senior majoring in Economics and History. He is legally required to tell you that he's from right outside of Philly. Email Derek compliments and dad-jokes at [email protected].

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