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Previewing The Enemy: Ohio State Buckeyes

This is the big one, folks.

After dropping its season opener to Indiana, No. 18 Penn State football now welcomes No. 3 Ohio State for a matchup on Halloween. The Buckeyes, who are currently considered one of the top teams in all of college football, opened their season with a 51-17 annihilation of Nebraska last weekend.

While it’s only week two, this will surely be one of the Nittany Lions’ most important contests of their delayed season. Here’s everything you need to know about this dominant Ohio State squad.

The Team

The Buckeyes lived up to their lofty expectations last week. After rolling over Nebraska, Ryan Day’s squad proved nothing has changed since its 13-1 2019 record and trip to the College Football Playoff.

The Cornhuskers aren’t necessarily top-tier Big Ten talent, but Ohio State proved itself against plenty of that in 2019. The Buckeyes took down five ranked squads last season, including No. 25 Michigan State, No. 13 Wisconsin (twice), and of course No. 9 Penn State. Day’s team also fell just six points short of a victory over No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, its only loss of the season.

Aside from the 5-1 record against ranked opponents, the Buckeyes beat everyone they were supposed to. Ohio State defeated every unranked opponent by at least 24 points in 2019, including a 51-10 victory over Indiana.

Penn State hasn’t beaten this team since the legendary 2016 White Out win, but the Nittany Lions have lost by just one point in two of the last three contests.

Offense

With returning stars at wide receiver and running back, this is already a scary group to stop. It doesn’t stop there, though, as this offense runs through junior quarterback Justin Fields.

James Franklin described the former Penn State commit as “one of the best players in all of college football” Tuesday, and for good reason. Fields threw for 3,273 yards and 41 touchdowns last year, and even rushed for 484 yards and 10 scores. That all added up to a Big Ten-leading 268.4 yards of total offense per game.

Fields’ impressive dual-threat ability was on full display against Nebraska Saturday, as he threw for 276 yards, rushed for 54 more, and finished with three total scores.

QB1 has no shortage of weapons to work with, including returning stars Chris Olave and Master Teague. Teague, a sophomore running back, put up two scores and 41 yards last week, while Olave hauled in six catches worth 104 yards.

While those experienced Buckeyes already pose a serious threat, it’s the new stars that may be a bigger worry for Penn State. The Buckeyes now boast graduate transfer from Oklahoma Trey Sermon at running back, who put up over 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in his Sooner career.

Along with Olave at wide receiver, sophomore Garret Wilson could be a problem for the Nittany Lions. After a solid freshman campaign in 2019, Wilson burst onto the scene against Nebraska with seven grabs worth 129 yards and a touchdown.

Oh, by the way, freshman wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba had only two catches against Nebraska, but this touchdown grab is already a clear Play of The Year candidate.

Outside of that long list of skill players, the Buckeyes also possess a ton of experience on the offensive line. Ohio State has experience on both sides up front, including right guard Wyatt Davis, who was a consensus All-American in 2019.

Defense

Guess what? Ohio State’s defense is also very good.

The unit allowed a Big Ten-best 13.7 points and 259.7 yards per game last season. Even with linebacker Malik Harrison and defense end Chase Young off to the NFL, this group could still very well end up being the best in the conference and one of the best in the nation.

Linebacker Pete Werner, who finished second on the team with 64 tackles last fall, returns to help anchor the group, while Tuf Borland is also set to be a force at the same position. The pair combined for 12 tackles last week, while Baron Browning also put up five.

As for the defensive line, Jonathon Cooper and Tyler Friday both have high expectations on the edge. Cooper is a redshirt senior and offers valuable expertise for the group, while Tyler Friday put up eight tackles and two sacks in 2019. Sophomore Zach Harrison should also be tough to stop on the defensive line, as he put up 24 tackles and 3.5 sacks last fall.

Despite the loss of Young, Ohio State’s rush defense is set to have another massive year. Along with that talent off the edge, Tommy Togilai and Jackson Antwuan are both set to be intimidating forces on the interior.

The Buckeyes’ pass defense also has a chance to hold its own against Sean Clifford. Jeff Okudah was a force at cornerback and Ohio State will certainly miss him this fall, but Shaun Wade is no slouch either. The senior is set to be the Buckeyes’ top option in coverage in 2020, as he had 25 tackles, two sacks, an interception, and eight passes defense last fall.

Tyreke Johnson and Marcus Williamson also have experience at cornerback, while Josh Proctor and Marcus Hooker will both play important roles at safety. The pair totaled seven tackles against Nebraska.

Special Teams

Blake Haubeil returns as the Buckeyes’ kicker after his first season starting in 2019. The senior nailed 13 of 15 field goals last fall while he made all 85 extra-point attempts. He made all seven extra points and nailed a 34-yard field goal against the Cornhuskers last week.

Punter Drue Chrisman has been a force for Ohio State over the past few seasons, including 46 punts in 2019 with an average of 44.3 yards. He attempted two punts against Nebraska, including a 52-yard bomb.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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