|Matchup Preview | October 25, 2014|
|No. 13 Ohio State Buckeyes|
| Penn State Nittany Lions|
Five Fast Facts About Penn State
1. Ohio State is 16-13 all-time in the series and has won its last three in Happy Valley, having not lost there since 2005. Penn State won the first four games in the series, with OSU not earning its first victory until 1975.
2. Despite the proximity between the two states, there aren’t a lot of interstate connections between the two programs. Penn State has two Ohioans on its roster in offensive tackle Chance Sorrell of Middletown and wideout Luke Vadas of Hunting Valley University School, while OSU’s roster includes only redshirting freshman safety Malik Hooker (New Castle) and suspended DL Noah Spence (Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt).
3. Penn State is the nation’s second youngest team, with 76 underclassmen (49 freshmen, 27 sophomores) among the 105 players who reported to fall camp. The offense has just one senior starter in running back Bill Belton.
4. This will be Penn State’s third Big Ten game of the season, and all three have been at night. The team played in the first conference game of the year Sept. 13 at Rutgers and won on a fourth-quarter TD drive but lost two weeks ago under the lights at Michigan.
5. Penn State has nine graduates on its roster, second most in the Big Ten. The list includes Brad Bars, Jesse Della Valle, Miles Dieffenbach, Mike Hull, Ryan Keiser, C.J. Olaniyan, Devin Pryor, Deron Thompson and Zach Zwinak.
OHIO STATE RUSH OFFENSE vs. PENN STATE RUSH DEFENSE
This will be a battle of strength vs. strength as Penn State is allowing 60.8 yards per game – best in the nation – and 2.0 yards per carry. Mike Hull has proved to be one of the more dependable linebackers in the league with 64 tackles, 38 more than the next Penn State defender. The Nittany Lions haven’t faced a rushing attack like Ohio State’s, though. The Buckeyes have averaged 314.3 yards per game over the last four with Ezekiel Elliott and J.T. Barrett putting up most of the damage. Ohio State might not find the sledding as easy as against some teams like Cincinnati and Maryland, but you don’t expect them to get shut down either. Just don’t expect many huge gains; the longest allowed this year by Penn State is 25 yards. EDGE: OHIO STATE
PENN STATE RUSH OFFENSE vs. OHIO STATE RUSH DEFENSE
Replacing much of its offensive line just like Ohio State, Penn State hasn’t had very much success here. The team did bring back its inside and outside duo of backs in Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton as well as the explosive Akeel Lynch, but instead the Lions have averaged 93.2 yards per game and 2.8 yards per carry thus far. Ohio State’s rush defense has been stout since Navy, not allowing any of the next four opponents to hit 150 net yards. EDGE: OHIO STATE
OHIO STATE PASS OFFENSE vs. PENN STATE PASS DEFENSE
Penn State has given up yards – that’s the main way teams have moved the ball on its defense – but it hasn’t come easy, as opponents are completing just 53.8 percent of their passes with three touchdowns and seven interceptions. The only quarterbacks to have any success vs. Penn State this year are UCF’s Justin Holman and Michigan’s Devin Gardner, dual-threat players who can test a defense in multiple ways. Barrett is a similar type of player and could have a similar level of success. EDGE: EVEN
PENN STATE PASS OFFENSE vs. OHIO STATE PASS DEFENSE
Everyone seems to love Christian Hackenberg, and with good reason. The Penn State quarterback can make just about every throw in the book and has NFL arm strength, poise and accuracy while leading the Big Ten in passing yards per game. He’s still working on the decision-making process – he has five TDs and seven interceptions so far – but he also hasn’t had much help from the running game and the offensive line has been woeful, ceding 20 sacks. DaeSean Hamilton and Eugene Lewis have been good replacements for Allen Robinson in the downfield passing game, and so this could be another test for the Ohio State secondary if Hackenberg can get the ball out. EDGE: EVEN
Penn State has one of the better kickers not just in the Big Ten but the nation in Sam Ficken, and Jesse Della Valle can make a big play on a punt return, but there isn’t much else here. The Nittany Lions are still short on scholarships and that lack of depth sometimes shines through on special teams, where the team is 116th in the nation in kickoff return yards allowed and 118th in net punt. Ohio State, meanwhile, has rounded into form nicely in the kicking game. EDGE: OHIO STATE
Penn State will have its annual White Out for this game, and there is history of the Buckeyes falling under the lights in Happy Valley – just look at the 2005 team. Of course, the Buckeyes have won in late afternoon or night games in State College in 2007, 2009 and 2012, so that jinx might be over. Ohio State just can’t overlook this game, as many have while pointing to the Michigan State game as the night contest that will determine the fate of OSU’s season. EDGE: PENN STATE
Penn State could provide a stiff test for Ohio State’s offense, as the Nittany Lions have had success defending both the run and pass this year and are allowing less than 300 yards per game. In addition, you can never be totally sure how a young Ohio State team will react in what will surely be a loud and unfriendly environment in State College. But the Buckeyes have gained confidence every week and look ready for a challenge like this, so our bet is that the team will be able to do its thing enough to beat the Nittany Lions for the fourth time in a row on the road. OHIO STATE 46-17
The staff pick is an average of predictions by staffers Kane Anderson, Ryan Ginn, Matthew Hager, Mark Rea, Jeff Svoboda and Blake Williams