Previewing The Enemy: Ohio State Buckeyes
Penn State football is heading to Columbus, Ohio, this weekend for a game against No. 3 Ohio State that has significant Big Ten and College Football Playoff implications. James Franklin is 1-8 against the Buckeyes, and the Nittany Lions haven’t won in Columbus since 2011.
However, with possibly his best team yet, many believe this could be the year Franklin finally beats Ohio State on the road. Both teams are undefeated, but Ohio State doesn’t appear to be as good as it usually is.
With that being said, let’s break the team down before the big game.
Ohio State is 6-0 this season. The Buckeyes have only one win against a ranked team this season which came in the form of a 17-14 victory over Notre Dame. Ohio State has recovered well from the close game and is coming into Saturday fresh off a 41-7 rout of Purdue.
Ryan Day has been the head coach since 2019, going 35-5 in that time span. The Buckeyes nearly made their second national championship appearance of Day’s tenure last season but fell 42-41 in a New Year’s Eve nail-biter to Georgia.
Several question marks surround the team as offensive struggles have generated criticism of Day and his program. The Buckeyes could be without multiple key offensive players this weekend, as Emeka Egbuka, Miyan Williams, and TreVeyon Henderson didn’t play last week.
Ohio State is averaging 36 points per game, which is ranked No. 21 in the country. Brian Hartline’s offense is extremely pass-heavy as the Buckeyes have struggled to find a ground game through the first six games.
First-year starter and St. Joseph’s Prep product Kyle McCord is Ohio State’s quarterback. McCord has thrown 1,651 yards, 11 touchdowns, and one interception while maintaining a 64.12% completion rate.
McCord’s No. 1 weapon is none other than wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. Harrison leads the Buckeyes with 604 receiving yards and five touchdowns. The potential top-five 2024 NFL Draft pick is considered to be one of the best wideouts in the country, and he torched Penn State last season with an 185-yard performance.
Lining up next to Harrison are Egbuka and Julian Fleming. Egbuka missed last week’s game due to an injury, but he’s second among the receivers with 303 yards and three touchdowns. Tied for fourth on the team in receiving yards are Fleming and Carnell Tate with 162 yards apiece. Tate has one touchdown, while Fleming hasn’t found paydirt yet this season. Tate filled Egbuka’s shoes last week with a 79-yard performance.
Similarly to Penn State, Ohio State likes to utilize the tight end position. This is evident as Cade Stover is second on the team with 359 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Stover, a senior, is also averaging 59 yards per game.
Meanwhile, Ohio State’s running back situation is up in the air. TreVeyon Henderson, the team’s leading rusher with 295 yards and five touchdowns, hasn’t played since September 23 and is uncertain for this week, too. Chip Trayanum has 242 rushing yards and three touchdowns, but the senior only rushed for 28 yards last week. Miyan Williams rounds out the Buckeye running back room. Williams’ role has decreased, as he only had 96 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He missed last week as well, and his status is also unknown ahead of Saturday.
Ohio State’s offensive line depth took a hit when Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones went to the NFL after last season. Lining up at left tackle and left guard are Josh Simmons and Donovan Jackson, while Carson Hinzman is the center. On the right side, Matthew Jones and Josh Fryar line up at guard and tackle, respectively. The line has allowed 10 sacks for a loss of 63 yards.
Ohio State’s defense has allowed 1,581 yards this season, which is seventh in the nation. The Buckeyes are allowing an average of four yards per play. Jim Knowles is in his second season as the team’s defensive coordinator.
Ohio State’s defensive line consists of JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, and Kenyatta Jackson Jr. at defensive end, while Ty Hamilton is the primary nose tackle. Its two main defensive tackles are Tyleik Williams and Jaden McKenzie. Tuimoloau is a recognizable name particularly to Penn State, as he had two sacks, two interceptions, a touchdown, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in last year’s game against the Nittany Lions. However, he’s yet to register a turnover this season so far yet leads the team with three sacks.
The linebacker room consists of Tommy Eichenberg, who leads the team with 46 tackles, and Steele Chambers, who is second with 36, as the primary duo. Cody Simon also sees some playing time, as he has 21 tackles so far.
Ohio State’s secondary consists of Denzel Burke and Davison Igbinosum at cornerback. Burke leads the team with seven pass breakups, while Igbinosum has three. Burke also has an interception. Meanwhile, Lathan Ransom, Josh Proctor, and Sonny Styles are the safeties. Ransom is third in tackles with 29, and he has a pick, too. Proctor has three passes defended and an interception.
Jayden Fielding is 7-for-7 on field goal attempts this season and also handles kickoff duty alongside Parker Lewis. Meanwhile, Jesse Mirco is Ohio State’s punter and boasts an average kick of 42.4 yards.
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About the Author
Kotelnicki’s hiring was first reported Thursday afternoon.
The Nittany Lions survived a late Minnesota comeback attempt to split the series.